One of the toughest questions one could be asked is “which is better, Fight Club or Seven?” David Fincher created two of THE best films of the nineties, and he also directed Alien 3, which i actually really really like!! Anyway, I am in luck here because i don’t have to choose, Fight Club aint a horror, and I suppose, technically, neither is Se7en, however, since serial killer flicks tend to appear in horror lists, and due to the fact I have included Henry, Se7en must be here! The fact it aint quite top is because the top 3 are genuine horrors
The first ever time i watched Seven i was breathless, shocked, totally and utterly in its debt, what a remarkable work of art I had just witnessed, and you know what is really refreshing about this classic? Even now, when I watch it and admire its greatness, even now after all those viewings, the ending STILL has an immense power to it, a real shock to the system. But, the more you watch this film, like Fight Club, the more it gets into your head, gets you thinking, and i mean REALLY thinking.
Let’s start from the beginning and those wonderful opening credits that have since been copied and copied and copied, but never bettered. They set the tone, we are in dark and intense territory here, and it aint gonna be a pleasant journey, and that’s what Se7en is, a journey. Not only is it a journey into the darkest, deepest thoughts of one John Doe, it is also a journey into existence itself, as the film goes on, you will question your own existence and i find Se7en to be one of the very few serial killer films that make you genuinely sympathise. I don’t mean sympathise in those teenager ways of “wow, imagine being a serial killer”, i mean sympathise that deep down you know he just may be right? From the get go, Se7en gets under your skin. The rain soaked city, dark and full of despair, anger, loneliness and paranoia. We are introduced to Morgan Freemans inch perfect Sommerset, a loner who has lost his faith in humanity, feels that no matter what he does as a loyal and very trusted cop, he simply cannot make a difference anymore. Society has become too horrible for him to bare. Then we have Brad Pitts perfect opposite Mills, a bit of a gung-ho doer, he WANTS to make a difference, he feels he KNOWS he can make a difference and he is gonna try and take charge. It’s a partnership made in heaven, Sommersets quiet, methodical aged detective, and Mills’ fresh, young aggressive hungry newcomer. The two never quite see eye to eye, however, it doesn’t spoil the film one bit, it actually enhances it. And when Sommerset turns to Mills when John Doe is making a deal, his words “for the first time ever, you and i are in total agreement” really really mean something. We also have the police captain, a rugged take no prisoners, do what it takes kind of guy, one who is loyal to his good workers, but demands their respect and trust, a perfect police chief to be honest. He is also a guy who shows he doesn’t always play by the rules, but in a good way, he wants the job done and will actually listen to Sommerset, again, so refreshing to see a sort of cop thriller where the main characters aren’t made out to be liars, or making up stories. Oh, and i have to mention the police chiefs brilliant one liner, as he answers the phone at a desk which isn’t his “this is not even my desk!” Classic!!
So, our detectives are on the hunt for a killer who appears to be killing people based on the seven deadly sins. Thankfully, Sommerst can read, is very knowledgeable and is quick to figure this out. Seeing Sommerset at his local library is a moving, touching scene as the security guards state how much they will miss him once he retires. It’s a moment where you can pause for thought, a bit of light refreshment from the bleakness of its surroundings. A genius scene shows Brad Pitt attemtping to read authors names whilst trying to find a link with rented library books. Sommerset and Mills may not get on, but as the film moves on they do bond and have a mutual respect for one another. Their partnership becomes quite touching, almost; dare i say it, romantic? When Sommerset goes round for dinner with Mills and his wife Tracy, we actually see Sommerset laugh, the ONLY time in the film and its one of those moments that are, in so many words magical.
So, as i was saying, they are on the hunt for this killer who is leaving plenty of clues, almost like he wants to get caught. He leaves his victims on full display, with their sin written in something, like blood, and on something for all the detectives to see. We never actually see anyone gets murdered, we see the aftermath, and usually Sommersets explanation which chills you to the bone “this man ate until he burst?”. Each victim is horrifically murdered, and the fact you have to picture the events in your head are disturbing indeed. One of the creepiest, and also one of the best jump out of your seat moments, comes as a druggie is found lying on his bed, pretty much dead and as a police officer whispers in his ear “you got what you deserved” he starts frantically trying to breathe. Moments like this show Finchers true genius at creating tension, and delivering a shock just when you least expect it. We also get a glimpse of the killer, and Mills’ trigger happy detective goes on the hunt. In a chilling scene, John Doe beats Mills, and holds a gun to his head, a moment recalled later as Doe, coldly and chillingly tells Mills “yeh, and i seem to remember breaking your face”. At this point you still don’t know who this guy is, and i’ll be honest, on first watch, all i could think of was Keyser Soze (and no, not because of the actor but because of the mystery around him and what he was wearing).
