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A-Ron’s Film Rewind Presents: “Se7en” (1995) – The 25th Anniversary

A-Ron’s Film Rewind Presents: “Even the most promising clues usually only lead to others”. A 25th anniversary celebration of one of the darkest, creepiest and most brilliant serial killer pictures in American film history. David Fincher’s seminal psychological thriller “Se7en” written by Andrew Kevin Walker who had such a depressing time living in New York that he had written the bleak and oppressive script about the hunt for a killer who uses the seven deadly sins as inspiration for his crimes. He was later advised to seek “professional help” because studios felt his script was sadistic, dirty and gritty. “Se7en” was director David Fincher’s big break and solidified his career as one of the most visually aesthetic filmmakers. The plot of “Se7en” mostly starts off as a straightforward detective story. But it’s all upended right before that iconic and memorable final act, when the killer John Doe turns himself in and we all had to ask ourselves “What’s In The Box?!” in one of cinemas most iconic and bleak endings. With a number of actors originally to star in the roles taken by Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman were Robert Duvall, Gene Hackman, Al Pacino, Denzel Washington (who publicly regretted not taking the role) and Sylvester Stallone. “Se7en” has five alternate endings before the controversial ending that both Fincher and Brad Pitt fought for. It grossed more than $327 million in theaters and features director David Fincher at the top of his game in making “Se7en” more than just another ’90s serial killer flick.

•Part 1: Andrew Kevin Walker 

Screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker was a graduate of Penn State’s film program. After graduating Walker had decided to move to New York City to get closer to the movie industry. Unfortunately he got no closer to where he wanted to be in achieving his goal within the industry. To make ends meet he got a job at Tower Records, during his time in New York he worked on several projects, but Walker was unable to find much success until 1991, when he completed the script for “Seven” (regularly stylized as “Se7en”). 

He wrote the first draft of “Se7en” due to his time in New York having been so depressing for him that he had written the bleak and oppressive script about the hunt for a killer who uses the seven deadly sins as inspiration for his crimes. Satisfied with the outcome of his draft, Walker had decided to move to Los Angeles to sell his screenplay. There, he personally contacted screenwriter David Koepp (“Jurassic Park”, “Stir Of Echoes” and “Panic Room”) who had advised Walker two things. One that he had agreed to send it to his agent and second was that he “needed professional help” because Koepp thought the script was so sadistic, dirty and gritty. 

Koepp and his agent showed the script to executives at New Line Cinema, who ended up purchasing the rights to it. The film, however would take nearly three years to begin production. After his work on “Se7en”, Andrew Kevin Walker went on to pen a few scripts including the Nicolas Cage thriller “8mm”. When director of “8mm”, Joel Schumacher had made changes to Walker’s script, Walker walked from the project and barely wrote again for over a decade. That’s when he returned for Tim Burton’s “Sleepy Hollow” and the Benicio Del Toro remake of “The Wolfman” (which was his last studio effort).

Walker had said on numerous occasions: “I didn’t like my time in New York, but it’s true that if I hadn’t lived there I probably wouldn’t have written Seven”. While it came at a price for Walker emotionally. I personally can’t even imagine not having “Se7en” in the thriller genre. 

•Part 2: Ladies & Gentlemen…David Fincher

David Fincher developed a passion for filmmaking at the age of eight years old after watching the documentary on the making of 1969’s “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. Fincher began making his own films with an 8mm camera. As a teen he moved to Ashland, Oregon, where he attended Ashland High School. He directed plays and designed sets, did lighting and was a non-union projectionist at a second-run movie theater, as well as a production assistant at the local television news station. He supported himself by working as a busboy, dishwasher and fry cook. 

While establishing himself in the film industry, Fincher was employed at John Korty’s studio as a production head. Gaining further experience, he became a visual effects producer, working on the animated feature “Twice Upon a Time” (1983) with George Lucas. He was hired at Industrial Light & Magic in 1983 as an assistant cameraman and matte photographer and worked on 0Return of the Jedi” (1983) and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984). In 1984, he left ILM to direct a television commercial for the American Cancer Society that depicted a fetus smoking a cigarette. 

