During my teen years, a time of banned VHS films and notoriously banned horror films I heard of the most scary film ever made; The Silence of the Lambs.
The title alone intrigued me, even at the tender age of 13 (I think), finally on the way home from a mundane fishing trip with my dad we stumbled upon said film on VHS at a post office of all places and after a bit of bargaining it was mine for £5.99.
I have to say watching it for the first time, I saw a film that really left so many images ingrained in my mind for a long time after Dr. Lecter descended into the crowd in the final reels.
As a horror film it is utterly terrifying; a killer who skins woman to create a new ‘skin’ for himself. This of course was heightened by the turn of Ted Levine (very underrated) as Jame Gumb/Buffalo Bill, who plays him perfectly as this completely damaged human being who only sees redemption in transformation.
As a crime thriller it is gripping as Clarice Starling pieces the case together under guidance, if you will of Dr. Lecter.
From the first scene between the two characters, there is an unspoken tension which slices through the scenes making them utterly gripping. Lecter is calm and collective whereas Clarice grows as the film carries on, leading to final triumph in killing Buffalo Bill ahead of the entire FBI.
One of the main reasons that sets ‘Lambs’ apart is the fact we have two stories going on throughout, which intertwine with Lecter and Gumb, who although they have met briefly in the past never share any screen time during this film.
Lecter plays puppet master, with Gumb playing the main antagonist who although not featuring in many scenes, dominate the scenes he is in as we are brought deeper and deeper into his dark world, which culminates in his unveiling of him as a ‘butterfly’.
Jonathan Demme sadly never topped ‘Lambs’ and passed on the rather bizarre ‘Hannibal’ 10 years on, so this is as much his legacy as it is Hopkins and Fosters’.
Having now watched the film 22 years on, it has lost none of its charm, nerve-shredding terror and the images are still as strong as they were on that summer evening in 1997 as a naive teenager who wanted to learn about terror. Let’s just say I learnt my lesson.