The Pile Of Shame: Se7en – Harrowing, Cynical And Intelligent

Welcome to the Pile of Shame. Throughout my years of ceaseless debauchery and frankly worrying video game addiction, I missed out on movies that many consider classics. If you’ve ever asked someone if they watched a certain movie and gasped when they said they never did, you know what type of guy I am. I figured that it’s pretty silly that someone like me who lacks the appropriate historical movie education is allowed to write on such an esteemed movie website as ours, and have since created a pile of classic movies that I will work through in order to achieve true enlightenment. This series will be my chronicle through it and you’re more than welcome to tag along. Also, expect some spoilers in there, if you haven’t watched these films already.

What’s in the box? The classic quote that I’ve heard so many times in memes, references, funny cutaways and in comment sections of unboxing videos.It has become iconic because it is so simple to reference when there is a box of any description in the room. I never actually knew where this modern adage came from until I satiated my curiosity and googled it. It came from a movie called Se7en and oh for goodness sake I know that the dude’s wife’s head was in the box. It was probably a matter of time before I saw this damning spoiler, but it still sucked that I did not see the movie before I knew what its final climax was.

For that reason, I was quite apprehensive to give this crime noir movie a watch because I’m rather susceptible to spoilers and they often ruin a lot of the tension and surprise that I enjoy from my entertainment. However, this movie was definitely near the top of my Pile of Shame and I decided to watch it regardless of the dampened emotions I would experience. I’m sincerely glad that I did because Se7en was definitely worth my time, regardless of the damning spoiler.

By most accounts, Se7en is actually pretty simple, conceptually. It’s about a serial murderer using the seven deadly sins as inspiration for his gruesome murders and we follow two detectives, Mills and Somerset, that are at odds with each other. Not exactly the epitome of creativity and it admittedly fell into a lot of tropes. The old and grizzled detective that has seen too much shit and is on the verge of retirement before “one last big one” and the hotheaded detective that is relentless in his search for the truth. It’s all pretty simple, but Se7en excelled in the most important aspect of storytelling: execution.

The murders all had distinct stories to tell, even if they were rather quickly concluded and with each murder came some revelation regarding our very humanity. Even if John Doe was a murderous scumbag and one of the most intimidating villains in modern cinema, his messages did make sense, if you look at them through the eyes of a cynic. These murders involving the seven deadly sins confront us with the awfulness of human nature and this was a running theme through the whole movie. Somerset routinely reminded Mills that the world is an ugly hellhole and the scenes that were not part of the main seven murders reinforced that almost to the point of repetition.

John Doe’s actions, as reprehensible as they were, did make sense, which is an incredibly frightening thing to ponder about. And as John himself said in the iconic back and forth in the car:

What I’ve done is going to be puzzled over and studied and followed… forever

Maybe not followed, that’s a little strong John, but this movie is as old as I am and I’m still puzzling over it after I’ve watched it. I know, for a fact, that the human race is ugly and that there is no limit to the deplorable actions that a person is capable of. We all commit these “seven deadly sins”, even the ones that are seen as bastions of human decency. We all have a dark side, an ugly side and this is often hidden from the world. Humanity is disgusting and if you don’t think so, you’re living in some kind of delusional wonderland. It’s a bummer to think about, but we need to be thinking these things and confronting the dark demons in our closet. It’s the only way you can avoid being consumed by that same darkness.

Se7en made me think these existential questions and for that, it has accomplished a great goal. This is also not to mention how masterful its ending scene was. Even though I knew the outcome, my heart was pounding inside my chest and all of the tension surrounding this incredibly harrowing situation was still very much intact. I can’t even imagine how it must have been to experience the full extent of it and that’s probably what made the movie a classic in many people’s eyes. Kevin Spacey as John Doe and his unsettling monologues really cemented the the deranged and sinister nature of the crimes that have been committed and their intent behind it.

However, the movie wasn’t entirely perfect. Some of the acting felt pretty stiff, especially between Somerset and Mills. It was bordering on awkward and felt a little out of place most of the time. The back-and-forth between the two was still enjoyable and contained a lot of the motivations of the movie, but the acting delivery left something to be desired.

Se7en was a thinking man’s movie wrapped up in a traditional crime drama package. While not entirely overt with what it wanted to say, it still delivered a masterful story that will stick in your mind for a long time to come, despite a few of its shortcomings. It was definitely worth it to find out what was in the box, but the magic lied in why it was in that box.

Next time on the Pile of Shame, I’m going a little more modern and happy with La La Land. The list isn’t exclusively reserved for movies that are as old as I am.

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Thabo is an English poet, playwright, and genius, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called South Africa's national poet, and the “Prince of Underpaid Writing”.
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Thabo is an English poet, playwright, and genius, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called South Africa’s national poet, and the “Prince of Underpaid Writing”.

  • Nick de Bruyne

    David Fincher… dude makes some good shit