Few cinematic serial killers ooze calculated creepiness quite like Sir Anthony Hopkins’ “Hannibal the Cannibal.” From the slurping to the sniffing to the speaking-in-riddles, he seems to delight in unnerving his fellow man. This is never clearer than when he finally—inevitably—escapes his cage, brutally slaughters his guards, and turns their severely mutilated corpses into a macabre work of modern art. Why? To freak out the first responders, as far as I can tell.
Yet even this monstrous display isn’t as chilling as his game of psychological cat-and-mouse with FBI trainee Clarice Starling. Why does he agree to help her track down the deranged murderer known only as “Buffalo Bill?” More importantly, what motivates his keen interest in her past—her darkest childhood memories, her most deeply buried traumas? Does he hope that, by confronting and overcoming her repressed pain and fear, she will find the strength she needs to face the demon in the shadows?
Or does dissecting the inner-workings of her mind give him the same perverse thrill as would dissecting her body?
[Originally written October 22, 2012.]