Misery, by Stephen King


Misery is a fascinating work on so many levels.

First, it’s a horror story about a popular genre writer, Paul Sheldon, who finally meets his “biggest fan” – former RN (currently moonlighting as a serial killer) Annie Wilkes – much to his everlasting chagrin. Second, it’s a mystery full of tension, intrigue, and misdirection – how on Earth is he going to get out of this mess? Third, it’s kind of a “how-to” book on writing that I think many of us newbie writers really appreciated — like getting to look “under the dinosaur’s skirt” dinos-in-skirt

to see what’s what. ian-malcolm

And finally, there’s a pretty decent romance in there – what could be called the “romantic misadventures of Misery Chastain.”  Misery is the beloved heroine of an equally beloved series of romance novels. Beloved by everyone but the author, that is. It’s when writer Paul Sheldon decides that Misery has ripped her last bodice that he truly comes to know misery.  bodice-ripper

Annie Wilkes was a terrific serial killer. She is a refreshing break from the serial killers we’ve seen so far – she’s female, she has no “message” she’s trying to convey to the idiot masses, she doesn’t appear to have had a tortured childhood, and she doesn’t rape and sexually torture her victims. To be fair, she does torture Paul. A lot. But she agreed he had it coming, so it’s okay.

One thing she does share with one of the other killers we’ve read about so far – nursing. The Sculptor was a nurse, who used his nursing skills to both take care of his invalid Dad, and to keep his victims alive until he needed them dead. Annie is a de-frocked nurse (is this a thing, because if it’s not, it should be) who played one of those “Angel of Death” nurses until she got caught, and afterwards, she just uses her skills, and strength, to keep her favorite author alive until he finishes “her” book.

Apparently, nurses freak more than a few people out.scary-nurse

Another thing Annie shares with the other kids, er, serial killers, is her uncanny ability to notice that a knickknack on a table got moved by half a centimeter. She also has a kind of supernatural insight into other people’s motives – like when they’re trying to be her “friend” just long enough to kill her and escape. Those dirty birds.

While both of these “abilities” might be cool in a non-serial killer person, they are downright frightening in someone like her. Especially if you’re one of the people on the wrong side of the victim/serial killer equation.equation

This is what happens when Paul Sheldon finds himself in Annie’s “care” – it’s a nerve-wracking game of cat and mouse, or shark and octopus. (And if you think you know who will always win in a game between those two, you haven’t seen the video.) Trying to anticipate, reason-with, please, or otherwise deal with a truly crazy person looks like exhausting work. Even more so when you’re horribly wounded, like Sheldon was, and nobody — not even your agentknows where you are. agent

This is actually the second time I read this book. The first time was when it first came out. To be honest, back then I thought Meh. It was one of King’s earliest, if not the earliest, non-supernatural horror story, and frankly, I wasn’t that impressed. People being horrible was nothing new. Give me something freaky and monster-licious, or else! But I’ve grown up, slightly, and now I can really appreciate all the levels of horror King had going on in this book. Just so, so good. Read it!

Dead Ringers

Really Awful Movies

dead_ringersLong before the Winklevoss twins unfriended Mark Zuckerberg, David Cronenberg introduced us to these scheming monozygotes —  the gynegologist duo Bev/Elliot in Dead Ringers.

We’re all fascinated by twins, whether it’s the charming movie of the same name with Messrs De Vito and Schwarzenegger, or the ditsy Vegas girls from The Bachelor.

According to a study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the rate of twin pregnancies in the United States is 32 per 1000 births in 2006. It’s rare, and it’s genetic, but it’s their use in nature/nurture studies that probably piqued Cronenberg’s interest, what with his background in the biological sciences.

Like Cronenberg’s early horrors, Dead Ringers is a mutant movie, in this case, “mutant women,” treated by a team of twin brother gynecologists, the Doctors Mantle, who operate out of a high-tech Toronto clinic where their surgical team dress like Spanish Inquisitors in showy red robes.