The film moves along at a breakneck pace, never once getting slow or boring, as we are all involved in trying to piece together the clues. One disturbing murder after another, and the poor detectives are getting nowhere fast. A prostitute is found in a sex club, she has been murdered by the most horrific thing imaginable. A guy is forced, at gun point, to have sex with her wearing what looks like a feckin sword. The guy, shaken up and petrified, gives evidence and we are shown a picture of the item he was wearing. For me, it is possibly the most chilling scene in the film, possibly? Getting more and more frustrated, Mills and Sommerset go out for a drink and the exchange of words and philosophies between them is tragic, hopeless and unfortunately all too real. Moments like this don’t happen often enough in films, where you actually feel like you’re having a conversation with them. Mills optimism on life and things getting better is heartfelt, but you just know deep down he is wrong, and it’s a sad state of affairs to feel as low and downbeat as Sommerset, but the scary thing is, he is right. “It’s easier to beat a child than it is to raise it, it’s easier to lose yourself in drugs than it is to cope with life, it’s easier to steel rather than earn it, love costs, takes effort!”. We, the good decent people of this world don’t follow those rules, but more and more people find it easier to. The fact a serial killer film can get you really thinking about everyday life like that is one hell of an achievement, and we haven’t even got to John Doe yet.
(SPOILER, YEH, LIKE YOU DIDN’T KNOW THIS ALREADY! )
John Does entrance into the police station is one of the greatest moments in cinematic history “Detective…….. detective…… DETECTIVE!!!!!!!!! You’re looking for me” Oh, it’s a moment that chills you to the bone, gives you that rush of adrenalin, and you find yourself totally totally gobsmacked! When the hell did you see a serial killer film that had the balls to twist the whole genre on its head and do this, fuckin hats of Mr Fincher, awesome!!! John Doe is too calm, too placid and confident, and without actually doing much, scares the fuckin shit out of you. After his deal we get a chance to know him in the car, and, like with just about every other conversation is this intense masterpiece, we hand on every word. He explains his purpose, his goal and why he did the things he did. Sommerset, the deep thinker, is intrigued and genuinely believes him, probably because he feels it too, the rot of living in a city full of horrible daily sins which we tolerate morning, noon and night (listen to me quoting John Doe there! ), Mills is having none of it, and doesn’t believe it, or doesn’t want to believe it, either way its good that he’s there before Doe convinces not only Somerset, but also the viewer that we don’t need to tolerate these sins. Doe makes a shuddering good point, and it’s possibly this sympathy that is one of Se7en’s scariest moments, because you are thinking to yourself “hang on a minute, yeh i agree with that”. We never really see Doe get angry, his cool calculated behaviour is unsettling, he has a plan, and Spacey is playing the part with the utmost respect for the character.
Besides the final twist, and Doe’s master plan, another change has happened as we head toward the end of this journey. The rain has stopped and the sun has come out. Yet another genius move, as we head into the desert we are in the light. We are able to see everything as clear as crystal, we won’t miss a thing and there is no dark corner to hide behind as Doe waits, now impatient, for his master plan to fall into place. What an ending, what a shock to the system, and yet again, you are not allowed to see the key factor, again, leaving it up to your imagination as to how it all looked in that box. Pitts performance here is astonishing, in fact, so is Freemans, and so is Spacey’s. Everyone has given their all in this, and they don’t let it down at the end. We have all been on a journey, you could even call it a journey of discovery, as you have found out that there just might be a killer lurking inside of you, but one which will obviously never see the light of day No, this journey has been intense, it’s been dark, disturbing, extremely well thought out and planned, it’s been directed and acted by people at the very top of their game. It has the most perfect music; it leaves most things to your imagination, so you do feel you’ve worked for this film. It has got you thinking, you feel shell socked. It is not a pleasant ride, but one which must be respected, and one which will never ever be forgotten. It can’t be forgotten, and most certainly it cannot be ignored