JUMPSCARECUT: The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Directed by: Jonathan Demme
Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Lawrence A. Bonney, Ted Levine, Kasi Lemmons

Written by Lucy Buglass

It’s no surprise to any of you that I absolutely adore The Silence of the Lambs. You name the merchandise, I’ve probably got it. I can remember the first time I watched it so vividly, and it’s continued to captivate and transport me ever since. Jonathan Demme’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novel is a masterpiece and I’m so excited to finally share my detailed thoughts with you all. Here we go…

First off, Clarice Starling is up there on my list of top female characters. She’s strong, determined and smart, yet still has some vulnerability to her and there’s nothing wrong with that. I loved this honest portrayal of a young, trainee FBI agent and all the troubles she faces on the job. Jodie Foster did a stunning job of portraying her character and after reading the book, I can confirm she met my expectations completely. It’s refreshing to see such a three dimensional, well written female protagonist within the genre. Of course, she’s not the only one, but she was part of my introduction to the horror genre and I’m thankful for her. She showed younger me that horror has a place for educated, respected and smart women. Go Clarice. Both you and Jodie deserved that Best Leading Actress Oscar.

As for Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, I honestly believe this is his greatest performance to date. His meticulous attention to detail when getting into the mind of a psychopathic cannibal was flawless. Despite only being on screen for 24 minutes, he delivered a chilling performance that won him the Best Leading Actor Oscar and infamy amongst horror fans. The Silence of the Lambs actually won 5 Academy Awards in total, and I can’t think of any film that year that was more deserving. Maybe I’m biased though. Lecter really is a fantastic character that many experts have praised as being a thorough and realistic depiction of how a psychopath’s mind works. He really nailed the character and continued to do so throughout the other films. It’s so nice to see an intelligent, darkly courteous and utterly terrifying villain portrayed this well. It’s hard to argue against that. I also loved the way the film deals with cannibalism in a non-gratuitous fashion. It’s very obvious what Lecter is guilty of, but the film doesn’t need gallons of blood or over the top violence in order to scare you. Anthony Hopkins’ acting style does that for you. It’s brilliant.

Whilst Hopkins and Foster steal the show, how could I forget Ted Levine as Buffalo Bill? If you thought Lecter was scary, wait until you meet this guy. He will literally skin you alive with zero remorse. With Lecter’s help, it’s up to Starling to apprehend and bring this guy to justice, and since he was named because he likes to ‘skin his humps’, who can blame her for being a little terrified? Not me. The way Levine plays Buffalo Bill is stunning, and it gives me chills just thinking about it. The scene where he dances to Q Lazzarus’ Goodbye Horses’ has gone down in history and gives us a chilling insight into just what he really desires. That scene will probably haunt your dreams actually, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Moving away from the acting, The Silence of the Lambs also has an incredibly well-paced and well-written script. Whilst a lot of this is to do with Thomas Harris’ novel, director Jonathan Demme and screenwriter Ted Tally made it shine on the big screen. From lingering shots to fast-paced scenes, it keeps you gripped until the very end. The cinematography reflects this too, with a variety of impeccable shots, my favourite being the way Lecter is reflected in his cell window as he speaks to Starling. It’s well polished, iconic, and utterly terrifying. The stylistic choices in this film are well thought out, especially when dealing with the descriptions of crimes and murders throughout. It’s not as visually graphic as some horror films, but the verbal descriptions alone are enough to make your stomach churn. I really loved the way it makes the audience use their imagination, making it 10x more horrifying than anything special effects could achieve. Sometimes, not seeing is worse. The Silence of the Lambs puts the worst of the gore and horror in the hands of its spectator, instead of spoon-feeding them all the information.

Whether you want to call it a crime thriller, a psychological horror, or something else entirely, The Silence of the Lambs is the perfect film to watch this Halloween season (or any other time, ever). The characters have gone down in cinema history, and it’s full of twists and turns and iconic moments that you’ll never forget. It’s a film that will stay with me for the rest of my life, and I hope it has the same effect on all of you too.

Lucy’s Verdict:

5

Dave Vescio

Dave Vescio is a criminal turned actor who, since leaving prison, has gone on to work alongside the likes of Eddie Redmayne, Chloe Grace Moretz and Kate Beckinsale. Dave has mastered the art of playing the villain, but he’s actually a really nice guy, and here’s the proof.

