The Many Faces of Hannibal Lecter

image I’ve said a few times that I’m a big fan of the NBC adaptation of Hannibal and think this new portrayal of Hannibal is intriguing and suspenseful. I’ve never been that big of a fan of the original movies though- and by original movies I mean Silence of the Lambs. I saw it years ago and didn’t think very highly of it. I seem to be in the minority in that respect since the vast majority of people think it’s an amazing movie and Anthony Hopkins put in an award winning performance. I thought the movie was quite boring and found Hopkins to be annoying and almost comical as Hannibal Lector. This seems a direct conflict to the Hannibal we see in the TV series. So I thought it was time to go back and watch the movies over again and how it all blends together. When taken all together we now have an "active" Hannibal who works alongside the FBI and is quite adept at carrying out his crimes. We have young Hannibal who gets thrown an incredibly dark path due to horrific events involving his sister. And then we have the jailed Hannibal who works to put other serial killers away. Finally, we have an escaped Hannibal with a bounty on his head. How do all of these flow together if in fact they do flow together?

Red Dragon – The movie that should (or perhaps was if you take into account Manhunter) have been released first. Since we were thrown into Silence of the Lamb, the character of Hannibal never made sense to me. In this introduction to Hannibal all the characters are presented and to be honest they all come across as incredibly flat. We see that Will just barely escapes with his life after Hannibal attacks him, but the reasons for that never really show themselves. We’re supposed to fear Hannibal but we never really see why. All we know is that he’s a cannibal and a brilliant psychologist, but I never really felt a fear of Hannibal. He acts foolish and juvenile and doesn’t strike me as someone who could hide an Easter Egg let alone be responsible for all the crimes leveled against him. He doesn’t come across as being smart enough to get away with anything.

Silence of the Lambs – A very slow and boring movie. Even after all these years and all these rave reviews of Anthony Hopkins, I still don’t like this movie. Even when Hannibal kills his guards and wears a face he carved off he doesn’t instill fear or panic. His mannerisms up to that point just make him seem on the verge of shaking his head and foaming at the mouth like you expect to see from Charles Manson. He doesn’t seem sophisticated, he doesn’t come across as calculating, he doesn’t give an air of cool planning or reserved danger. He just comes across as a lunatic who’s no more capable of controlling his emotions and behaviors than a 5 year old on the playground. This was supposed to be award winning performances and I struggled to get through.

Hannibal – A movie with a plot and storyline that made no sense whatsoever. Everything about this movie felt forced and pointless. All the sequences with Mason Verger as Hannibal’s nemesis didn’t strike a chord with me. Someone is going to take the time and spend the money to do away with Hannibal using feral pigs? Oh for heaven’s sake. Talk about an overly elaborate and easily escapable plan. None of the over the top violence made sense either. Fine you can have Hannibal twisting open someone head like a can of beer to expose their brain, but that really doesn’t do much for the character. Yeah, it was gross, like a lot of other scenes, but this doesn’t make Hannibal sinister or foreboding. Since he has nothing else it’s just a shock factor.

Hannibal Rising – A movie that seems universally disliked, but a movie I like quite a bit. While I don’t fully buy into the origin story I do like and understand this Hannibal. He is cold, calculated, plotting, reserved and always thinking ahead. The misdeeds against his sister have thrown him out of whack and his heart and mind burn for revenge. This explains his initial motivation, but is that really enough to sustain his serial killer desires?

Hannibal the Series – Here we see a tormented Will Graham and a sophisticated and lurking Hannibal. Will is being worn down by the atrocities he has to face on a daily basis. Hannibal steps in to watch and feed off that downward spiral. I think in this series we see all the characters that were lacking from the movies. Hannibal is calculating and sophisticated and a master of misdirection and suggestion. He points the FBI away from him at every turn. He’s twisted and manipulated Will so no one will believe the wild stories he tells. His calm and sophisticated exterior make you like him, but the staging of his victims make you fear him. And you always have it in the back of your mind as to whether or not Hannibal is responsible for the crimes. We see him commit some, but he’s able to throw enough clues and suspicion on others that we can’t be sure of some things. I think Mads Mikkelsen is a far superior version of Hannibal Lector. He has a smooth and comfortable presence that draws you in. By comparison I felt Hopkins was image abrasive.

