If you didn’t know, it is now October and that means it is Halloween season. My wife loves her holidays, so we have been decorating consistently since September 1st. Starting in October we will begin the ceremonial carving of pumpkins and watching of scary movies. Tonight she decided to throw on a classic that I have never dedicated the time to watching all the way through: The Silence of the Lambs. By now I know all the beats, quotes, scenes, etc. the movie has to offer … but watching a movie can be very different from knowing a movie. Somehow the only Hannibal media I have consumed (see what I did there?) is the Hannibal television show, which I only saw up to season 3 I believe. It was an interesting enough show, I just lost interest. So how was the movie that “started” the franchise (Manhunter came out 5 years prior and flopped)?
I would give it 8 “Death’s Head Moths” out of town 10.
FOR THE UNINITIATED
FBI Agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is tasked with getting famed cannibal / serial killer / therapist Dr. Hannibal Lector (Anthony Hopkins) to lend assistance to an ongoing investigation. They are hunting Buffalo Bill (Ted Lavine) who is killing and skinning women, but the stakes are raised when the newest victim that goes missing is a daughter of a Senator.
A while back I heard a great description for how one type of suspense can built up throughout a movie – you start slowly and then as you build up, have a release, continue to build, another release, rinse / lather / repeat. This way the viewer should be kept on the edge of their seat throughout most of the tension. The Silence of the Lambs does just that between all of the characters and the eventual climaxes of their stories. Clarice goes from competent FBI agent to completely reliant on a known killer. Hannibal goes from calm and collected prisoner / therapist to genius murderer in the blink of an eye. Buffalo Bill’s identity is unknown for the first portion of the movie, then his methods are unknown, and then it is a matter of when his plan will unfold.
All in all, there weren’t too many issues. Some of the details seemed glossed over by the police / guards. The warden would have known better than to bring a pen into Hannibal’s cell to play with, let alone forget he had it in there. His cell at the end of the movie had a lot of blind spots or items that could be disassembled / made into a weapon. When the two officers took a second dinner into his cell (which was unnecessary), they could have easily left on the floor or on top of his drawings. They should have left one person outside who was attentive at minimum, it isn’t like they had been used to the routine since Hannibal had been there a week or so tops. There were just several things that weren’t thought through just for Hannibal’s sake when he should have out thought them.
The Silence of the Lambs is understandably a classic. The acting is top notch, the story is riveting, and the twist is commonly used now but was likely new or fresh when it came out. It stays suspenseful and plays the reveals perfectly. There is a reason it won 5 of the most coveted Oscars and I am glad I finally saw it. If you have been putting off watching it for some reason, go ahead and watch it sooner than later.
My recommendation was almost Joe Dirt due to the Buffalo Bob sub-plot, but decided to go with a more suspenseful movie: Prisoners. I was blown away by Hugh Jackman’s and Jake Gyllenhaal’s performances, it was on a whole other level for both of them. The plot kept me guessing and the finale was phenomenal. If you somehow missed it, do yourself a favor and watch it immediately.