To say that Americans are obsessed with serial murder is something of an understatement. You can’t swing a dismembered prostitute over your head anywhere in this country without hitting a dozen books, movies, and investigative TV shows that deal with the topic. That the average American is so well-versed in serial killer lore and the psychology surrounding them should be disturbing, shouldn’t it? Yet here are the stories of the guy making a suit made of human skin, the angry loner using his mother’s head as a bocce ball, the creepy degenerate who achieves sexual climax watching parakeet snuff films… And here we are, as a nation, gobbling up these stories and no one seems upset. Not upset, that is, until someone goes and fucks with the lore by making a rotten movie like Hannibal.
We’ve internalized Hannibal Lecter, made him part of the collective serial killer consciousness. He was only on-screen for eight minutes in Silence of the Lambs and he won an Oscar, just imagine the possibilities if Hannibal had his very own movie! Well now he does. And the results stink worse than Jeffrey Dahmer’s breath.
For the record, I’ve read all of Thomas Harris’ novels and,except for Hannibal, they’re all excellent. The book Hannibal has the worst ending of any book this side of the Bible. Why do you think Jody Foster didn’t want anything to do with this movie? She read the book.
Hannibal Lecter was menacing and scary in Silence of the Lambs precisely because he was incarcerated. We were forced to imagine his prior crimes and how he was captured. He was supremely dangerous yet flawed at the same time. Yeah he ate people, but yeah he was in jail too. Just like having sex with my wife of 39 years, my imagination gave Lecter more depth than could ever be written.
Well, release Lecter from the mental ward and all the mystery is gone. No more supermodel Heidi Klum, just five foot two 253 pound Mrs. Froman. With his high-falutin’ tastes and inexplicable need to be a homicidal Martha Stewart, Lecter becomes the serial killer version of SNL’s anal-retentive chef. “Okay, let’s disembowel this victim with our freshly sanitized harpy knife. While the entrails are dangling just so, let’s go ahead and hang the corpse with this chenille noose, hand-braided in Borneo. There…now that’s a cadaver I can deal with.”
Lecter becomes a foppish superman once out of the joint. He can kill anyone anywhere anytime with no fear of capture and without breaking a sweat. He can counterfeit any document no matter how obscure, and he can hypnotize pigs and dogs and read people’s minds. The most interesting part of the book, the part that deals with how Lecter became a cannibal in the first place, goes completely ignored in the film. Harris abandons much of the FBI psychology that made Silence of the Lambs ring true. And as a nation of psycopathic students, we will never forgive him for murdering our number one guy.