Horror Plus Crime: Se7en

Published 5 years ago by

horror plus crime Horror Plus Crime: Se7en

Welcome to the fourth installment in Screen Rant’s Halloween lead-up series called “Horror Plus” – a feature which showcases one film, dipped into the stapled-flavor of another genre to create something unique, something all its own.

Be sure to go back and review our first, second, and third installments in the series: Horror Plus Comedy: Shaun of the Dead, Horror Plus Sci-Fi: Alien, and Horror Plus Thriller: 28 Days Later. Also look for more that we hope to put up for you to read as we soon arrive at the end of October, 2009!

While we might consider “Crime” to actually be a piece of the horror genre as a matter of course, it’s important to remember many films feature something altogether different when it comes to “crime.” In this case we’re referring to the more procedural aspects of “Crime” and the movie we’ll be focusing on, that dips quickly and often into “Crime” genre throughout it’s runtime, is the movie Se7en.

(The following contains game-over-level SPOILERS for the movie “Se7en“)

While re-watching this film to collect details and nuance, I thought several times to myself, “is this REALLY a horror film with a dash of crime sprinkled throughout? My final answer would have to be an undeniable YES, for all of the best reasons. For those of you who haven’t yet seen Se7en, the plot is straight-forward and tantalizing. Morgan Freeman portrays a case-hardened detective (Somerset) who is retiring in a mere 7 days. Brad Pitt plays a young investigative-gun from a faraway city (Mills) who will essentially be filling the shoes of Somerset. The day that Mills arrives in town, a strange and ghastly murder occurs. It’s then followed by two, then three more, all of which contain elements of “the 7 deadly sins” (all-together now: “Gluttony”, “Greed”, “Sloth”, “Lust”, “Envy”, “Wrath” and “Pride”).

Brilliant Lower Key Horror

Unlike many of our other “Horror Plus” entries, this one, like the movie itself (that has only made $100.1 million  since 1995) is brilliantly lower key and provides what I think is an even deeper sense of horror and suspense in one of the most ingenious ways possible. Christopher Lee was recently quoted as saying “the most significant fear is easily the one unseen” and I couldn’t agree with him more. While Se7en is clearly a showcase of ghastly, twist-the-stomach gore with its many shots of dead bodies, crime scenes, photographs of each and more, it’s able to leave SO much more to the mind than does the modern-day horror film. It therefore must be recognized as a quieter horror classic. The best way this is showcased? Note to all: You never see ANY of the grotesque mutilations/murders being carried out by John Doe.

A Disgustingly-Gorgeous Mosaic

The other aspect that lends itself to something unique with Se7en is that even the “main actors” are in the mix of a movie. In an age where you have superstars displayed center-frame and somehow sticking out, director David Fincher blends each and every one of the actors into the mosaic of each frame. I’m trying to remember another film being able to pull that off to this level but (perhaps the Wachowski Brothers with The Matrix?) – I can’t think of any off-hand. His choice and selection of (on the most-recent DVD release) is an extraordinary sample of how simply/subtle use of color can make the tone of a movie change instantly. Note the green, rotting fruit color scheme used in Gluttony’s apartment, vs. the tan, almost furrowed leather tans and browns we see inside the apartment of Sloth, where a man has nearly withered away (but, not quite as we all find out) over the period of a year. It’s brilliant production design, grand lighting, acting, direction and FEAR all rolled up into a disgusting but somehow delicious feast for the eyes and psyche.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something akin to our previous Horror Plus entry for sci-fi, Alien, is another trait that I love to see. An incredibly long period of time passes by until we see the actual killer, John Doe, in this movie. Would you be surprised to learn that we’re an hour and 36 minutes into the movie before we know what John Doe looks like? Better yet, he appears out of thin air to turn himself in, without any active “hunt” by the main vowed-to-be-bloodhound characters of our story, the detectives. It’s another case of a story that’s expected to be one thing that evolves into another, told from varying perspectives in ways that you’d never expect, and it is glorious.

The Tragic Combination Lock of Se7en – The Tumblers Fall into Horrific Place

The end of this movie was parodied by every awards show for a year. It was talked about by most when you mentioned Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey for years after it happened.