The commercial quickly brought Fincher to the attention of producers in Los Angeles, and he was soon given the opportunity to direct Rick Springfield’s 1985 documentary, “The Beat of the Live Drum”. Set on a directing career, Fincher co-founded the production company Propaganda Films and started directing commercials and music videos. Other future heavy hitting directors such as: Michael Bay, Antoine Fuqua, Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, Alex Proyas, Mark Romanek, Zack Snyder and Gore Verbinski also honed their skills at Propaganda Films before moving on to making feature films. 

Fincher directed TV commercials for many companies from Levi’s to Converse, Nike to Pepsi, Revlon, Sony and Coca-Cola although he loathed doing them. Fincher began his foray into music videos in 1984 and directed videos for artists including Rick Springfield, Paula Abdul, The Outfield, and other various artists. Fincher’s 1990 music video for “Freedom! ’90” was one of the most successful for George Michael. In addition, he directed Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got A Gun” and Billy Idol’s “Cradle of Love”. For Madonna, Fincher directed some of her most iconic music videos: “Express Yourself” and “Vogue”. Between 1984 and 1993, Fincher was credited as a director for 53 music videos.

In 1990, David Fincher got his break in directing his first feature film for 20th Century Fox, who hired Fincher to replace Vincent Ward (“What Dreams May Come”) as the director for the third installment of the science-fiction horror franchise “Alien”. David Fincher’s “Alien 3” was released to mixed reception from critics and was considered weaker than it’s preceding films. From the beginning, “Alien 3” was hampered by studio intervention and several abandoned scripts. Years later, Fincher publicly expressed his dismay and disownment of the film. In an interview with The Guardian in 2009, he stated, “No one hated it more than me; to this day, no one hates it more than me”.

After the critical disappointment of “Alien 3”, Fincher ignored reading film scripts or directing another project. He briefly retreated to directing commercials and music videos. Shortly after he decided to make a foray back into film after reading Andrew Kevin Walker’s original screenplay for “Seven”, which would finally become the big break for Fincher.

David Fincher would go on to a successful filmmaking career after “Seven” with “Fight Club”, “The Game”, “Panic Room”, “Curious Case Of Benjamin Button” and “Gone Girl”. 

•Part 3: The Script

The plot of “Se7en” mostly starts off as a straightforward detective story. But it’s all upended right before that iconic and memorable final act, when the killer John Doe turns himself in. Screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker says “The fact that John Doe turns himself in steals a lot of the satisfaction away from not just the characters in the movie but the audience and it put them in a very uncomfortable, off-kilter position as they, along with the other characters in the movie, proceed into the third act”. 

There is no doubt that “Se7en” has a great hook of tracking down a serial killer as he commits seven murders based on the seven deadly sins over a period of seven days. And while that’s enough to suck audiences in, Walker worked extensively to set up the characters of Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and Mills (Brad Pitt) to have constant tension on screen. Both Somerset and Mills have fundamentally different views on their work as homicide detectives. 

Walker had felt that the ongoing conflict between Somerset and Mills as they reluctantly work together to solve the case elevates the story way above it’s initial hook. It’s brilliant how Walker structured his script to start it off as a police procedural and ends up becoming a morality play about engaging with evil. 

The ending of the screenplay, with the head in the box, was originally part of an earlier draft that New Line had rejected. Instead they opted for an ending that involved more of the traditional elements in a detective thriller with more action oriented elements. But when New Line sent director David Fincher the screenplay to read before officially signing on, they accidentally sent him the original screenplay with the head in the box ending. 

At the time, Fincher had not read a script for a year and a half since the frustrating experience of making “Alien 3”. After reading the draft that New Line had sent Fincher, he eventually agreed to direct “Se7en” because he was drawn to the script, which he says he had found to be a “connect-the-dots movie that delivers about inhumanity. It’s psychologically violent. It implies so much, not about why you did but how you did it”. He found it more a “meditation on evil” rather than a “police procedural”.

When New Line realized that they had sent Fincher the wrong draft, the President of Production, Michael De Luca, met with Fincher and noted that there was internal pressure to retain the revised version (of having no head in the box ending); De Luca stated that if Fincher promised to produce the movie, they would be able to stay with the head in a box ending. 

