Seven-Movie

Seven is one of my most favorite physiological thrillers ever. I remember when I first watched it, for lack of a better term, how freaked out I was. I sat there thinking about how anybody could do something like this to another person. Did John Doe believe he was better than the people he tortured and killed?

First of all, I love the differences between Somerset and Mills. Mills comes off as this hard-hitting detective, and he doesn’t take no for an answer. He is brash and tends to bend the rules, but his heart is in the right place. He wants to make a difference, and he thinks he can. A prime example of this occurring was after John Doe shot at them and almost kills Mills. They return to John Doe’s apartment and Mills breaks down the door. Now they did not have probable cause even to be there. So Mills pays a homeless woman to lie so they can use the evidence they find in John Doe’s apartment. The part at the end of that scene was him telling her to take care of herself and make sure she got something to eat. Mills still has a dream that what he does matters and he can take on the forces of evil.

Then there’s Somerset. He is at the end of his career. But, he can see what will happen to Mills if he stays in the inner city and takes on this case. Somerset is a thinker. He gets inside the head of the killer, but he has no delusion that what he does doesn’t make as big of a difference as what Mills wants. Without the help of Somerset Mills would not have solved the case. I think if Somerset had washed his hands of the whole thing, Mills would have been killed by John Doe.

Now, let’s look at John Doe. John Doe is an interesting character. He believes what he is doing is right and that it will make a difference. John Doe almost comes off having a messiah complex. This is evident by the sparse living quarters and all the red crosses around his apartment. He even goes so far as to admit that he has sinned when he envies what Mills has. There is some part of John Doe that wants to know what it is like to be normal and not the person delivering a message to the world. But, John Doe can’t. He does not think like everyone else or even acts like what we would consider an average person. John Doe can emulate an ordinary person, but he can never be an average everyday person. There is a disconnect somewhere in his mind that makes it impossible.

These three characters are so diverse that when they come together the dynamic is enormous. It’s like playing a game of chess. Somerset is ever the calm and collective person in this movie. He is what keeps Mills in check until the very end. In some ways, Somerset is just as calculating as John Doe. Somerset is the one who sees the connection with the seven deadly sins. He is the one who finds the information that helps Mills to understand John Doe. If this had just been Somerset versus John Doe, it would have been a very different movie. The question would be who would win and who would be dead at the end.

I think the way these characters interacted drove the plot of this movie forward. There was a conflict between the detectives and then them against the killer. This cat and mouse game had a gruesome ending. John Doe played this game like a finely tuned fiddle. He was always one step ahead of the detectives. I don’t think that the movie would have worked if Mills had not killed John Doe at the end. There would have been a bit of a let down if there was not that one thing to push Mills over the edge. When Mills finds out that his wife has been murdered along with their unborn child, it is checkmate. Mills cannot process he cannot believe that the world he is trying to make better could have this happen.

This movie is one for the books. It has compelling characters that are believable, and I think that is what makes this movie so scary. There are people out there that are just like Mills and Somerset trying to fight the good fight. Then there are people just like John Doe out there working to deliver what they believe is a message through the cruelest way possible.

Taxi Drive-Movie

This week we watched the movie Taxi Driver. I found this movie to be engaging in the way it followed Travis Bickle’s descent into becoming a psychopath.

He starts as an everyday sort of guy. He’s a bit of a wise ass, but that is just a coping mechanism for him. Deep down he is trouble by whatever he did in the military. This leads him to work strange hours and even take a job driving a taxi during the night shift. I think that in reality, his descent started long before he ever sees Betsy.

So, what is next for a guy like Travis? He happens to be sitting outside just people watching and here comes Betsy. Travis is instantly attracted to her, but instead of going through the usual ritual of talking to a girl he stalks her. How creepy is it that he sits outside his cab drinking a coke just watching her. I am sorry, but if a guy did that and it bothered me, I sure wouldn’t turn around and go out with him. Yet, that is what Betsy does.

In a way, I felt bad for Travis. The guy is clueless about how to interact with people. He almost badgers her into going out for coffee and then somehow, he can convince her to go on a date. The date, of course, is a disaster because he takes her to a porn film. I don’t know if I find that believable.

After she rejects him, Travis is on a downward spiral into his living hell. I can see where someone would be down after that. He meets Iris who ran away from home and is being pimped out. Now, he seems to attach himself to her. Trying to save her. While I think this is noble, it made me wonder if Iris just wasn’t a surrogate for Betsy? Not in a sexual way more that she was something that should have been left pure and innocent like he saw Betsy, an angel.

I felt like the movie after his involvement with Iris is a bit far-fetched. It was like being on an acid trip that he after the scum that he thought should be removed from the city. But in doing so, he became like them. He killed people and was hailed a hero. In reality, I just don’t see how this is possible. There is something wrong with this man, and yet they don’t see it.

The movie was just a jumble to me, but I think that worked in a way. It allowed us to be so far inside Travis’s head that we were able to experience the world as he saw it. There was very little good and what little good he found he tried to protect it. While I find that noble the way he did it was wrong.

Taxi Driver was interesting, and the characters were brilliantly written. Even though they were from different walks of life, they were all connected. The descent into his madness could have been handled better. Overall, it wasn’t a bad movie. Just not my cup of tea.

