Forget the increasingly pointless sequels (what were you thinking Ridley?): nearly 20 years on from its first appearance on our cinema screens, 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs’ combination of horror, drama and humour is still as potent a mix as it ever was.
If like me you associate Lambs with memories of copious amounts of blood and gruesome images then it’s perhaps time to take another look at the film which made Anthony Hopkins a star and Fava beans cool as it arrives on Blu-ray.
When FBI cadet Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is sent to interview renowned serial killer Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) to help identify new killer Buffalo Bill, the pair strike up a rapport which unnerves the young agent.
Like many of the best films, horror or otherwise, what’s going on in the mind of the protagonists can often be the most interesting element of the story. While thought processes aren’t the easiest to portray on-screen, it’s what the audience sees on the faces of Lecter and Starling that really set off the goosebumps.
Foster’s Starling may not be the naive young girl many of her peers think she is, but flashbacks to her childhood highlight her insecurities, the very ones which Lecter latches onto.
Of course Anthony Hopkins was the revelation in Silence, his calm and pallid exterior concealing the mind of great intellect. Hopkins is rarely showy here, realising that it’s the nuances of Lecter that will be remembered by the audience.
The odd father-daughter relationship that builds between Starling and Lecter almost overshadows the detective story taking place around them, director Jonathan Demme doing well to give the plot a look in once in a while as the Foster-Hopkins show takes place centre stage.
Standout sequences, such as the FBI’s approach to Bill’s house and the clever cutting between locations, will still be used in film school for years to come, while the aftermath of Lecter’s encounter with two police officers in the cage and the subsequent Christ-like imagery always impresses.
The Silence of the Lambs may have its imitators and, of course, it’s sequels, but the original remains a masterclass in how to make an intelligent scary movie for the masses.
Blu-ray transfer and extras
The gloom and murkiness which gives the film its atmosphere transfers well enough to high definition, but there’s nothing outstanding about the quality here, even if it is a step up from the old DVD.
Commentary-wise there’s a nice pop-up video style track, the contributors appearing alongside key scenes to give their own recollections, as well as:
- Inside the Labyrinth featurette
- The Silence of the Lambs: From Page to Screen featurette
- Scoring the Silence featurette
- Original 1991 ‘Making Of’ featurette
- Deleted Scenes
- Anthony Hopkins phone message
- Outtakes Reel
- TV spots
- Teaser trailer
- Breaking the Silence feature (in high definition)
Release date: 4th May 2009
Running time: 118 minutes