The Classics: The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)


Score: 5/5 (Classic)

I can watch “The Silence of the Lambs” everyday for the rest of my life and still be scared out of my pants.

The movie is so frightening because, Dr. Hannibal Lecter is perfectly portrayed by Anthony Hopkins. He’s an intellectual monster with a dash of arrogance in his tone, like he knows he is of superior intelligence. He’s a killer with a psychological “disorder” that they don’t have a name for yet. I would just go with what the Memphis cop said and say that he’s a vampire.

Clarice Starling (Jody Foster) is an FBI trainee that has been put on a special assignment by Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) to pick at Lecter’s brain. In reality, she is trying to get a psychological profile on the serial killer Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine). Crawford warns Clarice to not let Lecter into her head. The only thing with that warning is that she doesn’t need to let him into her head; he just gets in.

Meanwhile, a southern Senator’s daughter is the next victim of Buffalo Bill. As a means to track Bill down, Clarice makes a false offer to have Lecter transferred out of Baltimore and into a different place with a week-long vacation at Plum Island. Then Dr. Chilton (Anthon Heard) gets in the way for his own personal gain. He has Lecter transferred to Memphis, where he gives information to the senator on how to catch Buffalo Bill. Clarice visits Lecter in Memphis where she explains to him that she was an orphan and that a traumatic childhood event still haunts her to this day. After the exchange of information, Lecter escapes through a chase that takes place, with no one being pursued and never leaving the building.

With Lecter’s information, Clarice is able to catch Buffalo Bill. But, was it really because of Lecter’s information or was it because Lecter got into Clarice’s head? She was warned to not let him in there, but somehow, now she is able to think like Lecter. She’s the closest thing to a friend that Lecter has, and this advantage is what ultimately leads to her being successful. Dr. Chilton and Crawford were unsuccessful because they were too busy with themselves to really let Lecter get into their heads and implant information. It’s as if Clarice is the only real crime fighter in this entire film.

There’s a contrast between the two killers in this film. Note how brutal Lecter is when he escapes, too much of that and this would be no more than a slasher flick. Director Jonathan Demme was smart enough to show only a little of this. Earlier, it is implied that Lecter is brutal through a discussion between Clarice and Dr. Chilton. Lecter complained of chest pains and so he was taken out for a checkup. While out, Lecter begins to devour the face of the nurse. Chilton mentions that Lecter’s heart rate didn’t past eighty-four, “not even when he ate her tongue.” In that sentence alone, you know that Lecter is capable of true evil. Buffalo Bill, however, kills because he wants to not be himself. He wants to be anything but himself. He’s sloppy, unlike Lecter whose sloppiness is only a façade so that the police can underestimate him. Buffalo Bill is so unintentionally sloppy that Lecter looks down on him. It’s as if Lecter is almost offended by how little care Bill puts into his killings. Lecter’s the highwayman and Bill’s the footpad. How dare he?

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