Netflix Movie of the Week #16: Manhunter

manhunter poster

I had originally written this piece before Halloween, but then things piled up—as they do—and I’m only getting around to sharing it now. Be that as it may, this week’s Netflix pick is very much in keeping with the theme of Halloween, and also happens to be tangentially related to one of the most recognizable horror/thriller properties around, namely The Silence of the Lambs.

Canonically preceding the events of Lambs, Manhunter follows the story of former FBI profiler Will Graham, played by William Peterson, as he is coaxed from retirement to take on one last case—that of the twisted serial killer known as “The Tooth Fairy.” Using his uncanny ability to get inside the headspace of a killer, effectively allowing him to think as they would, Graham finds himself in the company of the incarcerated Hannibal Lecktor, admirably portrayed by Brian Cox, as the pair conspire to get to the bottom of the investigation.

Though not especially successful at the box office, the film enjoyed a bit of a resurgence after its initial video release, and stands as one of my personal favorites within the Lambs mythos. Cox plays an excellent Lecktor, and brings across the subtly menacing and dangerous aura of the character in a way that I believe might make Anthony Hopkins himself proud. Director Michael Mann—a bit of a hit-and-miss filmmaker, in truth—proves that he has an excellent understanding of atmospheric pacing and tension, all while creating a visually interesting and engaging world—with plenty of signature 80s day-glow, naturally.

With a compelling dynamic between Cox and Peterson, and an exciting and well-executed “race against time” style plot, Manhunter, despite the admittedly bland title, is a fun, well-paced thriller that makes the most of its source material.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Albert’s Top 5 Picks for Halloween

5. Insidious

Insidious is one of those rare films that understood the concept that the less you see of a monster, the scarier it is. A few brilliant shots and an unceasing atmosphere of doom (not to mention some creepy as hell stop-motion)  are all one needs to create a chilling and supremely effective ghost story. I also enjoyed the Lovecraftian astral projection angle; a bit of a deus ex machina, but a well executed one nonetheless.

Memorable quote:

Elise: Dalton? Why aren’t you…why aren’t you talking anymore? Dalton?

Dalton: If they hear me, they’ll hurt me.

Elise: Who will hurt you? Who will hurt you, Dalton?

Dalton: The man…with…fire…on his face.

4. The Silence of the Lambs

Though not a horror movie per se, this one makes the list, not because of the gore or violence, but because of the sheer amount of gut-wrenching tension that silver screen god-king Anthony Hopkins can cram into a single, chilling conversation. I’ve never seen a better anti-hero than Hopkins’ portrayal of Hannibal ‘the cannibal’ Lector, nor do I ever expect to.

Memorable quote:

Hannibal Lector : A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.

3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Because of this film, the hellish buzz of a whirring chainsaw has forever ingrained itself the the minds of Americans as a sign of sheer terror. There are so many elements of horror in this film, including captivity, a terrifying masked thing, and a truly brutal way to die.

Memorable quote:

Old Man: “I just can’t take no pleasure in killing. There’s just some things you gotta do. Don’t mean you have to like it.”

2. The Mist

Some hated The Mist. I loved the Mist because it capture the sense of being absolutely trapped with no escape and with enemies on every side as if to suggest that when people are thrust unwillingly into impossible situations, they’ll eat each other alive. The ending was one of the greatest tragedies and the blackest of pitch black ironies I’ve ever seen.

Memorable quote:

Amanda: You don’t have much faith in humanity, do you?

David: None, whatsoever.

Amanda: I can’t accept that. People are basically good; decent. My god, David, we’re a civilized society.

David: Sure, as long as the machines are working and you can dial 911. But you take those things away, you throw people in the dark, you scare the shit out of them – no more rules.

1. REC

This Spanish horror flick mixes the best of the unknown, conspiracy, deadly contagion, and gruesome visuals. As the virus spreads, the remaining protagonists seal themselves off into smaller and smaller sections of the complex, essentially baiting their own trap. All the while, the audience roots for someone…anyone…to make it out alive.

Memorable quote:

Angela: There are incredible security measures in place. We know nothing. They haven’t told us a thing. We saw special forces, health inspectors wearing suits and masks, and it’s not very comforting.

 

 

*Honorable mention: Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence

Vile. Just sick, in the most intense form of the word. Everything, from the main character to the locations to the relationships, is designed to be repulsive. I usually have a strong stomach for gore, but this meta and admittedly unique piece of cinema is by far the filthiest, nastiest, and most cringe-inducing film I’ve ever seen. I’m still trying to process it all, and trying to decide if it’s tripe or a triumph.