Monsters Are Real: Se7en

“Monsters are real. Ghosts are real too. They live inside us. And sometimes, they win.”

– Stephen King

I finally got around to watching all of the movie Se7en (1995) the other night. I’d seen bits and pieces of it before, including the ending, but this was the first time I’d seen it all the way through. For those who haven’t seen it, the movie stars Brad Pitt as Detective David Mills, Morgan Freeman as Detective Lt. William Somerset, Gwyneth Paltrow as Tracy Mills (the wife of the character played by Brad Pitt), and Kevin Spacey as John Doe, a serial killer bent on killing seven representative people he believes to be guilty of committing (one each) The Seven Deadly Sins.

Now I’ve watched some disturbing movies in my time, but this one, based on a script by American screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker (who also played a dead guy in it), did an exceptional job of pushing my buttons! The character played by Morgan Freeman (Lt. Somerset) was the meticulous and brilliant, but world weary, old pro just a week away from retiring, while the Brad Pitt character (Det. Mills) was the brash and self-confident up-and-comer who transferred to the big city where he could “make a difference” by proving he could fill the old man’s shoes.

Beneath the forceful exterior, however, Mills worried about having dragged his lovely and delicate young wife (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) to the dirty and dangerous city where she just didn’t belong. And for her part, Tracy Mills was hiding the fact that she was pregnant from her husband because she didn’t want to be the cause of him abandoning his dream of being a great champion for justice.

But I think that, by far, what viewers would find among the most disturbing aspects of this movie were the truly horrendous ways in which the killer goes about methodically and efficiently torturing to death his first five victims – and making the police look completely ineffectual in the process:

  1. He forced an obese man to eat until his stomach ruptured – The Sin of Gluttony.
  2. He forced a greedy criminal defense lawyer to cut off a pound of his own flesh – The Sin of Greed.
  3. He destroyed the beauty of a world famous model and then forced her to choose between a life of horrible disfigurement and death – The Sin of Pride
  4. He slowly starved to death, in total isolation and over a full year’s time, a depressed, addicted, and house-bound man –The Sin of Sloth.
  5. He forced a frequent user of prostitutes to kill one by having sex with her wearing a nightmarish killer strap-on he designed specifically for the purpose – The Sin of Lust.

But then he turned himself in (?!?!) and promised to make a complete confession if he were allowed to take detectives Mills and Somerset, and only them, to where they could find the final two victims. You know, even though Kevin Spacey only appeared and spoke in this last segment of the film, I think his performance was what really set this movie apart as a genuine classic. His maniacal assertions that he was doing God’s work, delivered with all the calm and clinical poise of the psychopathic “true believer,” was absolutely chilling. And the way he slowly stoked the fires of retribution in the heart of the naively hot-headed Det. Mills on the way to the final scene was a truly masterful example of mental manipulation.

That’s not to say that Spacey completely stole the show, however. Brad Pitt delivered what were probably his best lines of the movie when he said:

“I’ve been trying to figure something in my head, and maybe you can help me out, yeah? When a person is insane, as you clearly are, do you know that you’re insane? Maybe you’re just sitting around, reading “Guns and Ammo”, masturbating in your own feces, do you just stop and go, ‘Wow! It is amazing how fucking crazy I really am!’ Yeah. Do you guys do that?”

And While Morgan Freeman (who was brilliant throughout – as usual) didn’t really say much during this part, his expressions while studying the exchange between the other two spoke volumes about his suspicions that Doe was setting Mills up for something. He just didn’t know what. And so it was that neither the over-confident youth, or the wise old veteran, were prepared for this maniac’s pièce de résistance!

Having pre-arranged to have a package delivered to the site, he managed to separate the two when Lt. Somerset had to go secure the intruder. While Somerset was investigating the package, Doe proceeded to lock Mills’ attention on him by telling him how much he envied him and his life married to such a beautiful young woman, by telling him how he had visited her just before turning himself in, then describing how had had killed her and their unborn child, and finally explaining that it was her lovely head in the package that had just arrived… Thus fulfilling his promise to reveal his final victims: himself for his own Sin of Envy, and Tracy Mills (with the bonus victim of her unborn child) for her husband’s Sin of Wrath!

A truly disturbing movie! And for most people that last scene would have no doubt been the most disturbing of all. But not for me. For me, the most disturbing things about this movie from the scene describing the fourth victim (see list above), who had actually been found alive, though just barely. The first thing was the horrible shape he was in. The second was the swat officer whispering in his ear that he got what he deserved. And the third was what the doctor said after examinig him at the hospital:

“Detective, he’d die of shock right now if you were to shine a flashlight in his eyes. He’s experienced about as much pain and suffering as anyone I’ve encountered, give or take… and he still has Hell to look forward to. Good night.”

These are the things that inspired me to write this post. If you want to know why, read The Sin of Sloth.

“Ernest Hemingway once wrote, ‘The world is a fine place, and worth fighting for.’ I agree with the second part.”

– Detective Lt. William Somerset

I want ice water.