And only someone…

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Escape from New York

Really Awful Movies

escapefromnewyork1A match for They Live in terms of sheer paranoia + entertainment value, Escape from New York is a ballbuster.

Who needs a peninsular Panopticon when, in the near future, all of Manhattan is a prison and there aren’t even any guards?

Air Force One careens into the Big Apple, but not before the US president exits via escape pod. Unfortunately he’s been captured on the island, soon after he touched down.

Luckily, there’s one man who can save the day. And that man, is Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell). He’s a former special forces op, before Steven Seagal ruined that designation in perpetuity. He’s a King of the Prison Break Movies before our rotund aikidōka ruined those as well. He wears an eyepatch and has awesome flying/shooting skills while lacking stereoscopic binocular vision.

In exchange for his freedom (Snake is a convicted bank robber), he’s compelled into what on the surface…

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“The Black Cat,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Cask of Amontillado,” by Edgar Allen Poe

I’ve loved Poe’s work ever since I was introduced to him as a kid. Bedtime reading has always been a thing for me, so you can imagine what happened the first time I read “The Pit and the Pendulum” before bed – parental shouting to “Go the hell to sleep!” followed by threats of what would happen if I didn’t go to sleep, followed by nightmares. Ah, childhood.

Needless to say, I had to have more. Some of that “more” included these tales which quickly became favorites. Re-reading them for this assignment made me realize something I’d never noticed before – they are all written from the killer’s perspective. Also, that “The Black Cat” 220px-Aubrey_Beardsley_-_Edgar_Poe_2 is basically a re-write of “The Tell-Tale Heart.” TellTaleHeart

Both of those two stories involve a nameless protagonist who is bopping along, being a normal human being until one day he develops a twitch – he becomes obsessively, bitterly irritated by something he’d previously professed to “love” – a cat, and an older man, who may, or may not  be, his father. In the cat’s case, the cat became too attached to him, practically tripping him by winding around the narrator’s legs. The old man never did anything to the protagonist, he just had a pale “vulture’s eye” that annoyed, and then infuriated, him.vultures eye

We watch, helplessly, as he becomes more and more obsessed with the objects of his obsession until he finally, brutally kills them. The cat he leaves hanging in a tree – after having gouged one of its eyes out – oh, and the narrator’s wife gets killed too, then buried behind the wall. The old man gets dismembered, and then buried beneath the floor boards.

Both these tales of madness and murder are told by unreliable narrators who refuse to believe in their own madness. Could a madman describe horrors like these in such perfect detail? Could a madman exercise such monstrous patience, and cunning? Could a madman appear so cool and calm even after the police appear?police

The short answer: Yes. Yes, he could.

Poe’s narrators go to great lengths to convince us they are not mad, they could never be mad, while the whole time they are very, very obviously mad.

The third story, “The Cask of Amontillado” cask

– even though it too is told from the perspective of the murderer – is different from these two stories for a number of reasons:

  • There is no obsession over some minor point, developing into a monomaniacal hatred over time (unless you count whatever “slights” Montresor has suffered, which I suppose we can)
  • The atmosphere of this story is light, even witty at times; it takes place during a carnival (and not during the Dark Ages, at night, which is how the other stories feel)
  • The killer’s motives are somewhat more apparent to both him, and us – he seeks revenge for some former slights at the hand of a social superior (the murderers in “The Black Cat” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” both insist there was “no reason” for their crimes, they just happened)
  • The narrator of this story appears to have gotten away with his crime! (unlike the other two killers who are so overcome with guilt they give themselves away just when the police arrive)

However, the ending is familiar in one important way – the murderer walls up his victim. Only here, the victim, poor Fortunato, is not dead when he ends up in the wall. He is still alive! Poe has been leading us from murder to murder to murder. Each one more awful than the last, until finally, he reveals his ultimate horror – it’s not getting accidentally killed like the wife in “The Black Cat”, and it’s not being deliberately killed and dismembered as in “The Tell-Tale Heart. For Poe the worst kind of death is a long, lingering one; where you’re trapped in a dark, forgotten place, and where no one can hear you scream. walled up

