Released in the US on 14 February 1991, Jonathan Demme’s film adaptation of Thomas Harris’s horror novel won Academy Awards in all top five categories. Karen Campbell sees if it still stands up. And wonders why her mum let her watch it so much.
What and why: Oscar-winning creepfest telling the story of a rookie FBI agent’s hunt for a serial killer with the help of a convicted cannibal who only deals in swapsies. It’s 25 years old come Valentine’s Day. Aww. Intimate dinner to celebrate? Very intimate…
When I was in my early teens, I was pretty obsessed with this film and watched it a lot, usually on a Saturday afternoon while my mother was attempting to make a cake in the microwave.
Looking back, it raises the question of parental control: why, at 14, was I allowed to repeatedly watch a skin-flaying, extra skin-wearing psychopath ask his reflection, “Would you fuck me?” straight after Going Live!?
But times were different then; I dare say my mum would have been happy with me sharing a cuppa with Leatherface if it kept me quiet for a couple of hours.
To say I know The Silence of the Lambs well is an understatement; I knew every god-damn word. This is why I was really nervous about revisiting it.
Would watching it as an adult make me realise it’s all a bunch of twaddle with an unrealistic plot? Would I still want to emulate triple-hard Clarice? Would I still find Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) strangely attractive? And ultimately, would it still be utterly terrifying?
Rated or dated? I’m very happy and relieved to say that this film is arguably more bloody awesome than I remember it. As a teen I focused on the main Lecter/Buffalo Bill plot, but what makes this film so important and brilliant is Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling; what a woman.
Plucked by (the still strangely attractive) Crawford for a special mission to tickle body-muncher Dr Hannibal Lecter’s fancy, Clarice’s wide-eyed determination and undeterred dedication to her mission is second to none. She wipes locked-up crazy-man jizz from her cheek with gusto, she puts Crawford in his place when he’s a sexist prick and she earns so much of Lecter’s respect he rings her up on graduation day and promises not to eat her. I love the woman.
Yet as much as it’s Foster’s film, the performances from Anthony Hopkins as Lecter and Ted Levine as Bill are masterclasses in creep. Yes, these days it’s hard to watch Hopkins in his boiler suit behind the glass without thinking of Dawn French, but that icy stare and classic dialogue still make you uneasy.
His improvised kooks are genius – apparently Hopkins started doing Foster’s accent on the spur of the moment, which is why she looks so genuinely shocked, and the famed fava bean “f f f f” was all his too. Also, you’re genuinely happy that he’s “going to have an old friend for dinner” in the final scene, knowing that friend is the pervy Dr Chilton (Anthony Heald).
Buffalo Bill still makes my hair stand on end and the bit where poor Catherine Martin (Brooke Smith) helps the plaster-cast Bill (taken straight from real life killer Ted Bundy’s trick) put the sofa in the back of the van still made me scream at the TV. Levine’s Bill is so weird and resonating that whenever I see him in any other film I expect him to don his night goggles and twiddle his nipple ring.
The Silence of the Lambs is an exemplary example of what a psychological thriller should be. It showcases amazing actors in their prime, as well as being responsible for creating one of the most kick-ass female roles of our time. 100% RATED.3672 Views
Karen Campbell is a life coach at www.your-dreamcatcher.com. She likes gin, James McAvoy and pretending she's not from Scunthorpe.