Written by John Edward Betancourt
When you look at the horror genre from beginning to end, it is a veritable tapestry of nightmares when it comes to the monsters that have emerged from our imagination. We've met creatures that suck blood to survive, eat our flesh to survive, transform into unholy creatures that roam the darkness and seen spirits that haunt our every waking move.
But there is one monster that has always been far more terrifying than any zombie or vampire on screen...man himself. But one man in particular has managed to terrify audiences simply through knowledge of his actions and his ability to scare us from the shadows...Hannibal Lecter. He is a character that fascinates and revolts all at once and his legacy in film began with an interesting take on his story from Director Michael Mann in the 1986 film, Manhunter.
This motion picture, loosely followed the plot of Thomas Harris' Red Dragon by pitting the man who brought Hannibal Lecter down against a new monster set on killing entire families, Francis Dollarhyde, also known as "The Tooth Fairy". Now I say this film loosely follows the plot simply because while the core elements are there, this is an extremely unique film in how the story is told.
Not only is it incredibly 1980's in its style and look, it is also a slow cooking horror film. While the book moves at a breakneck pace, racing against time to stop Dollarhyde before he kills again, Manhunter takes its time with everything and it works quite well for the film. With highly stylized sequences, rife with bright colors and synthesizer riffs or an 80's pop rock song playing, Manhunter manages to make you uncomfortable as you watch revelations unfold or the ugliness of murder unfold before your very eyes. Because of the fact that the visuals and music are appealing and finding that enjoyable while you watch Dollarhyde blow people away to "In a Gadda Da Vida" leaves you squirming in your seat.
Sadly the only complaint I have for this film is that Lecter is not as prominent as he is in other films, and the change of how important his and Will Graham's relationship is to the story. After all Graham brought down this legendary monster and that seems extremely glossed over to focus on the Dollarhyde storyline. Even still, Brian Cox manages to make every second count when playing this iconic killer and steals the scene when on screen by portraying the monster as a cool and collected man whose only hints of madness come from the insanity that Cox manages to get across to the audience simply with his eyes.
That subtle performance and the visceral experience the film provides make this an essential horror film to own and enjoy if you haven't had the chance to see it. Just make sure to ignore the fact that Anthony Hopkins isn't in it and go into this motion picture with an open mind and you'll come out of it not only terrified, but pleased with such a unique telling of this Lecter tale.