I finally caught up with the rest of the world and saw Se7en. I found it disappointing– I think when it comes to religiously-themed serial murders, Vincent Price as Dr. Phibes is more my cup of tea– but there were still a few interesting points in Se7en that were amply missing in The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Hell, they’re pretty damn absent in mainstream media, period.
First of all, Somerset (Morgan Freeman) has a serious conversation with Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow) about abortion. She is pregnant and can’t decide what to do– she doesn’t know anyone in the city but her husband David Mills (Brad Pitt), and Somerset. Somerset tells her about his experience with his former partner. He felt that he shouldn’t be a father– not with the life he had as a detective in that awful city and convinced her (we never hear her name) to get an abortion. He maintains that not becoming a father was right for him, but at the same time he admits he shouldn’t have pressured his partner when she was leaning toward parenthood. Admittedly, the advice he ultimately gives Tracey is not perfect, but the conversation has a level of honesty and contemplation that movies usually stay away from (and in doing so perpetuate the stereotype of women having the procedure on a whim). Se7en very nicely subverts that thought.
Secondly, Morgan and Mills have a brief conversation where their mutual disgust with women being taught “rape prevention tactics” is amply evident. In a world where “don’t get raped” is a more common message than “don’t rape” that is very unusual. Especially in a horror movie/police procedural for those with strong stomachs. Both genres are habitual offenders on the misogyny scale. Think about that for a minute… another very surprising trope inversion.
The ending is… the ending. It works for the story, so I won’t complain about introducing Tracy just for her head to get cut off at the finale. As unpleasant as that is… it’s not like John Carpenter punishing the babysitters in Halloween or Leatherface hanging one of the faceless Texas Chainsaw Massacre characters on a meat-hook. This act of violence works, and more importantly, has impact. Roman Polanski is, rightly, a controversial figure, but his words on violence in cinema are right on the money. Gratuitous violence– violence without impact, violence played for laughs, etc– is obscene (note the lack of quotation marks– I couldn’t find his exact words).
What happened with the genesis of Se7en? Why aren’t these two points discussed more? They certainly rate it.