What a horrifying, yet perfect day to release the brilliant serial killer thriller, The Silence of the Lambs. That happened 25 years ago. Yes, Doctor Hannibal Lecter was unleashed into movie history on Valentine’s Day. How appropriate… if, like me, you consider the movie a love story of sorts.

I’ve seen it that way from the moment I sat down and braced myself to try to get through something so scary. This was years after the movie had been in theaters and on video. At the time it just wasn’t my kind of thing. Though I’d been devouring movies for most of my life, it took the imaginary accompanying fava beans and chiante enjoyed by Doctor Lecter over a misfortunate census taker to push me over the edge of movie going mediocrity and set off down the road toward film connoisseur.

Simply put, The Silence of the Lambs is a masterpiece. As I watched, I was horrified, as expected. I was also intrigued, spellbound, and so impressed by the story and the way it was told on the screen that I had to know the source material. That led me to discovering the work of Thomas Harris, author of the novel The Silence of the Lambs. Since then I’ve read all of his Hannibal Lecter novels, and from the beginning declared him a genius. He paints pictures with words in a rare and beautiful way. In Hannibal, his Florence imagery made me long to go there. For every scene of ugliness and brutality, there are moments of gorgeous phrasing and evocative description. His prose is spare, yet elaborate, and somehow the adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs takes all this on and elaborates on it.

I fell in love with Anthony Hopkins’ work when I saw The Edge, and started watching everything he’s done. I say started because the man is incredibly prolific. I’ve seen scores of his movies, but they never run out! If not for wanting to see all of his movies, I doubt if I would ever have watched The Silence of the Lambs. Now, just because of that one movie, I discovered one of my favorite authors and genres. In fact, I’m working on a serial killer thriller screenplay, and if you’d told me I’d ever do that before I watched The Silence of the Lambs, I would have looked at you in bugeyed horror, like Doctor Chilton when he realized he was being one upped by a female FBI agent in the making. It was simply unthinkable.

So now on the 25th anniversary of the release of a movie that was not only a chilling study in crime and criminal hunters, but also a subtley romantic story of the crush from hell told in nuanced glances, fleeting vocal adoration, and one alarmingly lingering touch, I celebrate a movie that opened my eyes to a new world of possibility and led me to a future that is now my present screenwriting endeavor. If not for that movie, I might never have discovered that labeling something horror did not mean that’s all it was, that it would be exclusively horrifying, that I wouldn’t…couldn’t enjoy it. Just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge a movie by its genre.

The Silence of the Lambs remains a testament to the talent that went into its existence. It also continues to make me be creeped out by the obvious elements, but also such simple things as sewing patterns, lotion, and moths. It puts the images in its mind….

Entertainment Weekly article about the 25th anniversary of The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs Trailer

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