We’ve all seen The Silence of the Lambs, right? Well except for my girlfriend, but it is on her watchlist. The Silence of the Lambs is the very definition of classic; it is one of those rare above average thrillers that sends a tingle down your spine as it sucks you into its dark and deprived world.
Before The Silence of the Lambs though there was Manhunter, Michael Mann’s cult classic from 1986. Manhunter follows a young William Peterson as Will Graham, a former FBI profiler who has been tasked with the job of tracking down the psychotic serial killer Tooth Fairy. Graham seeks help from Hannibal Lecktor, a sadistic cannibal who has been corresponding with Tooth Fairy.
The film is overtly 80s and it is all the better for it. It is sometimes a case of style over substance, but Mann’s direction is tight and shows flashes of brilliance. With the help of cinematographer Dante Spinotti, he builds an intense vibe purely with use of lighting and a genius camera angles. Mann also makes the ballsy choice of have a dominating synth based soundtrack, which surprisingly works, making the audience feel constantly uneasy.
Peterson delivers an underrated performance. Graham is just as psychologically fractured as the killers he hunts down, he has just managed to focus his ‘illness’ and use it for good. It makes a lot of his scenes really creepy and puts the audience in a strange situation. You want to root for this character because he is our ‘hero’ but you felt like he was capable of going on a murder-spree any second. It makes him the most disturbing character in the film and it adds a lot of tension to proceedings.
Is Manhunter better than The Silence of the Lambs? Honestly, it depends on what you want. The Silence of the Lambs is a wonderfully constructed and acted thriller, whilst Manhunter is little more rugged and a little more in your face. For entertainment value Manhunter probably wins, but for pure psychological scares than The Silence of the Lambs is the go. Whichever you prefer though, both are the height of Lector/Lecktor franchise and both are fantastic in their own right.
4.5 out of 5.0