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TRCH - Caitlin Moran

30 Years Later: The Silence of the Lambs

31 May 21 words: Katie Green

The psychological horror classic The Silence of the Lambs celebrates its 30th year of terrifying audiences of all generations with the story of cannibal Hannibal Lecter...

Director: Jonathan Demme
Starring: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn
Running time: 118 minutes

We are first introduced to Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), a FBI trainee who is assigned to interview Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a former psychiatrist turned incarcerated cannibalistic serial killer. Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn), Starling’s trainer, believes Hannibal could give them some insight into the mind of the psychopath serial killer “Buffalo Bill”, who kills young women and then removes their skin from their bodies.

It is no wonder that The Silence of the Lambs is considered a psychological horror classic. The cast depict the plot so well, but two that stand out are of course the main characters who we see most on screen, Hopkins as Lecter and Foster as Clarice.

Let’s start with Jodie Foster. She is simply superb in playing the FBI trainee. The innocence her character provides to the plot in a way gives audiences a representation in the situation, as if we were in the film. We are wondering what it is like in the mind of a serial killer, and in this case a cannibal. We are innocent and simply curious about the killer's mind. Clarice is us. 

Then we have the cannibal himself Hannibal Lecter, portrayed by Anthony Hopkins. His performance as the serial killer has been described as an “uproarious technical masterpiece.” All of the characteristics you think a cannibalistic serial killer would have, Hopkins displays exquisitely in Hannibal. The scene where he makes a continuous creepy sound with his lips is not only an unwanted surprise to audiences, but at the time of filming was also a surprise to Jodie Foster as she was not expecting it. So, the scared reaction she has to this is her real reaction, therefore why director Jonathan Demme decided to keep this part in. It is the excellent acting like this that Hopkins displays such a terrific, yet terrifying part.

The dark humour sums up the film altogether, as we get an insight into the mind of a cannibalistic serial killer

And what horror would this be without the famous lines and sadistic humour? One that sticks out is of course the concluding line said by Hannibal: “I’m having an old friend for dinner”. The dark humour sums up the film altogether I think, as we finally get the insight we wanted into the mind of a cannibalistic serial killer. It is a characteristic that will never change. 

There is little in this horror classic I can criticise. However, one scene in particular is when Miggs – a fellow inmate to Hannibal – makes a sexual remark at Clarice and throws his semen at her. This scene I cringe at too much, but I guess it is yet another example of the sadistic humour that sums up this film.

The Silence of the Lambs will continue to go down in history as one of the most popular psychological horrors, spanning generations. It will forever be known for the outstanding cast, the outstanding plot and of course its pitch-black humour. 

Did you know? The film’s BBFC classification was changed from 18 to 15 when it was re-released in the UK in 2017, in part due to the increase in popularity of serial killer dramas over time. “It’s not necessarily that people have become desensitised,” the BBFC’s Craig Lapper told the Guardian. “They’ve just become more used to that idea of a serial killer as a dramatic trope.”

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