Is it really a horror movie? Not exactly; categorizing it as a thriller is more accurate. But Silence of the Lambs does blend elements of horror with elements of a crime film, and introduced one of the creepiest protagonists to ever grace the silver screen. If it didn’t creep you out… you probably watched it in the middle of a sunny day with a ton of friends or something.
Jodie Foster’s FBI agent is on the hunt for a crazed killer—Buffalo Bill being his going name. And a sick, demented psycho he is: he abducts women, throws them in a pit, starves and tortures them, then shoots and skins them. What’s worse is Foster’s character has to reach out to an even creepier, more demented psycho, the cannibal Hannibal Lecter.
It isn’t just Lecter’s predilections for long pork that make the character creepy: it’s Anthony Hopkin’s fine acting. This is a very smart, well educated man, who just so happens to be a raving lunatic. He hides it well. And he’d better, because the film tricks you into believing he’s the least dangerous person in it, safely locked behind bars, cooperating with the authorities.
Why is it scary?
Again, more suspenseful/tense than scary, being a thriller, but the overlap with horror is notable. Silence is a battle of creepy, deranged personalities: Ted Levine’s Buffalo Bill and Hopkins’ Hannibal the Cannibal. The tension that builds whenever one of them is impressive. Hopkins controls his conversations (and situations), and underneath that polished veneer is a cunning, bloodthirsty mind analyzing his options. Levine’s Bill is the other kind of disturbing: he thinks he’s a woman, but the only way he can think to become one is to tailor his own woman suit.
Again, not the old-fashioned horror movie horror, but plenty of tension and disturbing characters doing disturbing things.