The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

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Food: During a trip to Atlanta, Georgia, I could not miss an opportunity to visit Fox Bro’s BBQ which is arguably the best barbecue that exists. I got a pulled pork sandwich, with coleslaw, and an order of smoked wings with ranch. The meat is cooked perfectly – it nearly melts in your mouth – and the sauce is not too spicy. Apparently there is a Fox Bro’s BBQ in New York City as well, so I will have to pop over sometime and see if it holds up to its original.

Film: A tale as old as time, beauty and the beast. The Silence of the Lambs is quite frankly one of the sharpest and most unsettling horror films ever made. Shedding a new light for its time on the uncomfortable reality of what it feels like to be a woman in a male dominated industry, this film consistently confronts the male gaze and unravels into a deeply satisfying and unforgettable psychological thriller.

Clarice Starling, a young and determined student of the FBI academy (Jodie Foster), is chosen by her boss Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) to question the notorious psychopathic psychologist Hannibal the Cannibal (Anthony Hopkins) to gather insights to help their search for another case – Buffalo Bill. Behind maximum security and heavy laden Plexiglas, they begin a series of interviews.  The viewer watches from the eyes of Clarice as Hannibal Lecter develops a fondness for her. She begins to open up about the difficulties of her childhood and allows herself to be seen with all the insecurities she carries as a young adult. Due to the sincerity he shows her, this monstrous killer becomes more likable with every interaction. As Hannibal leads Clarice closer to Buffalo Bill, he seems to be seeping closer to his own escape, and yet, do we even care?

Both Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins nail their performances meticulously. Hopkins plays Hannibal with blood-curdling precision. He does not even blink once. It is the charm and wit that he brings to this role that elevates the entire film. Meanwhile, Foster manages to make you feel the discomfort of each unnerving interaction with the men who ogle her, instead of letting her do her job. The choice to have the camera sit fixed upon her face, and to allow her to stare back, brilliantly forces the viewer to see her perspective.

One way that this film ages poorly is that it negatively reinforces stereotypes about transgender people. That being said, it is worth noting that through conversation throughout the film, it is clarified that this aforementioned person is not genuinely a trans person, but instead suffers from mental illness. Nonetheless, it will not help wider audiences to separate their fears from reality when they are shown a loathsome killer in drag.

As far as horror pieces go, Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs really has it all. Every single nightmare imaginable is included here, and amplified, which with a lesser writer could have felt exaggerated or overdone, but here, it is seamless. It is sinister and terrifying. Not to mention, it brought home Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars a whopping fourteen months after release. Anyone who has not seen this yet should make it a priority.

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