I’ve had a complicated relationship with this movie. I’ve seen parts of it, several times, whenever it’s been shown on TV. Once or twice I might have seen most of it, but because it was so damnably QUIET I was never sure what was going on, or who was doing the killing. So this time I rented the DVD from the library and activated the closed caption feature.
Voila! Now I know what the hell is going on.
As it turns out – quite a lot.
Here we have one of the serial killer classics – a killer with an axe to grind.
Or, as I like to call it – a Guy with a Theme.
This guy’s problem is that humanity is corrupt, and so the best way to point this out to the blind masses is to make an example of seven “lucky” winners – by killing them. This killer, known only as John Doe (and played by the delightful Kevin Spacey), is a big fan of the Seven Deadly Sins.
And, as every writer knows, once you have your theme down, everything else just falls into place. Now, armed with his list – gluttony, greed, sloth, lust, pride, envy and wrath – John Doe sets out to teach the world “A Lesson”.
However, unlike most of the serial killers we’ve encountered in this course, John Doe is very fastidious. He prefers to have his victims kill themselves. With a little firm “encouragement” from him, of course. You’ll thank me later, he no doubt tells them.
So, what can we make of a serial killer who never actually kills anyone himself … oh wait, that’s not quite true. At the end he does kill Tracy Mills (played by a luminous Gwyneth Paltrow), doesn’t he? He kills an “innocent” – someone who was not guilty of any of the seven deadly sins herself – but who was “responsible” for making him guilty of the sin of envy.
How’s that for evil?
Other than that little slip up at the end, though, John Doe is a clever, and well-read, killer. He has the detectives assigned to his case – William Somerset, played by the always-great Morgan Freeman, and David Mills, played by the always-hot Brad Pitt – scrambling to figure him out. They even – gasp – have to visit the library to do research. (In one of the few light moments in the film, Brad Pitt receives a suspicious-looking item in a crumpled brown bag from a shady-looking guy in a trench coat – the Cliff Notes to Dante’s Inferno.)
John Doe is a terrific serial killer (the smart ones almost always are, The Sculptor being an exception), because once you figure out what The Theme is then it’s more like a game – which sin is next, and what will he do to punish the perpetrator?
Plus, serial killers with a Theme usually don’t just pick on women when they are making their point – unless, that is, their point is All Whores Must Die
– so we get that whole equality thing going on, which is nice.
Now having finally seen, and heard, the entire movie, I heartily recommend “Seven” to anyone who loves serial killers. And to all you darkness freaks I say – John Doe is a worthy addition to your messed up collection.