13 Halloween movies for people who don’t like horror

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Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs (1991), image courtesy of MGM

9. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Apologies to Hannibal devotees, but of the numerous onscreen adaptations of Thomas Harris’s oeuvre, The Silence of the Lambs remains supreme. The story is nothing special, following an FBI trainee’s hunt for a serial killer who skins his victims; what ultimately elevates Silence of the Lambs above your average pulp thriller is its sense of style. Aided by Howard Shore’s portentous score and Tak Fujimoto’s chilly cinematography, director Jonathan Demme steeps the film in existential dread, exposing the darkness in ordinary places. This is noir disguised as a procedural, a rare murder mystery that treats murder as an atrocity rather than merely a puzzle to be solved.

Key to the movie’s effectiveness is its protagonist, Clarice Starling. Although it doesn’t overtly address sexism, Silence of the Lambs exhibits an acute awareness of what it’s like to be a woman in a profession or room dominated by men. The visuals continually draw attention to Clarice’s vulnerability, the implicit threat posed to her by both criminals and lawmen, while Jodie Foster’s performance brings out her strength, the courage she has to summon just to do her job. Her quiet intensity is complemented by Anthony Hopkins’s devious magnetism as the iconic Hannibal Lecter, who’s frightening here precisely because of his limited screentime. His gaze, piercing yet inscrutable, sends a chill down your spine.

Similar movies: Zodiac (2007), Prisoners (2013)