Movie Seven Movie Review Seven

Seven Movie Review-Cult & Horror Movie Reviews

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Movie Genre Reviews

We revisit one of the most influential films in the last ten years.

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Seven is permeated with darkness, but both its aesthetic and characterization are essentially respectful throwbacks to grainy precedents like The French Connection, Serpico or Hill Street Blues more than earlier genre efforts. Brown and blue hues wash over the frames and complement the lulling sense of depression generated by the constant rain, the baroque Bach strings pumping through the library, and Freeman's ticking metronome. Kyle Cooper's credit sequence alone would become the model for countless cut-rate Hollywood thrillers and postmodern teen slasher pics.

The film's use of distressed typography and text-as-setpiece betrayed its (somewhat forced) literary obsessions. Somerset's immediate familiarity with ecclesiastical minutiae and dirgeful medieval prose finds a more realistic counterpart in the scholarly ignorance of his partner, who resorts to Cliff's notes to aid in deciphering the killer's cryptic messages. The end result was almost like a cinematic collage, which elevated the film to a standard appreciable to the trendy art-school-malaise-crowd. Most importantly though, Arthur Max's production design was distinctive enough to make it easily reproduced in lesser films.

Certain elements of Se7en's M.O. -- the inexplicable use of 25-watt bulbs in all of the crime scenes, for example - are troubling, but the logistical sacrifice was worth it. The overall effect was one of relentless dread. One thing can be said about Fincher - he knew when to give you the payoff and when to hold back. The film's visceral excesses further acclimatized the mainstream to unsanitized gore, while the less graphic scenes unbolted the imagination to a whole new realm of violent possibility.

The film is simultaneously antiquated and apocalyptic in its sense of hermetic doom. Most reviewers place the film in New York City, although positive identification is deliberately avoided in favor of spacial alienation. Spacey's disturbed antagonist too seeks anonymity - in addition to his self-ascribed nomenclature, he routinely slices of his fingertips to erase the one thing that makes him physically unique - but simultaneously challenges this anonymity with his high-profile 'missionary work'. He is methodical and calculated but operates according to a faulty logic. In the end, perhaps Mills is correct in the assertion that his enigmatic quarry is "a movie of the week, at best."

The unnamed metropolis' exhausted long-time resident (Somerset) expresses his regret over living in "a place that nurtures apathy as a solution". And therein lies the film's moral stance; it is not to John Doe's fundamentalist megalomania that Fincher subscribes, but to Somerset's quiet resignation, which is punctuated by brief flashes of disgust over a rampant nihilism. But when taken side by side, it's difficult to tell how Somerset and John Doe really differ in their opinions, and perhaps it's this paradox that is Se7en's greatest triumph.

Kier-La Janisse

(This article was written for Fangoria Magazine's 25th Anniversay issue.)

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