I’ve been saving some of the best films for last here to really finish off this incredible month of films on a high note. Today, we’re taking a look at one of the best murder mystery detective films ever made, David Fincher’s Se7en. It’s been a while (like, best guess, five years) so rewatching this film was almost like seeing it for the first time except I already knew some of the parts. There were also a couple of things I didn’t remember that horrified me all over again.
This two-hour film written by Andrew Kevin Walker does some incredible things. There’s only one scene where you see the violence committed and for a script about a grisly set of murders whose victims are all executed in line with their deadly sin that’s pretty rate. A retiring detective and a newbie are in a race to stop the killer before the mysterious John Doe can complete his mission but its difficult to stop a killer when you have no clues and no fingerprints. It’s like an avenging angel came down to punish humanity for their gluttony, lust, envy, pride, greed, wrath, and sloth. There’s no shortage of sinners according to John Doe.
The film doesn’t offer you any further explanation of John Doe’s actions other than his intention to wipe the scum off of the earth which he explains in a rather incredible monologue. This film is an exploration of how the murders are done rather than trying to find a reason. Sure, there’s a reason but this isn’t some catch the killer and all is well type film. Se7en is a rumination on evil. Fincher once said he doesn’t make films that tell you everything is alright in the world because it’s not. He strives to make you feel uncomfortable, to make you realize there’s a darker side to everything. It’s hard to imagine people really need to be reminded about that in today’s climate but still….the film is incredibly effective.
There’s a really interesting moment early on into the film when Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) says he doesn’t understand this city anymore. He doesn’t understand the criminals and the reason behind their violence. Crime has evolved and he’s struggling to catch up. This idea of the evolution of crime reminds me of one of Fincher’s latest projects, the Netflix original series, Mindhunter. If you haven’t checked out Mindhunter you are missing out. It’s got a more subtle aesthetic than Se7en does but tackles so many of the same themes. It’s one of my favorite series for sure and I love the always topical conversation about the evolution of crime even during such different time periods.
Se7en is a truly incredible film all around. With a story that unfolds and reveals information as the characters learn it, you feel as though you’re part of the story and that might just be one of the scariest aspects of the film. There’s nothing you can do to get ahead of the curve, you’re stuck going along for the ride. What makes this such a great choice especially for Halloween though is its intensely uncomfortable atmosphere that sticks with you even long after it’s over. True crime when done well on-screen can be incredibly scary. While I wouldn’t say I was scared by Se7en in the same way I’m terrified of films like The Conjuring, this one has a palpable impact. Maybe watch this one and have a chaser ready like your favorite cartoon or something light and fun like The Addams Family or What We Do in the Shadows.