Couple Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard are relaxing one day at Lake Berryessa in Napa County. The young couple lay on a picnic blanket and seem perfectly content, and, yes, perfectly alone. But Cecelia starts to notice something — there’s someone coming towards them. And he has a gun. And that’s not all: he’s dressed from head to toe in a strange black outfit, making him look like an executioner or a comic book villain.
At gunpoint, he forces the couple to tie each other up — and then proceeds to brutally stab them, turning most of his fury towards Cecelia. Other filmmakers might’ve flinched away from the brutality of the scene, or shot it in such a way that some of the violence is obscured. Fincher, on the other hand, never lets the camera look away. He forces us to watch the stabbing, and while he does eventually cut away, he lingers long enough to make the entire experience terrifying. Adding to the horror is the fact that this is all happening in broad, sunny daylight. We tend to think we’re safe in the bright sunshine, and here, Fincher is shattering that belief and showing us that horrible things can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. It’s a highly disturbing scene that I’ll admit I have a hard time watching just because it makes me so damn uncomfortable. And, yes, scared.