Interview by Jakob Lewis Barnes
Q. You’ve had quite the journey into the world of acting. At what moment did you realize that performing was the way to go?
A. I was always taught to follow my heart, no matter what.  And I’ve had the privilege to work with some of the best people on this planet, or at least be mentored by them. From my childhood, during my time in the infantry and in prison, learning culinary arts and TV photojournalism, to where I am today, and these people were the best of the best at what they did. They taught me that you’ll know when you love your job because you’ll want to do it every single day of your life, and if by chance you can’t do it, you’ll be depressed as hell.  And let me tell you, it does feel like hell when you can’t do it. So, that’s when I knew that acting was my one true love, and I knew that the very first day I walked into my first acting class.
Q. Is there times when you find that your experiences as a criminal have actually benefited your acting career?
A. For sure! First off, I specialise at playing movie villains, so I can always bring real life experiences into each and every single one of my roles, either from my own personal crimes or by having the privilege of being caged up with these kinds of twisted villains at Fort Leavenworth Maximum Prison. I have actually met a lot of criminals since then too, and I’m always researching them in their environments as well. It’s my job to bring the hard truths to the world, that’s what professional art actually is. So that’s what I do, or try to do, with every one of my antagonistic roles. Plus, I get to release my skeletons and confront them, because the truth will definitely set you free, it always has, and it always will. 
Q. You’ve been involved in projects with some huge names, including Chloe Grace Moretz and Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne, how did you find working alongside these actors?
A. I LOVE working with the best of the best! It’s the best way to truly learn how to be a better actor. And every single one of my directors has made me a better actor as well. I have been very, very privileged to work along side Oscar winners, Golden Globe winners, Primetime Emmy winners; there’s been a lot of them so far!
Q. Which actors inspire you the most? And who would you love to work with in the future?
A. Since I’m a villain actor, I am mostly inspired by actors who play great villains on the big screen. Such as Ted Levine in ‘The Silence Of The Lambs’, Anthony Perkins in ‘Psycho’, Ralph Fiennes in ‘Schindler’s List’, and Michael Douglas in ‘Wall Street’. Those were phenomenal performances that will rock the world for decades to come!
As for who I would like to work with, honestly, any major award-winning or nominee actor, or any veteran actor. If I had to pick, then I would love to work opposite Daniel Day Lewis. He’s the most method actor there is and he’s going to beat Katherine Hepburn’s record of winning the most Best Actor/Actress Academy Awards. So Daniel, for sure!
Q. Of all the acting roles in your catalogue, which has been your favourite?
A. So, far it’s what I have on my current acting reel right now: the stranger character in ‘Hick’ starring Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne & Chloe Grace Moretz, the salesman in ‘The Odd Way Home’ starring Rumer Willis & Chris Marquette, and Eddie in ‘The Millionaire Tour’ starring Dominic Monaghan. But, I also loved my role as the sign man in ‘The Trials Of Cate McCall’ starring Kate Beckinsale & Nick Nolte. But, since the movie was sold to Lifetime Television, my scenes had to be cut out due to violence. But, that’s fine; it was great working opposite of Kate & Nick. They definitely taught me a lot!
But, I’m also looking forward to being Bobby in ‘Wolf Mother’ starring Golden Globe nominee Tom Sizemore. It’s a villain role I’ve definitely played before, but not like this. This is new territory for me, so I’m excited to start shooting.
Q. If you could play any movie character, who would it be and why?
A. I love indie films, and honestly, indie film is brand new territory for movies. They tend to be storylines that are so different from any ever told before, or the direction and editing of them is totally brand new. We just don’t do remakes in indie films, only studio movies do that, and I’m just not a fan of most studio films. I also see myself as an artist who is trying to bring the hard truths to the world, and studio films rarely do that nowadays. That wasn’t always the case, but it is nowadays. So, I would rather stick to original characters in original storylines in the indie film world, because that’s what I love most!
Q. Can you tell us anything about your upcoming projects?
A. From August 28th, AMC Theatres  give you the chance to see my lead villain role in the movie ‘Going To America’ starring Eddie Griffin, Josh Meyers, Najarra Townsend, Mindy Robinson, & Penny Marshall. It’s a hilarious story about two crazy guys who break out of a mental asylum, because one of them (Eddie Griffin) thinks he’s a prince on a mission to save a princess. Well, let’s just say that ‘princess’ is my prostitute. So, my character is not happy about that at all! So, if you get the chance, definitely check it out. We won fifteen different awards in the film festival circuit this past year for this film.
Q. What is the best piece of advice you can pass on to aspiring actors?
A. That’s a tough question. There’s so much advice to be given. If I had to sum it up in one neat soundbite, I would say that the only thing stopping you from making your dreams come true is applied knowledge. That’s it. So, go out there in the world and find that knowledge and start applying it to your daily habits. And the ones who have this knowledge are the ones who actually make their dreams come true; only they know how to get there, because everyone else is just guessing and assuming, and we all know what making assumptions truly means: making an ass out of you and me. Only study the best of the best, they will always teach you the way!

Learn more about Dave by following him on Twitter @DaveVescio and on his IMDb page. Dave’s next project, ‘Going To America’, is released in selected US theatres from August 28th.