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  1. Simply one of the best films ever made. I showed it to some friends who had never heard of it, and they were stuck to their seats in horror and anticipation.
    SE7EN is without a doubt a modern classic.

    And i know it seems awful to even suggest it, but i would have loved to have seen a sequel, with Mills in an asylum, and Sommerset gets drawn back into a case, but the clues lead to the highly unstable Mills being somehow involved. Make it about the ten commandments, and some clever artist can work a number 10 into the word ten.

  2. I believe one of the main reasons it can be classified as horror, is the Sloth scene.

    I believe that this scene gets everyone a little squeamish!

  3. When I watched this movie, I’d been a police detective for several years. Even without that background, this movie was chilling and absolutely incredible in a stomach-churning way. As a detective, happily married with children, I have to say this is the only movie in my fifty years of life that still gives me nightmares (besides Night of the Living Dead, which I saw when I was really too young to do so).

    It’s every detective’s nightmare and, because of that, it was the most spot on horror movie I’ve ever seen.

  4. Seven is my all time favortie movie and it’s not even close.
    It is the only movie I have ever seen where I was on the edge of my seat for most of it’s duration.
    I love movies where the bad guy is in control throughout the entire film. This is his world and he is playing everyone like a puppet.
    It is David Fincher’s masterpiece. Go rent this film!

  5. Steve, since your in law enforcment the ending had to leave you with a (that’s bs feeling?)

    I didn’t like Seven, as I found it predictable and the shock ending left me empty inside.

    Nothing redeeming about the film… I also didn’t like Spacey’s performance. And I usually do.

  6. Actually, the ending left me with more of a “but for the grace of God: feeling. True, as with most thrillers (heck, most movies in general) there were aspects of the move that were a stretch, but there’s an adage in this business that says, “If they REALLY want you, they’ll get you.” Our biggest fear isn’t that they’ll get *us*, it’s that they’ll get our families.

    No, it doesn’t happen often. In fact, that kind of thing is all but non-existent in the U.S. But, still… there’s the nightmare. And that is what horror films are supposed to cause, right?

  7. I guess the prob I had with the family issue you bring up Steve, was that throughout the entire film (watch it again) Pitts wife was showing all the foreshadowing of her being in danger.
    The New York environment was ominous to her, the train would pass by and her reaction was of dread. During the first act of the film based on her reactions and emotions I knew she would somehow be involved in this horrific killing spree. All the signs are there in the first act. Even Morgan Freeman’s character was subtly telling Pitt he should leave for his families sake.
    The reveal at the end was like a boot in the face, leaving me thinking why would Pitt’s character be so driven that he would forget what’s most important to him?
    Maybe that’s what some ppl liked about the film. I just found the entire thing predictable as all hell and the ending was almost comical… When the fed ex truck appeared I knew what was coming. Totally saw it coming.

  8. I was surprised to see that other people felt that this was their favorite movie as it was mine also. I thought it was beyond clever even if their was some predictability (foreshadowing.) It didn’t seem like the ending was meant to be as much of a surprise as some think that it was portrayed.
    I saw it after work at a Midnight showing and I had nightmares for a long time after that.

    This is what I feel is a good horror genre where the thought of the action is more terrifying than the shock value of seeing the actual event.

    Anyway, as much of a naysayer as I can be with movies, I guess it doesn’t surprise me too much that there are people who don’t appreciate this movie! :)

  9. Whats in the Box !?!?!?!

    The Climax, Thats whats in the Box.

  10. umm , you guys forget

    it wasnt just what was in the box…



    and pitts acting in his moments before he says goodbye to his own life is a moment when the great actors step away from the good ones..

  11. Hey I was researching the names of these characters on IMDBpro and this very SR post is at the top for reference, very cool Vic !!!
    JessSayin, the act of violence was at the end when Mill’s blew John Doe away for beheading his wife. Doe was counting on rage to overwhelm Mills into killing him and complete the circle. You could say the entire plot was an elaborate death wish on John Does part.

    (Totally saw it coming btw,,,)

  12. Glad to hear I’m not the only one who disliked the ending.
    The whole bit where one cop is gonna kill the badguy and the other’s going “No, don’t do it, it’s not worth it, you’ll be as bad as him!!!” is so bloody cliche….