Despite this, producer Arnold Kopelson refused to allow the film to include the head in a box scene. When Brad Pitt had heard of the controversial ending he joined Fincher in arguing for keeping the original scene, noting that his previous film “Legends of the Fall” had its emotional ending cut after negative feedback from test audiences and he refused to do “Se7en” unless the head in-the box scene had remained. 

Originally director Jeremiah S. Chechik (director of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”) was attached to direct before Fincher signed on. Chechik was also one who was not a fan of the head in a box ending and left the project when negotiations started becoming serious with Fincher. Visionaries Guillermo del Toro and David Cronenberg were also on the short list to direct. 

•Part 4: Detectives Mills & Somerset

Screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker had originally envisioned actor William Hurt as Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and named the character after his favorite author, W. Somerset Maugham. Other actors were also considered including Robert Duvall, Gene Hackman and Al Pacino but he decided to film the drama “City Hall” instead. Denzel Washington and Sylvester Stallone both turned down the role of Mills (Brad Pitt). It was stated that the version originally crafted for Denzel Washington was a much more of a “kick ass, action cop movie”. Denzel Washington had later stated that he regretted turning down the role. Christina Applegate turned down the role of Tracy that went to Gwyneth Paltrow. 

When Fincher had hired Kevin Spacey to portray killer John Doe, Spacey thought it would be more interesting to keep his involvement a secret, figuring that if he were to be billed then it would be obvious who the “mysterious” antagonist was. As a result, Spacey who had just become a hot commodity for his work in “The Usual Suspects” did not appear in any advertising, nor was his name included in the opening credits. While the studio disliked the idea, the part was late to be casted and in Spacey’s words, “I was either going to be on a plane to shoot the movie or I wasn’t”. 

Val Kilmer was also at one point offered the role of serial killer John Doe, but initially the Fincher and screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker wanted Ned Beatty for the part. Unfortunately, the “Deliverance” star’s reaction to the script was, “I can’t do this. This is the most evil thing I’ve ever read”.

•Part 5: Alternate Endings

Alternate Ending 1 – The Race To Save Tracy’s Life

According to Rant Hollywood, producer Arnold Kopelson made Walker re-write “Se7en” so that Mills and Somerset would have embarked on a race to save Tracy’s life for the film’s final moments. Unfortunately further details regarding just where and how Tracy is at that point are at unknown, but it’s known that Pitt, Freeman and Fincher all had immediately rejected it and insisted they wouldn’t make the movie if it was kept in.

Alternate Ending 2: Somerset Kills John Doe

In fact, after the above action-ending was rejected by the aforementioned trio, a sequence was storyboarded where Morgan Freeman’s Somerset decides to kill John Doe in order to save Brad Pitt’s Mills.

After discovering the head, Somerset declares that he “wants out” and shoots John Doe to stop his foe’s plan from coming to fruition. Freeman insists on “Se7en’s” Blu Ray commentary, that he liked this ending, as it would mean that Mills would still have had a life. However, Pitt believed that it would have never worked, because there was no way Mills wouldn’t have shot John Doe for killing Tracy.

Alternate Ending 3: The Less-Dramatic Version

An ending for test audiences was quickly shot after the above sequence involving Somerset killing Doe was storyboarded. The test audience version was basically the released finale of Mills killing John Doe. It was also reported that audiences went nuts for this conclusion in preview screenings, and producers were so impressed with this response to the Mills conclusion that their confidence in the head in the box version grew. 

In the end, they decided not to even film the alternative, storyboarded version they’d devised around Somerset killing John Doe.

Alternate Ending 4: Doe Kills Mills, Then Somerset Kills Doe

It has been rumored that a fourth alternate ending was considered and one of the first to have been created. It would have seen John Doe shooting and killing Mills, only to then be shot by Somerset in return. The studio believed that this would be a more dramatic and satisfying conclusion for the film, even though it really wouldn’t have made too much sense and would have just been a lacklustre cop-out that turned “Se7en” into pretty much every other movie of its genre.

One of the most gratifying elements of “Se7en” is just how smart and meticulous its villain is, as he is proven to be ahead of the film’s heroes almost every step of the way. In fact, the only time that Mills and Somerset outmaneuver Doe is when they illegally track down his library movements, which results in their chase outside of his apartment. Something that should have culminated with the death of Mills, but only didn’t because Doe wanted to complete every tiny detail of his meticulous plan.