And that’s why we’re still reading Poe more than a hundred and fifty years later. cool poe

Batman: The Killing Joke, by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland

A fantastic graphic novel, originally written in 1988, Batman: The Killing Joke is still being discussed by comic book fans. The most obvious reason, initially, is because of Bolland’s stunning, legendary art. That’s what draws you in – all those amazing pictures. Bolland’s Batman is truly the Dark Knight, while his Joker is deliriously, magnificently insane. Know how you can tell? Those perfect, yellow teeth. 

Anyway, so you come for the art, but you stay for the story. Alan Moore is the guy who wrote The Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and From Hell – all extraordinary works that went on to become terrific films.   

The Killing Joke is supposed to be a stand-alone story in the Bat-verse – not part of the accepted canon, but tolerated as an alternate nightmare coming from the minds of two masters. Here we see an origin story for the Joker where he’s just a regular guy with a wife, and a kid on the way, who gets led astray by his criminal pals. This Joker seems almost unbearably naïve – anyone can see those “friends” of his are up to no good. (Of course, it helps that all the early Joker bits are done in a kind of Forties-style black and white. Nothing says “mob” and “criminal” like guys in fedoras and cheesy moustaches.) 

The Joker, appropriately enough, is a failed comic. But he used to be a lab assistant at a chemical plant, and that’s how he gets mixed up with the bad guys – they want to rob that plant – although I don’t think the reason why they want to do that is ever made clear. When it goes bad, the crooks run away, leaving their “friend” behind to get caught. Batman chases him; he falls into a vat of mysterious chemicals and eventually emerges as The Joker.

So Batman is there at The Joker’s beginning. You could say he was the cause of The Joker, because he never would have fallen into those chemicals if Batman hadn’t been chasing him. Maybe Batman feels a little responsible for the guy. Maybe The Joker blames him a little. Maybe a lot. In any case, in this story The Joker is trying to “Make a Point” – yes, he’s one of those psychos – by doing as much damage as he can think of to two people Batman holds dear – Commissioner Gordon and his daughter, Barbara. Things get pretty heinous. You could even say they get graphic

And the point The Joker is trying to make here? That anyone, anyone can be driven insane if given enough incentive. It’s been his theme song all along, it seems. The excuse The Joker needs to believe, the rationale has been telling himself all these years – It’s not my fault I’m crazy.

Does he succeed? Does The Joker manage to ruin three good people just so he can finally feel good about himself?

As if. Read it and find out for yourself.

I’ve been reading comics for years. The best ones are amazing collaborations of art and literature, and Batman: The Killing Joke is one of the best.

Joyride, by Jack Ketchum


Jack Ketchum’s writing is astonishing.

Pretty much as soon as I started reading this book, my entire body wanted to clench up. Literally. I usually read in bed before turning in, and by the end of the first chapter I had to remind myself to relax – it’s only a story.

So Ketchum really knows how to ratchet up the tension and keep it there.


The guy is talented. However, despite that, I didn’t like this book. I’ve read one or two other Ketchum books – since he is often found lurking in the horror section of Barnes and Noble – and even though they definitely had an effect on me, it wasn’t one that I liked.

Joyride is the story of Carole, an abused ex-wife, and Lee, her lover. They plot together to knock off Carole’s ex, since he can’t seem to either stay away from his ex-wife, or to keep his hands off her. The police, of course, see nothing and do nothing since the ex is a local, powerful businessman (is there any other kind in these stories?). The plan? Lure the ex to a secluded place in a nearby public park – lots of woods, hiking trails, and varied topography. You get the picture. Then, after a rather clunky murder of the ex, Carole and Lee take off, shocked by their experience, but also relieved. Like, Thank God, that’s over.

