When The Silence of the Lambs was released 1991, audiences vomited in the aisles in shock. But are we now numb to the horror of Hollywood’s creepiest serial killers?
Twenty-six years ago, The Silence of the Lambs was scaring people silly at the cinema. It gave one couple the heebie-jeebies so badly that they refused to budge unless the manager escorted them to the car park. Cinemagoers were reported to be puking in the aisles. In New York, a psychologist claimed that a third of her patients wanted to talk about Hannibal Lecter. Two years later, ITV’s decision to broadcast a watered-down version – minus the gory bits – caused such a flutter of moral panic that it generated newspaper headlines.
The Silence of the Lambs shocked and thrilled audiences in 1991, but, for its rerelease in UK cinemas next month, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has downgraded its rating from 18 to 15. As yet, no one has turned up to man the moral barricades. Why? The film is the same. Still Jodie Foster playing Clarice Starling, the gutsy and resourceful rookie FBI agent sent in to winkle out clues about psychopath Buffalo Bill from that connoisseur of evil, Dr Lecter. Is it we who have changed? Have we become desensitised to serial killers chewing off the faces of their victims? Has a diet of blood and gore over the past 26 years girded up our loins to face the likes of Hannibal the Cannibal?