October 7th -- Moral Concepts

American Psycho (2000)
Directed by Mary Harron

How amazing is it that the crown jewel in Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, Christian Bale, got his catalytic spark in American Psycho, a grand horror critique that displays the actor in a role that completely epitomizes every single negative aspect of the world that the Caped Crusader defends. Though it spaces its bloodshed out very wide across its length, Mary Herron’s adaptation of an equally critical novel crafts a thought-provoking and dynamically atmosphere amid its satirical tone -- one that makes its critiques even more frightening than its direct scares.

Reservations at Dorsea, battles over business cards, and the superficial routine of Patrick Bateman’s shell of a man all help to construct American Psycho into a farce that truly fuels the intellect. Plus, actually seeing a ray of genuineness coming from Bateman -- a simple offering of a caloric dessert to one honest girl from a man that advocates psychotic aesthetical perfection -- illuminates the humanity still present in an entity so out of whack with the world. That pure girl, Bateman's secretary at his office, happens to be one of Chloe Sevigny's early roles before she tool outstanding roles in Dogville, Shattered Glass, and Zodiac.

I think it’s great that a lot of guys aspire to have the body and essence of Patrick Bateman; essentially, they’re prescribing to the narcissism that the film slams so hard. American Psycho, an overwhelming neophyte rollercoaster surprisingly adapted by female director Harron, is a stronger social analysis than it is blatant horror film. Consider the fact that Bale serves up an infinitely intriguing anti-heroic monster as the lackadaisical Wall Street monger crazed by a thirst for blood, and think about economic turmoil in modern society. The parallels are staggering, boundless even. How a horror film introduces the ideal of destruction as a way of satisfying a socialite’s ability to want for not, let alone the overall level of dishonesty and crassness within the elite’s network, is a work of intricate genius.

Se7en (1995)
Directed by David Fincher

Poetic in its brutality and thematic torture, David Fincher’s Se7en is a masterwork in grotesquery. Imagine a film playing Bach’s Suite #3 in D-Major as it accompanies scrolling shots of disgusting murder photographs and lyrical text from Milton’s moral writings in "Paradise Lost". That’s Fincher’s film for you, which still towers over the likes of Fight Club and Zodiac as his most prominent work. Se7en follows Detectives Somerset and Mills as they flow through the gauntlet of worldly sins implemented on certain souls “deserving” of such retribution. It’s a pathway of finding rays of light amid bleakness, only to soak into a deep black hole as it reaches its wholly upsetting conclusion.

Featuring outstanding performances from both Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, they handle the gritty material with unbelievable poise. At the time, Brad Pitt was starting his ascent, fresh off of haughty roles in Legends of the Fall and Interview with the Vampire. At this point, however, he showed off his abilities to soak into a unique part and display aptness in core dramatic range. It leads to his Academy-award nominated performance in Twelve Monkeys, another bizarre film from ’95. There’s a certain greenness about Det. Mills persona that boost the potency of his theatrics from the start; it legitimizes his crusader mentality, makes him a hard-edged yet likable character, and also justifies the love he has for his wife -- which, if you’ve seen the film, comes into very harsh scrutiny late in the film.

Yet it’s the essence of the haunted Detective Somerset, a role orchestrated with unparalleled gusto by Freeman, which really tosses lighter fluid on Fincher’s inferno of societal and moral criticism. Listening to him refer to medieval practices and thoughts during Se7en slyly adds a historical dash of intrigue to a psycho killer’s attempts at godly judgment. Once he mutters the seven deadly sins in Dante’s work -- introducing that ever-so-frightening ideal of “forced attrition” as a torture – the film really starts to resonate with pitch-black bleakness. All the puzzle pieces are infinitely compelling, rendering an equally intriguing mystery underneath the analytical context. But the true shot to the stomach, the one that leaves me haunted for days no matter how many times I’ve seen the film, comes in the killer’s unfiltered words – words that craft a demeanor about his plight that almost render justification around his morbid psychoses. Yeah, that’s Se7en for you; enduring gruesome scenes of forced death traps that correlate with our deadly sins, then discovering a sense of purpose that’ll make you think twice about any of those seven sins you might’ve committed in your lifetime. To say the least, Se7en is incredible.


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