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.
The genius of this movie is showcased by the many things detailed above, but the most extraordinary (and unseen, giant bonus) is the horror of “the box” and its contents provided at the end of this movie. Is it because there’s the decapitated head of an innocent young woman in it?
Is it because – good god – it’s a decapitated head (that we never see)? Not at all.
It’s because the discovery and subsequent conversation and dialogue after the box is introduced becomes a series of tumblers that tragically fall into place and unlock the conclusion of the film and the convey the whip cream and blood-red cherry on top of the serial killer’s plan.
With the exception of another Kevin Spacey ultra-twist ending-based feature, The Usual Suspects, it’s one of the best and most tragic finishes ever.
And so now, it’s time to know what YOU, the Screen Rant readers think of 1995’s Se7en. What did YOU think of it when you originally saw it? Did the end or any provided part of the movie make you stop and think?
Tell us your thoughts and be sure to look for another final installment of the “Horror Plus” feature before Halloween, October 31st!