Except that it’s not. Up on a hill, looking down on them the whole time, is batshit-crazy Wayne. Wayne had just been in the process of trying to strangle his girlfriend while having sex with her, but it wasn’t working out. She gets up and leaves in a huff – and Wayne lets her go. It is here that Wayne’s character – bored, fickle, randomly violent – starts to emerge.

(I always cringe for the close-encounter- almost-victims in fiction and true stories: Girl, do you know how close you came…? Shiver.)

Anyway, Wayne watches the desperate lovers do the deed. Then when a nervous Lee glances up to see if anyone is around, Wayne recognizes Lee as a sometime-patron of the bar where he works.

Ouch. More randomness at play.

In that moment, Wayne mistakes them for his long-lost soul mates in murder and decides to make friends. It’s kind of all downhill from there for Carole and Lee as their lives descend into a pit of murder, rape, torture and mayhem, courtesy of their buddy, Wayne.

Joyride is not exactly like a written version of a gore-fest movie since there is an effort to create real and sympathetic characters with Carole, Lee and Lieutenant Rule, but it’s kind of a limp-fish attempt.

The depiction of Carole as an abused ex-wife felt like a checklist job. I also felt like Lee was just going through the motions of acting as the ardent, righteous lover who saves his girlfriend from her nasty old man. Towards the end, there, I honestly thought he was going to tell Carole, Bitch, you are too high-maintenance for me. I am outta here. But then he got killed before he could. Lieutenant Rule, the one cop in town who’d kept half-an-eye on Carole’s plight while she was going through hell, seemed like he’d wandered out of a different novel. You know, like maybe a detective story where he was the protagonist?

The real star of Joyride, though, had to be Wayne. He was a realistic, creepy psychopath; there’s no denying it. The fact that he was an amalgamation of two real-life psychopaths only made him stronger, in my opinion.

Speaking of that, a few people have complained that Ketchum basically steals his story ideas from true life situations and people. There is nothing wrong with this. We all do it to some extent as writers, and remember – Robert Bloch did it with Psycho and everyone loved it.

As far as I’m concerned, Ketchum is a terrific writer. His stories grab you by the throat and squeeze,

turning your head towards the horror that waits.

I just wish that horror was something more interesting than humanity at its worst.

Seven, directed by David Fincher


I’ve had a complicated relationship with this movie. I’ve seen parts of it, several times, whenever it’s been shown on TV. Once or twice I might have seen most of it, but because it was so damnably QUIET I was never sure what was going on, or who was doing the killing. So this time I rented the DVD from the library and activated the closed caption feature.

Voila! Now I know what the hell is going on.

As it turns out – quite a lot.

Here we have one of the serial killer classics – a killer with an axe to grind.axe

Or, as I like to call it – a Guy with a Theme.

This guy’s problem is that humanity is corrupt, and so the best way to point this out to the blind masses is to make an example of seven “lucky” winners – by killing them. This killer, known only as John Doe (and played by the delightful Kevin Spacey), is a big fan of the Seven Deadly Sins. seven deadly sins

And, as every writer knows, once you have your theme down, everything else just falls into place. Now, armed with his list – gluttony, greed, sloth, lust, pride, envy and wrath – John Doe sets out to teach the world “A Lesson”.

However, unlike most of the serial killers we’ve encountered in this course, John Doe is very fastidious. He prefers to have his victims kill themselves. With a little firm “encouragement” from him, of course. You’ll thank me later, he no doubt tells them.

So, what can we make of a serial killer who never actually kills anyone himself … oh wait, that’s not quite true. At the end he does kill Tracy Mills (played by a luminous Gwyneth Paltrow), doesn’t he? He kills an “innocent” – someone who was not guilty of any of the seven deadly sins herself – but who was “responsible” for making him guilty of the sin of envy.

