Welcome back to Late to the Party, a weekly installment in which some of our writers take a chance on watching an iconic movie that, for whatever reason, they’ve never seen before. I have the distinct honor of kicking things off again after a lengthy hiatus for this feature with everyone’s favorite sociopath cannibal drama, The Silence of the Lambs. Yes, unfortunately, it’s true. Up until now, I had never seen Anthony Hopkin’s iconic portrayal of Hannibal Lecter. Why is that, you ask?
I couldn’t really tell you. Something about the film just didn’t appeal to me…ever. Not even all the tremendous praise that it’s been given through the years. Not even all the Hannibal Lecter GIFs being thrown about Facebook or the recent television series. It simply just did not interest me in any way, shape, or form. Still, I’d been given a copy on VHS some time ago, and there it sat, bored in the collection, begging to be played. I didn’t listen to its calls. I didn’t care. This all changed one day when suddenly I said to myself, “Fuck it, it’s just inexcusable at this point to not even try it at least once.” So I took it out of its sleeve, glanced at the cute little skull-moth on the cover, and pressed play on the VCR.
Two hours and eighteen minutes later, I declared myself “World’s Biggest Idiot” and went to bed without dessert for the severe and total stupidity of waiting twenty-five years to watch this disturbing, dreary masterpiece. So, there, guys. You got me. I was dumb. Whatever.
I was immediately drawn in from the first time that Hopkins was seen in the film. His delivery was so deranged yet thoughtful, so sadistically restrained while intelligently menacing that I felt severely uneasy whenever he’d speak. His line about eating a man’s liver with “fava beans and a nice chianti” sends shivers up my spine just thinking about it. Yeah, I know I’m not saying anything you don’t already know, but still…hearing someone quote it is one thing, watching Anthony Hopkins deliver it for the first time is a completely different story.
I suppose the biggest surprise in this film was the overall story. I had just known that, yes, it involves Hannibal Lecter and Hannibal Lecter eats people and Hannibal Lecter is scary. However, the depth and the humanity (or the ugly side of humanity, specifically) given to this film was unreal. The amount of actual horror that I felt from this film was monstrous, and yet, I’ve heard people say time and time again that this movie is “not horror. It’s a thriller!”
You know what? That’s not true. This movie is absolutely, undeniably, %110 a horror movie. Moreover, a “thriller” is simply a horror movie with a less “derogatory” genre title. A horror movie is one that aims to scare you. To give you some sort of internal discomfort, or fright. A horror movie reaches beyond the limits of what is supposed to be acceptable to today’s society and stretches into the reaches of man’s dark places, where he keeps his deadly secrets and horrible desires. All of those things can be found in The Silence of the Lambs. Buffalo Bill’s sick infatuation with the female body. Cannibalism. Murder. Mind games. The gang’s truly all here.
The horrible ways in which we see Hannibal contort the human body in The Silence of the Lambs, especially during his great escape, were just terrible on the eyes, and for a horror fan…well, you know that’s a good thing. The dead guard strung up above Lecter’s cell was a nightmarish, beautiful piece of human-flesh-art, capable of being created only in one’s sickest dreams. The entire way in which Hannibal Lecter went about his escape showed his mastery of the human mind and the fact that he actually got away with all of it truly blew me away. It was a plot twist that I could have never imagined but found myself unnervingly relieved at his “happy” ending. Why did I feel good about him getting away with it? Why did I want him to successfully be free?
I think that I’d be committing an unforgivable sin if I were to go any further with this post and not mention Jodie Foster’s performance as Clarice Starling, the main protagonist. Sure, Buffalo Bill was played wonderfully by Ted Levine, and everyone knows how amazing Hopkins is, but Ms. Foster’s performance is really what sealed the deal for the entire movie. She is focused, committed to her task, and above all, well-written and completely believable in her part. She’s a woman incapable of being the victim. She doesn’t need to be brash and in-your-face to be a powerful force to be reckoned with. Where many movies attempt to convey a woman’s strength with overacting and cocky, forced lines, Foster strays from the pack. Instead, she carries herself as a reserved, thoughtful person, capable of doing damage to her enemies through wit and reason as opposed to brute force. And, yeah, she’s totally capable of using brute force and being a badass…but you get what I’m saying.
The moral of the story is this: I will no longer avoid movies that are so universally beloved such as The Silence of the Lambs because of an irrational lack of interest. If everyone is still raving over a movie that was made over twenty years ago, there’s got to be a good reason for it. And here, I’ve found not just one good reason, but many.
How old were you when you first saw The Silence of the Lambs? How long did it take you after its release? Let me know in the comments.
Stay tuned for next Wednesday as iHorror author James Jay Edwards hits you with a Late to the Party review of PHANTASM!