“Long is the way, and hard, that out of hell leads up to light.” Se7en (1995)

IMDB Summary: Two detectives, a rookie and a veteran, hunt a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his modus operandi.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 80% (That’s it, really??! The first rating I have issue with.)

Why I love it: As director David Fincher put it, this “meditation on evil” is pretty close to perfect. Even the credits are jarring.

It’s been 20 years since Se7en came out in 1995. Three things:

Besides being disgustingly hot, Brad Pitt can act.

Morgan Freeman’s voice is chilling. “John Doe has the upper hand!”

There’s a lot of scumbags out there.

I’ve worked on many photo shoots in the Alexandria Hotel in downtown L.A. where Se7en was filmed. It’s one of the most depressing places I’ve ever been. The beds sink, the linens are ripped, the walls are peeling and there are stains everywhere from who knows what. Crack addicts. Crazies. You wonder how many people have commited suicide there. Not kidding.

Detective Mills and his sweet wife Tracy move to a gritty unnamed city where he gets teamed up with veteran detective William Somerset. (“William. It’s a good name.”) Young Mills is eagar to prove himself. They get called to a hideous murder scene where a large man has been forced to overeat to the point where he basically explodes. One clue leads to another, more people die horribly and Brad Pitt keeps getting hotter. They figure out the killer is making his way through a grisly interpretation of the seven deadly sins.

Gluttony. The aforementioned big guy is fed to death.

Greed: A literal pound of flesh is removed from a rich attorney.

Sloth: A child-molesting druggie is systematically tortured over the course of a year and left to wither away, chew his own tongue off and suffer under a ceiling hanging with a thousand nice smelling tree thingies.

Lust: A man is forced to wear something and do something to a prostitute in a dirty sex club. I can’t even say it.

Pride: A beautiful model’s face is mutilated after she’s given a choice to live deformed or kill herself.

Mills and Somerset find out who’s been checking out certain books at the public library. They go to the guy’s apartment and end up getting shot at, chased and taunted. The killer’s abode is a exactly the kind of place a sidistic son of a bitch would live. They find his journals, with stuff like this written in them: On the subway today, a man came up to me to start a conversation. He made small talk, a lonely man talking about the weather and other things. I tried to be pleasant and accommodating, but my head hurt from his banality. I almost didn’t notice it had happened, but I suddenly threw up all over him. He was not pleased, and I couldn’t stop laughing. (Read more about the apartmennt here.)

Tracy meets up with Detective Somerset and in a mildly flirtatious conversation (am I wrong?) she tells him she’s pregnant. Not that it ends up mattering. John Doe shows up at the police station covered in blood. He takes everyone out to the desert and explains himself and his antics in a way that actually makes total sense. We find out envy was his sin. And Mills is a little wrathful when a box with something in it gets dropped off. Yup, John Doe has the upper hand. And… bang.

se7en-comic-book-david-seidman-cover-art-320x417Ater the movie came out, a series of comics with exquisite images explored more of John Doe’s backstory. (Read an interview with the artist David Seidman.) 

Doe had begun life as an ordinary God-fearing boy. As a child, Doe suffered from excruciating cluster headaches which were treated with a botched attempt at electroshock therapy. Doe’s mother was a religious fanatic, obsessed with sin and eternal damnation. At one point during his school years, Doe began to develop carnal desires for a sexually-active girl in his class, which his mother condemned. His mother became infuriated upon finding Doe masturbating in the bathroom and severely beat him. Doe would later witness his mother making love to his equally God-fearing uncle.

…And on and on. How else would someone end up being that twisted?

What easily could have turned out to be a cheesy, gimmicky slasher flick had it been made in the 80’s is more than that. It’s stylized. It’s the thinking man’s thriller, like The Silence of the Lambs or Sea of Love. John Doe, he just wanted to play husband, to taste the life of a simple man. The plot may be slightly over the top, but you buy it because it’s so fucking rad.


Next: When a Stranger Calls

Written by Anne Clendening
Anne Clendening was born and raised in L.A. She's a yoga teacher, a writer and occasionally slings cocktails in a Hollywood bar. She could eat chocolate cake for every meal of the day. She has a huge fear of heights and flying. And fire. She wishes she could speak French, play her guitar better and make cannoli. She's probably listening to The Dark Side Of The Moon right now, kickin’ it with her boxer dog and her hot Australian husband ★