20 Years Later: David Fincher’s ‘Se7en’ Remains One of the Scariest Thrillers of All Time


What’s the one movie line that sends chills up my spine and leaves me with a feeling of dread?

“What’s in the box?!”

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Anyone who has seen David Fincher’s Se7en knows exactly what I’m talking about. That climactic final scene in the middle of the desert with Detective Mills (played by a young Brad Pitt) slowly losing his grip with reality, his service pistol pointed at the back of serial killer “John Doe’s” head (Kevin Spacey as one of the greatest cinematic villains of all time) while Detective Somerset (an amazing performance by Morgan Freeman) tries to de-escalate the situation. That final scene will always be remembered as one of the most insane movie plot twists ever to grace the big screen.

What makes Se7en such a terrifying film? Well, for one, the serial killer happens to be an idealist in that he believes he is justified in his actions by killing according to the seven deadliest sins. Nothing the law can throw at him can stop him because he believes that a higher power called him to be God’s wrath. That being said, there is no scarier villain than one who believes he is killing in the name of God.

Even the opening credits tell us a bit about Doe. In a way, they tell Doe’s tale:

Also, the entire film is dark not just in subject matter but in imagery as well. The lighting is bleak and drab, and there is a feeling of claustrophobia. As a matter of fact, the first time the viewers see a blue sky is at the end of the film when Doe (perhaps Spacey’s best pre-Frank Underwood villain) turns himself in. Prior to that it’s a world of damp grays and blacks.

The scene that easily sets the tone for the rest of the movie is when the first victim, “Gluttony,” is found at his kitchen table. The victim is horrifically obese and in a state of decomposition while sitting with his face planted in a bowl of moldy spaghetti. His house is in squalor and the entire set is disgusting. Later we find out just how sadistic Doe is: “Gluttony” was force-fed spaghetti and his own vomit until he was delivered a swift kick into the stomach, causing it to explode. That is the sign of a very sick mind to have gone through a murder in such a manner.

Enough cannot be said for Spacey’s portrayal of Doe. In many cases, despite not showing up until 90 minutes into the movie, Doe’s performance literally makes the movie. When the audience first sees him he’s wandering into the police station covered in blood, trying to get the attention of Mills and Somerset so he can turn himself in. Afterwards, when he’s being interrogated it is hard not to be unsettled by his serene, soft-spoken behavior although he’s very obviously detached. It’s his taunting of Mills at the end of the movie that says it all: there will be no happy ending to this dark, dark movie.

20 years will have passed since the movie’s release come September 22. Two decades, yet the twisted tale that Se7en weaves makes it one of the darkest trips into the human mind Hollywood has ever taken.

Weigh in below on the impact that Se7en has left on you.

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