Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Manhunter (1986)

I decided I would watch The Silence of the Lambs, since it's such an iconic film, and I feel guilty being a horror fan and not having seen it (plus, it stars Jodie Foster). Quick research revealed that there are actually several titles in the series, which I believe are all based on novels by Thomas Harris, anchored around the character of cannibal/serial killer Hannibal Lecter. I'm not quite dedicated to watching them all right away, but I figured it might be a good idea to watch the one that comes before The Silence of the Lambs - Manhunter (based on the novel Red Dragon, which was actually later redone as a film with that title).

Manhunter was a great film. I had heard that the plot of The Silence of the Lambs involved an FBI agent getting help from Hannibal behind bars, trying to track down a different serial killer, so I thought this previous story might involve the capturing of Hannibal, but it actually turned out to be quite similar to the plot just described. Hannibal is already behind bars, and the man who caught him is dragged out of early retirement to try and catch a different serial killer (the "Tooth Fairy"), with a little help from Hannibal. The movie is fantastic, though. It's a really effective hard-boiled crime thriller, with a good dose of mystery. Who is the killer? What is his motive? How can he be captured? A lot of the focus is on law enforcement's attempts to track down this killer before he strikes again, and specifically on the mental state of the aforementioned agent (who previously captured Hannibal) as he tries to get into the mind of the killer without losing himself. There's a very real "gazing into the abyss..." theme going on here.

The movie has a stylistic quality that, at times, borders on the sublime. The soundtrack, while being (mostly) firmly entrenched in an eighties aesthetic, works effectively, in my opinion. And the climax scene is the best use of the knockout song Innagaddadavida in a movie that I've ever seen (never mind that it's the only one I can recall). There's one point at which it's just so kickass awesome, it's the kind of scene where you no longer think, "I'm watching a movie", and you just totally get into it and think to yourself, "this is awesome". I love movies that can make me feel this way.

This is a highly recommended title, and quite frankly, I'm not sure if The Silence of the Lambs can top it! I'm gonna find out shortly, though.

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