Alternate Ending 5: Mills Shoots Somerset

Another early verision of “Se7en’s” script, had Somerset recovering in a hospital after being shot by Mills.

But why did Mills shoot Somerset? What happened to John Doe? We’re still not sure. All that we do know is that R. Lee Ermey’s police captain comes in to the hospital and presents Somerset with a letter from Mills that reads, “You were right. You were right about everything”. Which I believe suggests that Mills killed Doe, while Somerset and Mills would have a brief stand-off which resulted in Mills shooting his partner and he then being arrested. But that ending was just speculation.

Director David Fincher’s Preferred Ending

David Fincher has a preferred version of the finale and would have been to completely edit out the suffix to the film where Somerset delivers the Hemingway quote at it’s closing.

Fincher explains on “Se7en’s” commentary (at the 11 minute and 30 second mark) that he had planned to cut to black after Mills shoots Doe in the head. Then, he wanted a few moments of darkness and silence in cinemas before the credits rolled so that it could sink in.

Unfortunately preview screenings didn’t see this plan through because the lights immediately would come up when the film concluded, lessening the effect of the sudden brutal assassination of John Doe. It also didn’t help that, during testing, viewers were immediately handed comment cards to comment on the film. 

Fincher eventually caved to studio pressure to provide a coda and even though neither Fincher, Pitt or Freeman care for it. Something that they each mention in the commentary, with Pitt calling it “irrelevant,” Fincher noting his disdain for the quote and Freeman declaring that it was a cop-out, although they still created it and was released on the films final cut. 

•Part 6: “What’s In The Box?!”

The finale owes much of its edge of your seat quality to the tension established throughout the film. The tension was built from the earliest scenes and when the audience is finally in the last scenes, it is the culmination of all that it has been carefully constructed it to be by Andrew Kevin Walker and David Fincher. “The twist is one of the reasons I think Se7en did well”, Walker says in the commentary. “Because people went in and they did not know in the first 10 minutes exactly how the movie was going to end”.

The third act abandons it’s cinematic tropes and convention. The promise of the final two corpses is brought into question when a mysterious box arrives that is part of John Doe’s meticulous plan. Containing the head of Mills’ wife, Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow) which is never seen on screen, but revealed through dialogue and reaction. 

When the delivery truck and package arrive, just before composer Howard Shore’s score kicks in, there’s deliberation and silence. Somerset is worried as he opens the box and his face then contorts with horror. The scene cuts from a side angle of the box, back to Somerset’s dismay and back to the box where the truth is unseen but stuns. People were convinced they saw the head in the box, that just because of how great Morgan Freeman’s performance was”. 

As with Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” and its legendary shower scene, audiences believed they were shown more than they were. Viewers came out of the film believing the severed head of actress Gwyneth Paltrow, actually appeared onscreen. When it did not. “The thing I appreciated about it and what I thought Andrew Kevin Walker’s script did so well was that it got your mind in overdrive,” Fincher told Playboy in 2014. “It worked on your imagination…we were in great shape and didn’t have to show the head in the box”. Despite his protests, Fincher has gotten into at least couple arguments with someone who swears they saw it.

Although Gwyneth Paltrow (who was dating Brad Pitt at the time) doesn’t get too much screen time, her presence in the film is vital to making the final scenes work. And those scenes really only work because Walker took the time to develop Tracy into a three dimensional character that earns the audience’s sympathy in those few moments on screen. Scenes that give us a glimpse into Mills’ world outside of the case turn out to be the most crucial scenes to earn the emotional impact of the ending. 

Walker knows the importance of knowing your ending before you start writing and working backwards from that. In interviews Walker always knew that Mills would be the final sin which led him down the path of establishing Mills’ wife as a key character in the story. But Walker also knew the audience would need to care about Tracy to make the ending work.

Brad Pitt’s performance brings an exclamation of fear and dread, jolted audiences and left a lasting cultural imprint. The ending of “Se7en”is one of the most shocking, disturbing and iconic twists in modern cinema, capping off a tight and wrought thriller.

