Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Monsters of Their Former Selfs
Silence of the Lambs has become one of the most famous horror movies ever, and Hannibal one of the greatest villains. But is it really a horror movie? I found it in the suspense section, but I’ve also heard it referred to as a psychological thriller. What really interests me about this whole series is that the killers take on almost superhuman characteristics; they become monsters of their human selfs, which dig under my skin, and for me, these traits make these stories belong in the horror section just like the older tales about the monsters that influence these characters. Let’s start with the Dragon from Red Dragon. Comparing the killers in these tales to horror-movie monsters, I see Dolarhyde was essentially being possessed by a ghost: the demon of the Dragon or even the ghost of his grandma, both of which shared similar qualities and connections. This possession gave him uncanny strength and a high level of intelligence. To reinforce the notion of a ghost, he lives in a creepy house that lends itself to being haunted. After reading the book, I watched the movie, and in the movie Dolarhyde hears the voice of the Dragon but the viewer does not. In the book, the reader sees what the Dragon says. Both approaches work, but something about the movie reinforces the ghost idea when Dolarhyde tells Reba that “He” is upstairs and will hear them. Dolarhyde says this with such conviction that viewers have to wonder if maybe there is an invisible entity in the house manipulating things. Of course these stories are all grounded in reality; no supernatural events occur, so viewers know better, but still they wonder about the possibility of a ghost. Buffalo Bill might hold closer resemblance to Frankenstein and his monster. Consider his domicile. It’s decrepit, but not in a fashion like a haunted manor such as the one in Red Dragon. Buffalo Bill’s basement is brick like Frankenstein’s laboratory. His house and basement are also cluttered like Frankenstein’s lab. Buffalo Bill’s makeup and textiles hold similarities to the lab equipment, too; for example, they’re laid out to be used for morbid creation opposed to just being useless clutter. Also in Frankenstein’s lab, his creation was raised through a hole into the dark sky, which contrasts with the dark hole Buffalo Bill lowers and keeps his victims in. Although there are connections between Buffalo Bill and Ed Gein, I think the grave robbing in Frankenstein ties in here, too. Buffalo Bill goes out at night to find victims to further his creations just as Frankenstein and Fritz (Igor) did, except Buffalo Bill catches live bodies. Of course, the grand finally of the similarities is the tapestry of flesh Buffalo Bill creates to cover his own and its connection to the sutured up, necro-skin of Frankenstein’s monster. Then there’s Hannibal. Even though it’s not a new concept, the idea that Hannibal is a contemporary and realistic Dracula is an interesting one. He lives in a prison that holds ties to Dracula’s castle, he shows very little emotion like the undead, and he even has the slicked-back hair like Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of the Count. But what I want to point out is his need to feed. His hunger is more than just physical, although he does eat people. His game of quid pro quo and his need to psycho analyze others stems from his hunger to feed off their pain. Just as he offends the senator (like the troll he is), he devours Clarice’s painful memories. He’s an emotion vampire. So, if he enjoyed Clarice’s memories, why didn’t he want to kill and eat her too? Well, even Dracula fell in love. Clarice relates to the innocence of the world, the willingness to sacrifice herself to save others; she’s the opposite of Hannibal and Dracula. Clarice is Mina, and Mina is the reincarnation of Dracula’s love. Dracula wants to pull Mina into the dark side, which Hannibal attempts in his own story. The movie adaptation of Hannibal was changed from the book, but in the book Hannibal succeeds in changing Clarice--they become creatures of the night together. So, why is it Harris’s characters send shivers down my back while other killers in the same genre (whichever that might be) do not? It’s because they share so many characteristics with the old-fashioned, supernatural monsters I’ve always loved--the ones that gave me bad dreams as a kid. I know I talked Harris up in my last blog, but again, I have to say he’s very talented and has ingeniously taken something old, updated it, and made it something unique and personal.