Thursday, October 04, 2007

Month o' Horror: Se7en

Eventually, every film genre -- or film sub-genre -- births a film that is forever linked to that particular genre. Maybe it redefines it, maybe it brings a new legitimacy to it, maybe it's the perfect marriage of writer, director, and performers that bring a level of quality never seen in that genre before.

Whatever the case, "Se7en" is a film that will be forever linked to the serial-killer movie. And with good reason.

"Se7en" has a phenominal cast in front of the camera. Maybe Morgan Freeman has gotten a bit cliched in recent years as the wise, older man, but in "Se7en" it was still fairly fresh; Brad Pitt, as much as he could have taken the pretty-boy film career of someone like Tom Cruise, chose instead to challenge himself on a fairly consistent basis, and while "Se7en" maybe isn't his finest work, it's far from his least; and, of course, there's Kevin Spacey as John Doe, one of the most perfectly calm and perfectly chilling psychopaths ever caught on film.

And then behind the camera is David Fincher, whose previous film -- Alien 3 -- was a visual masterpiece even if the film was ultimately a failure. Fincher is one of the most interesting director working in Hollywood, and while his films vary from interesting if a little too pocorny (Panic Room) to jaw-droppingly brilliant (Fight Club), you'll never see a boring film from the man.

But it isn't just the cast and crew that elevates "Se7en" above most of the films in its genre. The script also works brilliantly, with a killer whose motivations are grotesquely easy to understand. As he slaughters those he views as sinners, and as the film flashes their sins in front of our faces, we can understand the twisted logic of his actions. Maybe we'd never commit those crimes ourselves, but when Doe talks about how sick our world has become, it's difficult to disagree.

Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks that comes from crafting a genre-defining is film is the inevitible copy-cats. And while "Se7en" certainly has its fair share of them, none of them can live up to it, and they don't come anywhere near surpassing it. The film remains one of the finest examples of the genre, and one of the finest examples of powerful genre filmmaking of any kind.

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