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Grab a Drink Because ‘Seven’ Turns 21 Today!

Back in 1992, David Fincher was still reeling from the awful experience he had making his first feature film Alien 3. After production was complete, he swore he would never make another movie. He eventually broke that oath a year and a half later when New Line Cinema sent him Andrew Kevin Walker’s early draft of a script for Seven (sometimes obnoxiously called Se7en). The rest is history.

***SPOILERS for a 21-year-old film below.***

“But Trace, why are you covering Seven, a mystery neo-noir psychological thriller film (according to Wikipedia) on a horror website?”, you ask? That’s because Seven is a horror movie. As our own Jonathan Barkan so eloquently put it last year: “It’s a serial killer that offs people based on the seven deadly sins. It’s gory, it’s horrifying, and it’s got an ending that still haunts people to this day.” Point taken, Barkan.

Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and Gwyneth Paltrow may be the stars of Seven, but the real star is Fincher’s direction and Darius Khondji’s cinematography. It is only his second film but it feels like it could be his tenth.  The film looks so dreary. From the crowded streets of Los Angeles (where the Seven was filmed, though the city in the film remains unnamed). The color palette helps matters, but Fincher’s decision to film Seven as simplistically as possible (COPS was used as inspiration) added to the crudeness of the film.

I won’t delve too much into the “is Seven a horror movie” argument, except to say that Seven is most definitely a horrifying film. Whether that makes it a horror movie is up to the viewer to decide, but I certainly view it as one. Most people cite the sloth sequence as the most disturbing part of the film, but for me it’s always been Leland Orser’s interrogation scene. That is a truly difficult scene to watch, especially when you learn how he murdered that prostitute.

One can’t discuss Seven without mentioning its sucker-punch of an ending. It is a bleakly poetic ending that still gets under people’s skin. Of  course, that wasn’t always the ending of the film. It was in Walker’s original draft of the screenplay, but the studio was hesitant to use it, fearing that it would not be well-received by audiences. They made him re-write the ending with a more action-y ending Lucky for us, New Line accidentally sent Fincher the first draft of the screenplay with the head-in-a-box ending, and he fought for it. He even went so far as to make it a condition of him accepting the directing gig.

Even after filming, the studio remained concerned about the end of the film. They were so worried that they even tried to replace Paltrow’s character’s head with that of a dog. Apparently it was just a bit too depressing. Thankfully, Fincher still stuck to his guns and Brad Pitt stood by him until the very end, leading the studio to concede and release the film per Fincher’s and Walker’s vision.

It’s also worth noting that Spacey’s identity as the serial killer John Doe was not revealed to audiences until they saw the film (unless they read certain reviews that revealed this fact). It was a solid bit of marketing that showed the confidence New Line had in the film. Most studios would have put Spacey front and center, especially in a post-The Silence of the Lambs world. You almost wish more studios would show that kind of restraint nowadays.

Seven was released on September 21, 1995 and grossed a mere $13.1 million domestically during its first weekend in theaters. It would spend five weeks at the number one spot at the box office and go on to gross $100.1 million domestically and $227.1 million overseas. This coincidentally made it the seventh highest grossing film of 1995. It was also released to widespread critical acclaim. It currently sits at 80% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 65 on Metacritic. Richard Francis-Bruce was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Editing in a motion picture, but he lost to Mike Hill and David P. Hanley for Apollo 13Seven did, however, win Best Picture, Most Desirable Male (Brad Pitt) and Best Villain (Kevin Spacey) at the MTV Movie Awards. So that’s something.

So grab a drink and celebrate the fact that Seven turns 21 today (or lament the fact that people born in 1995 are now turning 21). Either way, drink responsibly and pop Seven in the ol’ Blu-Ray player today. It gets better and better with each subsequent viewing.



  • Creepshow

    I like how they thought a dog head was MORE depressing than the head of a guy’s wife. That was probably coming from a room full of divorced pricks. Anyhow, any other ending would have been a major disappointment.

    • art123guy

      The original ending that was shown at preview screenings had the movie ending after Somerset shot John Doe. I think that woulda worked just as well if not better. It’s also Fincher’s preferred ending.

      • PsychoMantis18

        True but out of all the possibilities, we got lucky.

    • Matt

      Hey, women come and women go, but dogs are forever. They don’t call ’em Man’s Best Friend for nothing!

      • Creepshow

        And you can put dogs down legally, if they ain’t right in the noggin…I mean…
        Wow, this got weird quick. *erases comment*

        • Matt

          Women, you can’t live with ’em, and you can’t shoot ’em. LOL

  • Dee-abolik

    I can’t believe it’s 21 years old…. I vividly remember seeing it at the theatre.

  • BloodyDisgusted

    R.I.P Brangelina

  • Matt

    Happy B-Day. I’ll have a 7 and 7 in celebration of Seven turning 21. After all, 7 and 7 and Seven equals 21.

  • Otterlee

    Here’s to you, you horrifying non-horror film! Love ya!

  • Baron Von Marlon

    Timeless classic with one of the best movie endings ever.
    That one along with The Mist’s might are two of my favorte endings.
    Just… Pow! I wish more movies did similar stuff. Would be nice for a change.

    • Gilles Ronconi

      True, same here, I love The Mist’s ending, what a slap in the face, wow!

  • I Am Colossus

    My fucking GOD!!! How many times yes are you going to bring up or even hint at the fact SOME people don’t regard this as horror?!!!?!?!?!?!!?! Stop it!!!!!!

  • dr.chimrichalds

    I still say that Se7en is one of the most disturbing, horrifying, fucked up mainstream movies ever released by a major studio. What’s really disturbing is that you never actually see any of the murders (except for the last one) take place, you only see the aftermath. The movie forces you to think about some really twisted shit. I still remember sitting in the theater when the end scene came. It was the only time in my life when I was literally on the edge of my seat. I was shaking, my stomach started to feel queasy and I was gripping the arm rests so hard that my knuckles were white. One of the greatest movies ever made that I cannot bring myself to watch repeatedly.

  • Darren Kerr

    I remember pinching my dad’s Blockbuster card at 15, getting my older looking bud to rent this and The Usual Suspects, and sitting down to the best double-bill I’ve ever seen.
    At that age I’d never seen anything like it…and it still ranks as one of my all-time favourite films.
    21 years old? Fuck I feel old!!!

  • Darren Kerr

    That chase midway through in the apartment building still shows films today how it’s really done.

  • Richter Belmont

    As much as I love Se7en, I still think Zodiac is Fincher’s best and more disturbing film since it was based on true crimes.

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