The ‘head in a box’ ending continued to worry the studio after filming was completed. But it needed this horrendous event to kick off the last sin of wrath. Fincher had assured that the audience wouldn’t see Tracy’s head in the box, leaving much of the horror up to the audiences imagination. Producer Arnold Kopelson credits director David Fincher with maintaining the intensity at the film’s end by employing a shaky camera to enhance the action and drama that included a brief blink and you’ll miss it shot of Tracy just before Mills shoots John Doe. 

“The whole scene has a very natural build to it”, editor Francis-Bruce says. “The mystery of the truck and what’s going, to the realization something awful’s gone on, to the realization that something even worse is going on, and the fact that John Doe didn’t realize that Mills didn’t realize he was going to have a child. That was, for him, a little added bonus to the whole thing”.

Th closing minutes of the film has Mills being shuttled away to pay for his final sin after being defeated by John Doe. But even after all the darkness of the climax, Somerset retains a semblance of hope. As the film closes with that voiceover that was originally rejected by Fincher, Pitt and Freeman. “Ernest Hemingway once wrote. The world is a fine place and worth fighting for. I agree with the second part”. 

•Part 7: Filming

The film was shot over a long period of 55 days. Fincher approached making “Se7en” like a tiny genre movie, the kind of movie William Friedkin might have made. He worked with cinematographer Darius Khondji and adopted a simple approach to the camerawork, which was influenced by believe it or not but the television show “COPS”, of how the camera would be in the backseat peering over people’s shoulder. According to Fincher, “Se7en is the first time I got to carry through certain things about the camera and about what movies are or can be”.

The crowded urban streets and oppressive rain seems to fall without respite were integral parts of the film, as Fincher wanted to show a city that was “dirty, violent, polluted and often depressing. Visually and stylistically, that’s how we wanted to portray this world. Everything needed to be as authentic and raw as possible”. Although the city or state was never mentioned by any of the characters during the film, a sign can be seen in the background of a pizza restaurant called “New York Pizza” in which Somerset and Mills visit. The restaurant ironically is located in Hollywood, California. 

To this end, Fincher turned to production designer Arthur Max to create a dismal world that often eerily mirrors its inhabitants. “We created a setting that reflects the moral decay of the people in it”, says Max. “Everything is falling apart, and nothing is working properly”. The film’s brooding, dark look was achieved through a chemical process called bleach bypass, wherein the silver in the film stock was not completely removed, which in turn deepened the dark, shadowy images in the film and increased its overall tonal quality.

•Part 8: The Brilliance Of The Chase Scene

To illustrate just how good “Se7en” is, have another look at the films chase sequence. Arriving in the middle of the film, it comes at a point that we’ve already been blessed with it’s immersive apocalyptic air and dread for the best part of an hour. Mills and Somerset have been one step behind the killer the whole time; now at last they have a lead. A slew of library records acquired from the FBI that have led them to the apartment of John Doe, who likes to read up on books about the Marquis de Sade and the seven deadly sins.

With little else to go on, they knock on the suspect’s door, as they notice a figure walking towards them down the corridor, carrying a large bag of groceries. Soon enough the figure pulls a gun and opens fire on Mills and Somerset. So it begins…the film’s only real pure action sequence: a cat and mouse chase through a fairly run down apartment block and out into the bustling city streets. Once again the killer’s one step ahead, out running and out smarting Mills, the younger and more gung-ho of the two detectives with gunfire as he tries to make his escape.

It’s worth to note that in Andrew Kevin Walker’s first draft (which you can read on his website) the chase scene unfolds rather differently. While the story is otherwise extremely close to the final movie, the first draft sees John Doe appear in the corridor, pull an Uzi machine gun, open fire, and run off. It’s not until the production draft, that the longer chase sequence appears, which is possibly Fincher’s suggestion or to be an idea that Walker and Fincher cooked up together as they developed the shooting script.

The way Fincher chooses to shoot the chase scene exemplifies his controlled approach to “Se7en’s” storytelling. For one thing, it isn’t a straight chase, or even your typical shoot-out chase; we see Mills cautiously peering around corners, anticipating the bullets that might come whizzing past at any second. Up to this point, Fincher has been shooting with fairly long takes when the style suddenly changes focus for the chase and makes a rare use of a handheld camera to grab shots from Mills’ POV. David Fincher has been vocal that he doesn’t like to use handheld cameras, since he believes its distinctive style can detract from the meaning of a precisely written scene or an individual performance.

