We all know why we’re here, and that’s to save horror. Keith and I firmly believe horror is a dying genre and that the films just get worse and worse. Our job here is to find and archive the best (and worst) horror, encouraging you to watch and comment and hold horror to a higher standard. Some may ask, what is the standard horror should be held to? And sometimes it’s hard to say, but many times, it’s just a feeling. The feeling of being scared and having fun and being engaged and looking over your shoulder for a whole week afterward. It’s an intangible feeling, but there are some damn good examples. This is one of them.
The Silence of the Lambs, released in 1991, is the only horror film to ever win the Oscar for Best Picture. In fact, it won five Oscars. It is only one of three horror films to even be nominated for an Oscar (The Exorcist and Jaws are the other two). Horror is not a genre known for producing award-winning results and this film is the exception. Starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins in arguably the best roles of their lives, The Silence of the Lambs is about an FBI hunt for the serial killer Buffalo Bill. Clarice Starling (Foster) is a young agent assigned to interview the imprisoned serial killer/former psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter, in the hopes that he will assist in capturing Buffalo Bill. Let me first say this - one of the villains in this film is a serial killer and one is both a serial killer/cannibal. When selecting the creature category for this film, Keith and I opted for cannibal because Hannibal is seen as the true villain of this film and he has the unique distinction of also being a cannibal. This sets him apart from other serial killers, and it’s not a quality many possess, so we thought the film should be in that category.
This film is fantastic from start to finish. The pace is perfect, building suspense slowly throughout the film. The writing is flawless and feels as though someone agonized over each and every word. And the acting. The acting in this film puts so many horror films to shame. For starters, Jodie Foster does an incredible job with Clarice. She perfectly portrays her as a young, small-town FBI agent trying to make a name for herself in a male-dominated profession. She doesn’t have the experience, but she’s got balls. That’s the best way to say it. The audience loves her and is fighting for her the entire way. And now, for the grand finale, Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter. He. Is. Amazing. Hopkins portrays Lecter as a charming, mesmerizing psychopath. And the scariest thing about him is that he’s incredibly smart. What’s more scary than a smart serial killer? He doesn’t terrify you with weapons or grand gestures, he terrifies you with his accent and his demeanor and even the way he walks and stands. Everything about him is unsettling.
Obviously even the Academy thought this film was worth noting, but how does it fare in horror? The Silence of the Lambs consistently finds its way into the top ten of horror lists each year, and I totally agree. There is blood and gore and murders and creepy moths; and the best part is, it’s all used in an intentional and purposeful manner. This isn’t a slasher or a campy horror film. Most of this film is a sleuth as the audience plays along and tries to crack the case of Buffalo Bill with Clarice. The sleuth engages the viewer and lures them into the story, making the scares that much more powerful. Plus, this film boasts not one, but two, villains. Just as the viewer escapes one villain, there’s another lurking in the next scene.
I could go on and on for pages and pages about this film, but I won’t. And no review can truly do this movie justice. Just know this, Hannibal Lecter is a force to be reckoned with in horror. From his one-liners to his perfect posture to the fact that he has no problem chewing on a living man’s face, this guy means business. He is certainly an icon of horror and will be for many years to come. Careful horror island creatures: irritate Lecter and he may just serve you up with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
If you liked The Silence of the Lambs, you might also like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Cannibal Holocaust.