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The Silence of the Lambs (1991)



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Silence of the Lambs was the first horror film ever to win the Academy's Best Picture Oscar. It is also only the third film ever to win all four of the major awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress). Although a few horror films of the past were also deserving, Silence of the Lambs is certainly the best take on the modern serial killer film. Its grand success, in fact, paved the way for dozens of tasteless retreads, but that can hardly be held against it.

The film's most intriguing element, ironically, has nothing to do with the perpetrator of a recent rash of serial killings. It's the relationship between Jodie Foster's character, a rookie FBI agent on the trail of the killer, and Anthony Hopkins', a psychiatrist-turned-psychopath currently serving time in a top security prison for murder. Initially, Foster consults with Hopkins to gain insight into the mind of her quarry, but the relationship develops into a twisted, startling form of...well...professional respect and courtesy. Hopkins is the stand-out in the film, creating the unforgettable, truly terrifying character of Hannibal Lecter. Calm, composed, edgy, shocking, confident, abruptly violent, Lecter is a complete recipe for recurring nightmares. Hopkins' performance nearly overshadows Foster's excellent turn. She's the protagonist here, and although the role of an FBI agent is not often one the audience identifies with, she manages to grab the audience's sympathy early on. Her reactions to the horrors around her are unnervingly like our own.

A precautionary warning. This film is extremely unsettling in its frank depiction of evil and depravity. Although this is (appropriately and thankfully) not what drives the film's impact, it is disturbing, and the faint of heart should stay away.

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