Helter Skelter aka The Family

I will say that I am an avid reader and I will read almost anything I can get my hands on. This week we read Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry. What a freaky and trippy ride this book was. I don’t mean trippy in the sense of using narcotics. It is more of the mind-blowing aspect of how people who crave a sense of belonging can be persuaded to do such horrible things.
I have come across a few books that may send chills down my spine when reading what the characters have done but this sensation passes and rarely occurs again for me. With this book that was not the case. The fact that these are actual people who committed such horrible acts against another living human being blew my mind. I will note here that I listened to the audio version of this book and I still wonder how the narrator was able to sit and read this book aloud. Did he have to pause as many times as the people who sat on the grand jury when they heard the testimony of those involved?
As I sit here and write this blog piece, I am still in a sort of shock as to what happened and how the people involved acted and responded to everything they did. I had to take breaks because of some of the things they did hit too close to home for me. The biggest one was what they did to Sharon Tate and how the killers had wanted to cut out her baby. That one bit there appalled me the most. Now, most of the time horror is meant to scare us, thrill us, or force us to face our fears along with many other things. This book, however, did none of these things. It retold the facts of actual murders that happened to real people.
We are given an in-depth background on Charles Manson. His life was spent in and out of institutions. Yet he was able to learn how to manipulate people even the doctors who attended to him. Was this a natural ability or more of a learned one? Who knows but once Manson figured this out he started to gather followers. The way these girls and a few guys followed him blindly is scary. There are charismatic people in this world, but from the recounts of his followers, he was above all that. Their desire to belong made him more than what he was.
So, with all that being said the style of this book was interesting. It was a very factual base novel. There was no embellishment to the story it was a retelling of the facts. Even more interesting was the fact that the prosecuting attorney was our storyteller. There was a detachment to his words, but with this case and his line of work, it is to be expected. He had a distinct and concise way of telling how the investigations were conducted and what evidence was found. Even when he finally introduces himself, it is all facts. There was no emotion from him or even talk about how he loved or hated his career. Just what he discovered and the extra work he had put into the case. Usually, a book like this would be, but it wasn’t. I think the smooth tone of the author coupled with that of the narrator helped to ease a lot of the shock that people were going to receive whether they read the book or listened to the audio.
Overall, this book was chilling. I don’t think this will ever be a book I sit and read again. I am glad that I have it on audio and my kids don’t have access to a paper copy just yet. I still shudder thinking about everything that was revealed.

Misery by Stephen King

This week we read Misery by Stephen King. I usually am not a huge fan of his stories because they seem to take too long building everything to get to the action. With that being said Misery starts differently. King quickly introduced to the characters and the tension starts at the beginning of the story. Which is something I like in a novel.

We meet Paul Sheldon and Annie Wilkes. At first, it seems that Paul has been saved, but the descriptions used are crucial to queuing the reader that this may not be the case. Now, I am not usually a fan of long descriptions especially ones that are the length of a paragraph and only one sentence. I love having descriptions blended into the story. But with that, I think these long description actually work.

Our first introduction to Annie is a prime example. Paul talks about how there is a mouth over his, and it is a woman’s mouth but here is where it gets a little eerie, “…a woman’s mouth in spite of its hard spitless lips, and the wind from this woman’s mouth blew into his own mouth and down his throat…” (King 5). So we get this image of something not pleasant. Most people associate a woman’s lips being soft and gentle. Here we get the opposite. They are dry and hard, and the air is being forced inside of Paul almost telling us it’s against his will. The description goes on to add to this uncomfortable feeling with his description of her breath “… when the lips were pulled back he smelled his warder for the first time, smelled her on the outrush of fresh breath she had forced into him the way a man might force part of himself into an unwilling woman, a dreadful mixed stench of vanilla cookies and chocolate ice cream and chicken gravy, and peanut butter fudge,” (5).

First people normally associate things like vanilla cookies and chocolate ice cream with things that are sweet and nice, but King took these familiar ideas and made them something that could churn a person’s stomach with the addition of chicken gravy when I read that my stomach did flips. My first thought was how gross to eat all those things so close together that they still lingered in a person’s mouth. My second thought was how disgusting that would be to taste that from someone else’s mouth. I don’t think I would be able to keep down what little was left in my stomach if that was the case. So King did a great job twisting these comforting things into something else.

I have to admit that this next part was a great way to describe Paul’s disgust as Annie forces, even more, of the air from her inside him. King explains the next breath of air as Annie’s limps clamping down and it, “blew down it like the dank suck of wind which follows a fast subway train, pulling sheets of newspaper and candy-wrappers after it…and he thought For Christ’s sakes don’t let any of it out through your nose, but he couldn’t help it and oh that stink, that stink that fucking STINK,” (5). What a way to describe someone trying to save another’s life. Most images of subways are dark, damp, and dirty. The Paul is like don’t let it out, but he can’t help it. If he doesn’t take a breath, she will keep forcing her stink down inside him and infecting him.

Overall, the descriptions in Misery are what I think drove this story forward. They immediate leave a bad taste in the reader’s mouth towards Annie. She because something that we want to run away from but yet we can’t because just like Paul we are made immobile by the pull of the words until the story is done.