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18 thoughts on “Monsters Are Real: Se7en

  1. Stephen King wrote this? Might be his greatest!
    I stopped watching movies in ’95 and this was what I missed. Great ha?

    “Ernest Hemingway once wrote, ‘The world is a fine place, and worth fighting for.’ I agree with the second part.”

    – Detective Lt. William Somerset

    Great quote too.

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    • Hi poch! I’m sorry for the confusion, but King was not the writer. I used that quote because watching this movie made it jump out from my memories! 😳

      Note that I’ve added a credit to the actual writer in the second paragraph. 😀

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  2. For future reference, it would be nice if you put in big letter somewhere near the beginning of the post, the phrase “SPOILER ALERT” because somebody could be reading this, and might not have seen that movie.
    Not me though. I’ve seen that movie dozens of times. Awesome movie. Coulda done better casting for the part of the wife, (I’ve never liked Paltrow) otherwise, it’s all good.

    My favourite part is when they’re interviewing the guy who runs the whorehouse. He isn’t pleased with his work but he does it anyway. Or any of the parts where Mills and Somerset are just talking about anything as though they are a pair of normal guys trying to get along. Makes the movie seem real.

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    • You know, I never actually meant to go into such detail about the movie when I started this. As you said about the exchanges between Mills and Somerset, the movie seemed like such a realistic of life as I see it (note the link to my other post at the end), that I got kinda carried away! 😳

      As a rule, I don’t do reviews and critiques. I only write about the works of others when those works inspire me to reflect on my own life, and this one most certainly did! 😀

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  3. Like you, I had not seen the film in full before. Fortunately, I’ve seen enough to not worry about the ‘spoilers’ you placed here. In fact it’s made me want to watch all of it from beginning to end now, so I will see it as soon as I’m able.

    I have to say, I found what I had seen of it really disturbing, because it shines a light on the darkness of humanity, which is in all of us, whether we act on it, or not. Morgan Freeman is untouchable in my opinion. Kevin Spacey does creepy really well and I thought he was fantastic in The Usual Suspects. Brad Pitt, when he makes an effort, is very good indeed (Fight Club, anybody?), however, I agree about Gwyneth. To be fair, though, she didn’t have a lot to do.

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    • As I said in the post, I’d actually seen the ending before – more than once in fact. But in my case that just made me all the more curious to know just what led up to such a horrific conclusion! 😯

      To be honest, I have little experience with Paltrow’s work, but I think her look was for the “frail and vulnerable” wife in this movie. Brad Pitt is growing on me, but I need to see more.

      Kevin Spacey really does do creepy very well. I think he also does “is that guy nuts, or what” very well too, as I said in my K-PAX post!

      And, of course, Morgan Freeman is the man! 😀

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  4. I have not seen this movie. I live in remote area where there are no movie theaters and watching them on VCR is something I have little time for. I’m far more inclined to read. this is probably a good thing because I have an overactive imagination. Horror visuals stick with me and I find myself shrieking in the middle of the night after I watch them but reading doesn’t evoke the same response.

    P.S. I like the theme change. It’s so cool to be able to read text without having to use my browser to resize it.

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    • I’m not as much into horror stuff as I once was. The last one that intruded into my sleep the The Exorcist (the book – I almost laughed through the movie!). Frankly, I got tired of how stupid the victims usually were and too often found myself rooting for the killer to put them out of my misery! 🙄

      But I do love a good psychopath-chasing, CSI-cop drama like this one. My DVR is set to record just about everything of this kind I can find! 😉

      I’m so glad you like the theme. It took me quite a while before I found another that seemed worth the effort involved in switching. iNove kinda spoiled me with it’s wide body area, so I had to choose one that wouldn’t require me to re-size my images. But the narrower sidebar of the new one did require a bit of re-working on my text widgets. Did you notice that this theme allows for each post to have its own custom header? Cool! 😀

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  5. I first saw that movie when I was in college. I went to a Christian college so needless to say it kept me up most of the night. It totally messes with your mind without being gory and disgusting like the new movies out today.

    That was brilliant storytelling and acting by everyone involved.

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  6. This is one of my favorites. I remember racing to the cinema to see it before some bastard told me the ending….I friggin knew what was in that box, I friggin knew !!!!!!

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  7. Nobody does creepy like Kevin Spacey. I’m a bit concerned that there might be a real version of his character out there, though. I kind of regard the seven deadly sins as a weekend “to do” list.

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    • Spacey really is good! I think that for you to think that there “might” be a nutcase like this out is a gross under-estimation of man’s capacity for evil. It’s more likely that this story was inspired by something similar having already happened! 😐

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  8. bloody hell people, I’m just amazed that some people actually managed to miss this movie. So remember going to the premiere of this one in my hometown (huge cinema, all 50 seats of them 🙂 ) but it is one of the best horror movies all time in my opinion, and yes I do say horror movie, you sit clamped to your sofa while watching this one and having a great Brad Pitt and an even more awesomer (is that a word) Morgan Freeman in the cast makes this movie so great, sorry not excluding genious Kevin Spacey who plays a freakish murderer with such intelligence… ohhh shiver me timbers… have to see it again tonite…

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