Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cannibals, Serial Killers and Skin Suits

Silence of the Lambs.  If you haven't seen the movie, there's a good chance you read the book.  (Hopefully you read Red Dragon, as well.  It was better.)  When the film, starring a ham-fisted Anthony Hopkins, came out, it was the film to see, and a large number of people could be found reading the book.

I'm all for people reading, and I don't care what gets them to do that.  I don't blame people for wanting to read the source material after or before seeing the film, either.  The book, as is usually the case, was far better than the movie.

I actually ended up reading the book after seeing the movie.  It just worked out that way.  Of course, when people saw me reading it, they asked if I saw the film, as if I had no idea of its existence.  Inevitably, I was almost always told that they liked the film better!

I had a friend who felt this way, and when I asked her why, she told me it was because Hopkins brought Lecter to life in a way she didn't realize could be possible.  (I didn't mind him, though I thought he overacted just a bit.)  She felt that Harris could've done more with the character, and I think other people thought so, too.  Hence, Hannibal.

Hannibal was atrocious.  I think Harris set out to write something so nasty it couldn't possibly be translated to film correctly, and he succeeded.  Mission accomplished.  In fact, I think that book is a big "fuck you" to all those people who liked the Silence of the Lambs film more than the book.  Since "fans" demanded more, he gave them what they deserved.  More of everything.  Stuff that was so over-the-top that it really seems like Harris either wrote it under protest or lost his damn mind.  The first two books were tight thrillers with Lecter being important, but in a cage.  In Hannibal he was loose, and in being so, he lost all ability to scare.

And the ending was totally unbelievable.  If you don't remember it, I won't remind you.  Ridiculous.

I really believe, though I have no proof, that the movie franchise helped destroy the books.  Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs stand proudly on their own.  There are better books dealing with the same subject matter, but these two are still good reads.  What came after, though, was a complete mess and a slap in the face to those who liked the first two books.  Those two following books (Hannibal Rising was the other one, and there was no way I was going to read that after Hannibal) were created solely because The Silence of the Lambs film did well.  There was no other reason for them to exist.  The story had been told, and it ended quite nicely.  All Harris did was destroy a good character to please people who read maybe three books a year.

The chances of me ever reading another Thomas Harris book?  Zero.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  Click on an affiliate link and buy something, and I may earn a small commission ... which I will use to purchase any book that does not have Harris' name on it.

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