Horror Movie Review: Hannibal (2001)

The Silence of the Lambs is rightfully considered a classic horror movie. It gave us Hannibal Lector, the educated & suave serial killer/cannibal played to perfection by Anthony Hopkins. Even if you’ve never seen it, you’ll know the character & many of his lines. You can read our review here.

A creation of the author Thomas Harris, the original movie was adapted from his book of the same name. Years later, in 1991 Harris’ first Hannibal Lector book would also get the movie treatment in the form of a prequel called Red Dragon, another successful & well received film. You can read our review here.

Hannibal the cannibal was not done though as Harris once again returned to the character. This was in 1999 with the sequel to The Silence of the Lambs simply called, Hannibal. Two years later it would also be turned into a movie. One that bore very little resemblance to its tense, psychological horror roots.

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Set 10 years after the events of The Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal (Anthony Hopkins) is still on the loose with the FBI no closer to finding him. Meanwhile Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) has become a tough, no-nonsense agent. Unfortunately she is blamed by her superiors when a drug raid is botched.

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Starling faces public disgrace but a previous surviving victim of Lector uses his influence & money to get her reassigned to the Lector case. Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), a child molester & a therapist was heavily disfigured & left paralysed by Lector & wants revenge.

Elaborate revenge that involves huge man-eating pigs. For this though he needs to find Lector & hopes that Starling being back on the cannibal’s case will draw him out.

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Verger isn’t wrong as Hannibal taunts Starling in a letter. One that she uses to track his location to Rome where he has been masquerading as the caretaker of a library. She’s not the only one on his case though as the chief inspector, Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) has discovered Lector’s identity & plans to cash in on the huge reward offered by Mason Verger.

The net is closing around Hannibal Lector, it’s just a matter of who gets to him first.

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Those expecting a similar movie to The Silence of the Lambs are in for something of a surprise . As other then a cat/mouse style back & forth between Pazzi & Lector, there is little in the way of atmosphere & tension here. Instead Hannibal goes for shock value, something that was present in the earlier films but were enhanced by the tension surrounding it rather then replacing it.

Hannibal is far gorier, far more visceral & far more silly. Anyone that has seen the infamous dinner table scene can attain to the fact that this is a silly movie. Does that make it bad though? Well, no. Held up against the original film it’s severely lacking but it is still pretty entertaining, has some great performances & looks the part.

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The standout is, of course, Anthony Hopkins as Lector. Older but still as ghoulish, the sophistication he portrays just makes his cruel & violent side all the more terrifying to watch.The lengths he goes to hide his identity while in Rome serves as a reminder of just how smart & devious he is all while being charming.

Gary Oldman’s Mason Verger is an interesting character. Well played even if the heavy makeup takes a little away from an otherwise good performance.

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The controversial one though is Julianne Moore as Clarice Starling, taking over the role from Jodie Foster. Foster turned it down due to not being happy with the changes in the character & while Moore puts in a fine performance, something just feels off.

I’m ok with a more hardened Starling, It has been 10 years after all. However, she’s a little too detached at times & a little too easy to manipulate which makes her far harder to invest in. In a film with many memorable characters, she is one that ends up blending into the background. Something that isn’t helped by large swathes of the film where she’s barely involved.

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Congratulations if you’ve made it to the final 20 minutes without laughing out loud at some of the more absurd moments. Hannibal’s finale is a combination of gleeful over the top gore & utter silliness. It’s at this point the character effectively ‘jumps the shark’ & the final airplane scene will see many a fan shake their heads sadly.

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Hannibal is an entertaining flick. A very entertaining one but one that is flawed. However it doesn’t take the blame completely as it was adapted from a book & stayed quite true to its source material. Some of what was left on the cutting room floor would have arguably made the film even more absurd! Worth a watch for the early parts of the movie, the cat and mouse hunt in Rome & the lashings of violence & gore.

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Hannibal
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