Apr 4, 2010

Horror that happens in broad daylight

I caught Se7en on IFC again the other night and found myself freshly astonished by the audacity of that ending, which takes place in broad daylight, unlike the rest of the movie, which labors beneath slate-grey rainy skies. It reminded me of how much I like it when filmmakers flip gothic conventions on their head like this. Call it horror blanc. I loved The Shining for this reason — one of the few horror movies to take place mostly during the day; also the murders in The Trouble With Harry which happen on a crisp fall day (yet another reason to dislike Psycho); Hannibal Lecter's cell in Manhunter: a perfect clinical white, much better than the dripping cell in Demme's film; or the lakeside killings in Fincher's later Zodiac, which takes place on a perfect day for a picnic. I love the assurance it suggests, the counter-intuitive chill, also the theme running through all of these films: the monster is not lurking in some dark corner. It's in plain view. You're gonna wish for the dark.


  1. Quoth Dean Ebert, on "Seven":

    Good as it is, it misses greatness by not quite finding the right way to end. All of the pieces are in place, all of the characters are in position, and then - I think the way the story ends is too easy. Satisfying, perhaps. But not worthy of what has gone before.


    An interesting perspective. I think that the setup of the ending is about perfect, and love how Doe manipulates Mills into killing him. But Ebert may have a point... what if, after shooting Doe, a totally crazed Mills had then turned the gun on himself? I know these noir movies exist in a kind of alternate universe, in which life is never fair, but the movie makes a big point of more or less existing within the US legal system, and if something like this happened in real life there isn't a governor in the country who wouldn't give Mills a full pardon for his crime. His personal tragedy would of course still be devastating, but he'd be famous, easily able to afford the best counseling possible, and (when he's ready) find a new girlfriend also.

    Seven's ending is certainly satisfying, as Ebert says, but after watching the brain-blastingly raw climax of The Mist, which also saves its worst shock for daylight, I might just agree that Fincher's movie could have used a little bit more kick at its finish.

    Your thoughts? :)