Lately it seems like whenever I try to sit down and watch some family-friendly shows with my kids, those creepy-as-hell commercials for Clarice keep popping up, causing my son and daughter to squeal, cover their eyes and beg me to change the channel. If you haven’t heard, Clarice is a new TV series based on the character Clarice Starling —an FBI trainee Jodie Foster played in The Silence of the Lambs, and quite frankly, I am not here for it.
The Silence of the Lambs follows how Starling reluctantly works with prison inmate, cannibal, serial killer and genius psychologist Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) to track down another serial killer, “Buffalo Bill” (Ted Levine), who is actively still capturing unsuspecting women.
It remains one of the most disturbing movies I’ve ever seen … not only in the blood-and-guts sense, but also in terms of pure psychological terror. And today the film turns 30. That’s right. The least romantic movie of all time was released on Valentine’s Day in 1991. Lecter couldn’t have planned it better himself.
Little did anyone know back then how deeply director Jonathan Demme’s adaptation — based on the best-selling novel by Thomas Harris — would go on to influence Hollywood. Not only did it sweep the Big Five Oscar categories (Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress), but it proved that the horror genre had something to offer outside of teenage slasher flicks. It showed the power of uncomfortable close-ups, great character dialogue and development, and the magic that can happen when an actor and a role are perfectly suited for each other. In fact, Hopkins’ Lecter earned the #1 spot on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Movie Villains list. (Starling was the #6 Movie Hero, which isn’t too shabby, either!)
And the film’s leads are still going strong, three decades years later. Hopkins played Lecter twice more, in both The Silence of the Lambs’ sequel, Hannibal, and the prequel Red Dragon. You may also know him as Odin in the Thor films and MCU at large. On the small screen, he’s been bringing robots to life and possibly helping them plan to overthrow humankind on HBO’s Westworld. And this year he might find himself in the Oscar race again (he’s already got a Golden Globe nom) for his turn as a man struggling with dementia in The Father.
And as luck would have it, Foster might be up for another Academy Award this year, too! She’s been earning raves for her role in The Mauritanian, which tells the true story of a prisoner held at Guantanamo Bay for 14 years despite not being charged with any crime. Foster plays the prisoner’s defense attorney. Her many awesome movies at Redbox fill out what else she’s been up to ever since playing Clarice.
But it will be hard for anyone to recapture the lightning in a bottle that was The Silence of the Lambs. As Foster herself is rumored to have said, ““None of us was ever that good before and we’ve never been that good since.” Maybe it’s time for a Valentine’s Day re-watch … with a nice Chianti?