For the chase sequence Fincher decided to use a handheld camera because it fulfils a specific purpose: it places the audience in the chaos of the moment. He wants the audience to feel the sense of panic as Mills and Somerset are suddenly confronted by an armed assailant. “Well, normally in movies characters just run pell-mell after the antagonist”, Fincher explains. “I always thought, ‘God, if someone was shooting at me, I would be terrified to turn any corner!’ If you set it up properly and put the audience in that subjective place, handheld is the perfect way to get that feeling. Otherwise, it gets very overused”.

That is perfect example that Fincher knows how to use the camera to create the impression of a human emotion. It’s a painfully obvious thing to point out, but something a lot of filmmakers don’t accurately convey: being shot at is absolutely terrifying. So rather than make his chase sequence full of elaborate stunts, Fincher concentrates instead on this very human aspect – the adrenaline, the pain and the fear that Mills experiences as he goes after John Doe. 

During the filming of this sequence, Brad Pitt had slipped and drove his arm through a windshield. Resulting in a severed tendon that was so deep it went down to the bone. Pitt had to wear a cast for the rest of filming, which was written into the script; for scenes that had to be shot that took place earlier than the chase, he had to conceal his arm as best he could.

It’s Fincher’s control over his filmmaking tools – the consideration that goes into seemingly every shot – that makes “Se7en” (and all of his movies) so watchable. At the end of his chase set-piece, Doe gets the upper hand on Mills in a rain-drenched alleyway. Dropping down from a truck where he’s been lying in wait, Doe whacks Mills in the face, then we get a beautifully cinematic extreme close-up of the gun being pressed against Mills’ temple. Fincher is brilliant in how he allows the rhythm of the editing in the chase scene to slow down, edging the pace of the movie away from the intensity of the pursuit and back to that of a suspense thriller.

•Part 9: Title sequence

Originally, Fincher planned the title sequence of the film to show Somerset buying a house in a remote country area and traveling back into the city. However, days before a test screening, they had yet to film the sequence and had no budget to do it in that time. Fincher approached Kyle Cooper to suggest a replacement. First it needs to be noted that all of the entries in John Doe’s notebooks were entered by hand by designers Clive Piercy and John Sabel. The duo spent $15,000 on journals, made the entries, ripped them up and sewed them back together by hand, and then baked them to make them seem worn and old.

When Cooper recognized the amount of money used to make John Doe’s notebooks, he felt it was a good idea to use the opening sequence to display them in a slideshow set to a remix of Nine Inch Nails song “Closer”. The hand-drawn credits font was used to suggest that John Doe had written the credits himself. The studio liked the sequence and suggested he stay with that. Fincher instead asked Cooper to “pretend we’ve never met and come back and propose something else”, according to Cooper. 

Cooper came up with a more detailed version of this photographic sequence: “The idea was that this is John Doe’s job: he gets up, makes his books, plans his murders, drinks his tea”. Fincher liked this approach, but cautioned Cooper, “Well, that would be neat, but that’s kind of a 2D glimpse. Figure out a way for it to involve John Doe, to show that somewhere across town somebody is working on some really evil shit. I don’t want it to be just flipping through pages, as beautiful as they are”. 

Cooper reworked the idea, working with Wayne Coe to create a storyboard for a live-action shot and adding in filming along with photographs of the books, new props include film reels and additional notebooks, visual effects for the title credits, and elements inspired by Doe’s behavior in the movie, such as cutting his fingertips. Fincher liked this approach, and considered getting Mark Romanek (director of “One Hour Photo”) and the director of the “Closer” music video to produce the sequence, but Cooper insisted he direct it himself. 

Cooper was assisted by film editor Angus Wall and cinematographer Harris Savides in making the final title sequence. The filming took two days and five further weeks to edit. The credits were hand-etched onto black scratchboard and manipulated by the camera, rather than using digital effects. The final sequence used a remix of “Closer” performed by the band Coil.

Cooper’s work was is so compelling, director Zach Snyder (“300”, “Sucker Punch”, “Batman v Superman”) said that some directors refuse to use him because he “makes title sequences better than the movie”. 