Of course you have to watch the movies in a completely different order than they were released. Silence of the Lambs was a confusing mess and Hannibal Rising feels like a forced origin story. I still think the movies are terrible and don’t understand or agree with the draw people have to them. The movie portrayal of Hannibal is cliché and lacking. The TV portrayal of Hannibal feels dark and menacing. In the TV series, Hannibal feels like more like Jack the Ripper – a ghost of a killer that no one can catch, that disappears into the night after leaving behind a wake of devastation and fear. He’s the gentleman killer that will cozy up to you and you’ll never know until it’s too late. None of that comes across from the movies.

I’ve read about the direction the TV series want to go and I would love to see Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal re-written using these characters and personalities. I think it will make for a far superior story and will far eclipse anything the movies have to offer.

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The Scream Trilogy – Good Campy Fun

Scream was one of those rare movies that came across as a spoof, yet still had so much bite and it’s own unique story as to let it stand on it’s own. Since this is the Halloween season I dug into the archives and brought out all 3 Scream movies. Yes, there are indeed 4, but we’re just going to look at the original trilogy.

The first movie was quite an interesting take because it sets itself up as a scary movie and gives you plenty of clues as to what you need to watch for. It’s sort of like you’re watching a tutorial. Don’t ever say, "I’ll be right back!" because you won’t. "No having sex in the movie!" "Look behind you!" What’s funny is, Scream points out all these cliché’s while they’re happening in the movie. Of course they mock them and reference dozens of other movies where the same thing happen. It lulls you into a false sense of security, then Scream does the same thing – you just weren’t expecting it.

Once you actually get immersed into the movie itself, it goes about making everyone a suspect. It brings all the central characters onto the screen and shows off some quirk or behavior that could make them the prime suspect. Even, Sidney, the victim in all this is actually shown to have some motives for carrying out these murders.

The movie twists and turns and slowly, like in an Agatha Christie novel, the major characters fall away one by one. You have to keep guessing to see if your guilty party makes it to the end. And then in the typical dramatic finish, there is a big showdown and the big reveal as to why the killer is causing mayhem. And oddly it’s a viable reason and the movie works. Wes Craven has actually pulled off a horror spoof that’s suspenseful with a decent story, lots of action and plenty of misdirection. How the hell did he do that? Most movies can’t get that right when they take themselves seriously.

Then we have the sequel, which we all know is never as good as the first. But as stated in Randy’s film class, the Godfather was as good if not better than the original. An exception to the rule? And perhaps Scream 2 is following in those footsteps, albeit with some bloody shoes.

Scream 2 continues the misadventures of poor Sidness who’s being hunted and victimized because of the sins of her mom. Seems mom was a pretty naughty girl and got a few men in trouble with her feminine wiles. Like a wrecking ball she tore some families apart and those left behind aren’t too happy.

Like the first Scream movie, everyone becomes a suspect. Misdirection abounds and while we’re familiar with the plot and nemesis, we know it can’t be the same person as the first movie, so who is it? Unlike a Michael Meyers who can take multiple shots to the body, our villains in the first movie were dealt with by a headshot. That absolutely put them in the ground, right?

So who’s causing all the new murders and for what reason? Again, suspects start falling one by one and once again, Sid’s boyfriend seems the prime suspect. Even the wrongly accused Cotton Weary is back on the streets and might be looking for some vengeance for that prison time he did. But yet again, Scream 2 comes off like a spoof of itself with the Stab movie showing the events that took place in the original Scream movie.

But there is an actual mystery to solve here and the murders of the young girls coincide with the names of the original murders. There is a nasty copycat on the loose and ultimately Sidney is in the crosshairs.

There is some interesting commentary on violence in movies since when the killer is revealed, a point is made that the defense will blame violent movies for violent behavior. The killer is really the victim and the media is responsible for all the murders. But, there is more of a twist ending here and we have some vengeance that spills over from the first movie and the two boys that were killed.

For the final part of the trilogy, all the rules need to be thrown out, Randy tells us from beyond the grave. Everything we assumed will turn out to be incorrect and nothing is what we believed. And true to that we’re taken on a wild ride into Sindey’s past as they uncover some truth about her mom. It really comes across as dirt since mom was a pretty naughty girl. And once again, everyone is suspect, from the movie producer of the new Stab movie, to the director, to the cast, to a stalker fan. And yet again we have the big reveal at the end that changes what we know about the first movie. All sorts of new information is brought forward that we never knew about. It doesn’t contradict anything, we just didn’t know.

