Views from the Sofa’s 100 Greatest Scenes is a list of the 100 greatest moments in the movies. This could be long introductions, moments of action or great dialogue between characters. The scenes are in no particular order and come from many different types of movies.
This scenes works so well because you don’t see the “surprise” coming. David Fincher’s Seven takes you through the roller-coaster of horror through the whole of the movie and by the time you get to Sloth, you have already witnessed a man eat himself to death (Gluttony) and another having parts of himself removed (Greed). The imagery is shocking and the following crimes are just as sick but Sloth is always the one that sticks in people’s minds and for the right reasons.
Greatest Scene Number 17: Seven – “Sloth”
The scenes starts quite generically. The anticipation is that we are about to meet the killer, the links between the first two killings have led them to a possible perpetrator and a crack SWAT team, led by John C McGinley (Dr Cox from Scrubs) rush into a building.
It is only when they finally enter the room that the first clues that something aren’t right are revealed. It takes a while before you notice the classic, magic-tree air fresheners hanging from the ceiling but you won’t necessarily understand why immediately.
Then comes the first shock reveal. McGinley points his gun at a figure in a bed, covered by the bed-sheet. By now the audience have worked out that it isn’t the killer but something much worse. That doesn’t stop the disgusting, almost skeletal figure left in the bed from being a shock. The SWAT officer almost vomiting into his mouth says it all and you can almost see how bad it smells.
It is from here that the best aspects of the movie’s crime scenes begin to take shape: the details. The horror of Seven isn’t just in the bodies but in the ways they died. Before the Saw franchise would get creative with death, Seven was offering ironic punishment in what felt like a very real way. Sloth is no different and Brad Pitt’s Detective Mills and Morgan Freeman’s Detective Somerset begin to root through the box next to the body, finding that he has been led on this bed, decomposing, for exactly a year.
Then comes the best moment of the scene and the moment that made everyone watching for the first time jump out of their skin. As McGinley’s California starts to investigate the body closer, muttering that he “got what was coming” the body takes a breath and manages to make everyone in the scene, and the audience, scream!
It is another great twist and one of the best surprises in cinema. The look of the body would fool anyone into thinking the victim is dead and the way he grotesquely moves around the bed and wriggles in pain is scary in itself. It is also a great way for the killer to punish a victim for Sloth, making them lay on a bed and keeping them just alive enough to start decomposing and dying.
The rest of the victims are just as grim but this is the one that stays with the audience after the movie. It is the best scare of the whole film and in some ways the most grotesque – because the man is still alive!
Overall, before the “torture-porn” that plagued horror movies with the Saw and Hostel franchise, Seven managed to scare audiences with a grotesque, disgusting punishment fitting for the sin. Sloth works not just because of the vivid image but also the great scare in the middle, making any audience member jump out of their skin.