•Part 10: The Se7en Deadly Sins 

Lust: To have an intense desire or need. “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). 

Gluttony: Excess in eating and drinking. “For drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags” (Proverbs 23:21). 

Greed: Excessive or reprehensible acquisitiveness. “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more” (Ephesians 4:19). 

Sloth (also known as laziness): Disinclined to activity or exertion: not energetic or vigorous. “The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway” (Proverbs 15:19). 

Wrath: Strong vengeful anger or indignation. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1) 

Envy: Painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage. “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:1-2). 

Pride: Quality or state of being proud; inordinate self esteem. “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

•Part 11: Release & Reception

Se7en” was released on September 22, 1995, where it grossed $13.9 million on its opening weekend and going on to gross a total of $327.3 million. It would make “Se7en” the seventh-highest-grossing film of 1995. The film also spent four consecutive weeks in the top spot at the U.S. box office.

New Line Cinema re-released “Se7en” in Los Angeles on Christmas Day and in New York City on December 29th 1995, in an attempt to generate Academy Award nominations for Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, and David Fincher, which was ultimately unsuccessful. It was only nominated for best film editing which it did not win for. 

Between September 2006 and October 2007, a series of seven comic books were published by Zenescope Entertainment with each of the seven issues dedicated to one of the seven sins. It told the story from the perspective of John Doe rather than the two homicide detectives as in the film, and gave Doe a backstory. Each issue included contributions by a group of creators independent of each other. All seven issues were collected in trade paperback form, released on January 15th 2008, as “Se7en”. 

•Part 12: The Lasting Impact 

From beginning to end, “Se7en” is about a chillingly smart villain who’s always one step ahead of his pursuers. The story about detectives Mills and Somerset and their search for the psychotic murderer John Doe is a modern day classic. With every murder more sordid than the previous one, nothing prepares the detectives or us for the heart-pulsating shocker of a conclusion when the contents of the box made John Doe into one of the most notorious on-screen villains.

David Fincher is at the top of his form with “Se7en”. One of the darkest, creepiest and most brilliant serial killer pictures in American film history. It’s impossible to describe the seismic influence that David Fincher’s seminal 1995 occult thriller “Se7en” has had on the film industry. What’s being used here is the same sort of approach William Friedkin employed in “The Exorcist” or Jonathan Demme in “The Silence of the Lambs”. What could have been a routine cop movie is elevated by a dreaded mythology and symbolism. “Se7en” is not really a very deep or profound film, but it provides the convincing illusion of one. Almost all mainstream thrillers seek first to provide entertainment; while “Se7en” intends to fascinate and appall. 

A great deal is owed to the contributions of cinematographer Darius Khondji, production designer Arthur Max and composer Howard Shore. It’s because of his attention to detail and his fluent understanding of pace and controlled suspense, that “Se7en” winds up being more than the sum of its parts. Fincher likes a saturated palate and gravitates toward sombre colors and underlighted interiors. He loves to shoot his films with interior lights that so often seem weak or absent. Like Spielberg, he infuses the air in his interiors with a fine unseen powder that makes the beams of flashlights visible, emphasizing the surrounding darkness.

There’s a style and a slickness to his work that springs from his background in the advertising and effects industry, but his use of technique is always in service to the story his telling. Seven” draws us relentlessly into its horrors, some of which are all the more effective for being glimpsed in just brief shots. We only know of the killing methods after the detectives discuss them. Fincher shows us just enough to disgust us and cuts away. It is one of the best and most intelligent serial killer films ever made. Fincher’s eye for framing and pace leaves the writing and acting room to breathe, yet it’s his skill as a filmmaker that makes “Se7en” more than just another ’90s serial killer flick.



About Aron Medeiros

Aron Medeiros
Aron Medeiros is the movie critic for Maui Watch. He lives on the beautiful island of Maui and is also a member of the elite Hawaii Film Critics Society and an active cast member of the NerdWatch pod cast. He is a 2003 graduate from King Kekaulike High School. His favorite film of all time is “Back To The Future”. He has worked at Consolidated Kaahumanu Theaters for nearly 13 years as a Sales Associate and making his way up to Assistant Manager. He has loved movies since he was a young boy, where his Grandfather started his love for the movies.

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