And once again, the whole thing seems to work. It may not be quite as tight as the first and we’ve now come to expect these twists and the attempts at misdirection, but on the whole it’s still pretty good. It’s sort of the like the M. Night Shyamalan movies, you can get away with it twice, but by the time the third movie comes out, we’re onto the game.

Even still, these are by far better than a lot of the other movies out there. There is the typical decline, just like we see in everything else. Saw was good, Saw III was not. Scream is good, Scream 3 is better than most. Either way, there is still a lot of fun to be had with these movies. They comes across as whodunit movies as much as slasher films. They actually have a pretty decent blend of both. It’s certainly a fun nights worth of entertainment and since I hadn’t seen these in several years, since they came out really, I had a great time trying to remember what happened.

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Scream (Collector’s Series)
Scream 2 (Deluxe Collector’s Series)
Scream 3 (Collector’s Series)
Scream / Scream 2 / Scream 3 (Triple Feature 3-DVD Set)

Rob Zombie’s Take on Halloween and Halloween II

image Since the original Halloween movies left a little something to be desired I decided to check out Rob Zombie’s take on these two original slasher movies. I have to say his first movie added a massive amount of backstory that to me gives a lot more depth to the original movies. However, his second retelling didn’t exactly thrill me and halfway through I found myself giving up and looking for something else to do.

This remakes give us a glimpse of Michael Meyers that’s been abused both emotionally and physically for years and he can only communicate and tolerate the world when he hides behind a mask. All the bullying he’s suffered as a boy comes out as he gets revenge on several boys. Those acts send him to an asylum where Dr. Loomis is brought in to try and help. This is why Loomis has an interest in finding Michael in the original movie.

I found the first movie pretty intriguing and when relating back it the first, both movies make a lot more sense. Michael is the victim and he’s lashing out. At least we understand who Michael is and that he’s a disturbed man who had a terrible childhood and horrible events in his life.

Unfortunately, the follow up doesn’t hold up as well as the first. Like the original it picks up where the first left off, but the movie plods along so poorly that I quickly started to lose interest. Unlike the Zombie’s first effort this doesn’t add any real depth or explanation to Michael and quickly devolves in violence and gore for the sake of showing it on the screen. Before Michael actually makes his epic trek back to Haddonfield I was bored silly. Just like the original I got bored pretty quickly and just didn’t care. I ended calling it quits with the intent I would come back later. I still haven’t finished it.

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The Original Halloween and Halloween II

image Since it’s that time of year, I dug into the archives and pulled out two classics movies just to see what they would be like after all these years. It doesn’t really get in the spirit than Halloween and Halloween II. Alas, one of us hasn’t fared well over the years.

I know that "slasher" movies really aren’t supposed to have a point and won’t win awards for their stellar acting or complex and though provoking story lines, but Halloween seemed completely nonsensical to me, it all just comes across as random acts of violence. It’s a nameless and faceless thug beating the hell out of anyone who comes across his path. But everyone else is just as nameless and faceless so who the hell cares if they end up on the receiving end of an ass kicking? Not to be cliché, but what’s the motivation?

Perhaps the years and so many copycats have tainted this movie. Considering the time period, I’m sure this was quite the departure and quite a shocking bit of filmmaking. But now, it simply doesn’t hold an interest. There’s nothing driving it, nothing holding it together. It doesn’t feel tense, or dramatic, or suspenseful mainly because everything is so random. There’s no vested interest in any of these characters so who cares what happens to them. And without knowing why any of this is happening there’s no reason to feel any sympathy.

It’s not until you watch Halloween II that some of the pieces fall into place and even then it’s all pretty damn thin. Laurie turns out to be Michael’s sister and all he wants to do for Halloween is stab her in the throat. Really? That’s the entire plot? Good heavens. It’s been so long since I’ve seen I completely forgot what the plot of the movie was. Once I hit that moment I rolled my eyes at dumb that actually sounded. We don’t have any background on Laurie or Michael so his need for vengeance is completely lost on me. I found myself very bored and uninterested in this movie and when it was over I was puzzled how it generated such a following. Are we really that easily entertained as to want nearly a dozen of these movies? Oh well. It was an interesting time going back to these, but I doubt I’ll be making a return trip any time soon.

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