Format: Noir Alley on DVR
Director: Mark Robson
A Val Lewton horror film - that means a lot of atmosphere, mystery, wild plotting and not a lot of blood or outright frights - The Seventh Victim (1943) is a study in building a sense of dread and doom. It's a strange, strange film, following one lead character for much of the film before putting her in a corner and finding other characters more interesting to watch.
The film marks the movie debut of Kim Hunter*, who plays a private school girl who learns her bills aren't being paid by her sister - and her sister seems to have disappeared. She hits the big city and learns her sister has sold the cosmetics company she owned, her shrink hasn't seen her in a bit, and she was romantically hooked up with Ward Cleaver (see a young Hugh Beaumont as a sort of romantic character!).
Seems her sister fell in with a bunch of devil worshippers, and that's no gone great. In fact, when paired with a private eye who decides to do the work pro bono, he gets bumped off. At some point, we find the sister, and she's on a path that none of the men around her quite understand as they try to save her.
But, I'm selling the film short. Being a Lewton produced film, it's all about ideas and what you can't see in the shadows. There's a Lynchian dream-like quality to portions, and the horror of what you realize must be happening (from people getting away with murder right in front of you) to rooms full of people trying to talk you into suicide that's far weirder than any makeup or jump scares. Really, the closest thing I can think of in a "we're gonna watch someone end badly" closest to this film was Fire Walk With Me.
Included as a Noir Alley entry - it works. The film's aesthetics rely on expressionism, deep shadow, etc... There's certainly a doomed quality and an underworld scratching at the edges of polite society. In this case, an underworld that's what polite society does after 8:00 PM.
*Kim Hunter is much beloved at The Signal Watch as the actor who (a) appeared as Zira in some Planet of the Apes films, and (b) as Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire.