The Silence of the Lambs

on February 14, 1991 by BOXOFFICE Staff
   For those of us who are ashamed to admit that our ears involuntarily perk up whenever word of a particularly grisly serial killing makes the evening news, the only regrettable source of vicarious entertainment has heretofore been the cheap, exploitative slasher pic. But "Silence of the Lambs" rectifies this. A serious and seriously terrifying examination of the mind of the mass murderer, this smart and creepy thriller is about Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), an FBI trainee who is charged with picking the brain of imprisoned madman Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) in the hopes of assembling a profile on Buffalo Bill, a killer at large who's capturing plump young women and relieving them of portions of their skin. Lecter (known as Hannibal the Cannibal, for reasons you don't want us to go into) is a brilliant, thoroughly deranged psychiatrist who assaults the minds of those with whom he comes in contact, since prison bars prevent him from harming them physically. When the inexperienced and vulnerable Starling presents herself to him, Lecter practically licks his lips at the thought of driving this woman mad.

   He agrees to take her on as a student, teaching her in the ritualistic ways of the serial killer, in exchange for a transfer to a prison cell with a view. But in a horrifying sequence, Lecter uses the deal to make his escape, and Starling is left alone to track down Buffalo Bill--and to panic at the thought of Lecter tracking her down.

   This is ghoulish, deeply unpleasant stuff, handled with edgy style by an uncommonly grim Jonathan Demme. Foster is typically soft and stoic as the FBI agent in way over her head; Scott Glenn is his usual leathery self as her superior officer; and Hopkins is simply petrifying. One of the great actors of our time, it's no surprise that when this guy slips into the role of a devious, demented and unrepentant savage, it's almost too authentic to watch.

   Demme's lingering looks at rotting, skinned bodies and other equally revolting images make this movie off-limits for the squeamish (and will no doubt add additional fuel to the censorship fires). But for those who will concede a fascination with crime at its most morbid, "Silence of the Lambs" will make an indelible impression. Starring Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins and Scott Glenn. Directed by Jonathan Demme. Written by Ted Tally. Produced by Kenneth Utt, Ed Saxon and Ron Bozman. An Orion release. Thriller. Rated R for extreme gore and language. Running time:

Tags: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Jonathan Demme, Ted Tally, Kenneth Utt, Ed Saxon, Ron Bozman, Orion, Thriller, killings, murder, Clarice Starling, cannibal, Hannibal

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