How’s that for evil?  evil

Other than that little slip up at the end, though, John Doe is a clever, and well-read, killer. He has the detectives assigned to his case – William Somerset, played by the always-great Morgan Freeman, and David Mills, played by the always-hot Brad Pitt – scrambling to figure him out. They even – gasp – have to visit the library to do research. (In one of the few light moments in the film, Brad Pitt receives a suspicious-looking item in a crumpled brown bag from a shady-looking guy in a trench coat – the Cliff Notes to Dante’s Inferno.)dante

John Doe is a terrific serial killer (the smart ones almost always are, The Sculptor being an exception), because once you figure out what The Theme is then it’s more like a game – which sin is next, and what will he do to punish the perpetrator?

Plus, serial killers with a Theme usually don’t just pick on women when they are making their point – unless, that is, their point is All Whores Must Die  whores

– so we get that whole equality thing going on, which is nice.

Now having finally seen, and heard, the entire movie, I heartily recommend “Seven” to anyone who loves serial killers. And to all you darkness freaks I say – John Doe is a worthy addition to your messed up collection.

Taxi Driver, directed by Martin Scorsese

taxi driver

One of the greatest films of all time, Scorsese’s look at the disintegration of American culture following the Vietnam War won four Academy Awards in 1976.

Robert DeNiro as Travis Bickle – electrifying. Twelve year old Jodie Foster as child prostitute Iris – astounding.  Everything, and everyone in this film was so realistic, and so good, I could smell the sweat pouring off these guys – summer in New York City before everyone had air conditioning – fuhgeddaboutitac

I hadn’t seen this movie since it originally came out, so I’d forgotten how slowed-down it was in places. Not “Blade Runner” slow, but pretty damned close. This wasn’t a deal-breaker, but it did require the viewer to forget the last 40 years of movies and just go with it. Slow down a little, baby. It’s worth it.

Travis Bickle, our Vietnam vet, has chronic, pernicious insomnia (probably as a result of what he’d seen, and done in Vietnam, although it’s never spelled out). So he figures why fight it? He will work a night job, like drive a taxi. Genius. And it’s as a New York City cab driver that Travis gets to see the city’s, and by extension the country’s, dark and dirty underbelly – violence, crime, drugs, prostitution – it’s all there, all night, every night. The result is that it just feeds, and feeds, Travis’s growing rage.

I had my doubts about this assignment, because even though Travis Bickle does technically kill several guys, they are all bad guys! Travis is not your mother’s serial killer. He is instead a vigilante of the highest order – a good guy who knows all this shit is wrong – and he tries to right that wrong in the only way available to a small fry like him. (And no, the answer is NOT through a vigorous leaflet campaign, or by voting for the best candidate.) vote

Travis gets a gun; in fact he gets a LOT of guns. He practices, he poses – there’s his iconic “You lookin’ at me?” line – and just generally prepares for … what? With a problem as big as “What is wrong with America?” it’s hard to know where to point the gun. Travis flirts briefly with shooting a local politician, but then doesn’t. Although it’s never made clear, I figured Travis chickened out because the guy was too much of a cardboard cutout. There were bigger, more immediate threats to humanity right there in his own backyard. Enter Jodie Foster’s character, Iris. Travis had encountered her briefly when she got in the back of his cab one night, only to be pulled out of it a moment later by her pimp. The pimp, Sport – played by a dazzlingly young Harvey Keitel – tosses a $20 bill at Travis and tells him to “forget about it.” keitel

But Travis can’t. He finds the pimp and pays to meet with Iris. Only instead of adding to her degradation, he tries to save her. He tells her this – prostitution – is “No kind of thing for a person to do.” I love that. He could have gone so many ways in his condemnation – you’re just a kid, prostitution is wrong, it’s a sin, blah blah blah – but instead, he looks at Iris and sees a person. Not an “unfortunate” or a “stupid kid” or a hopeless slut, but a person who should be living a real person’s life. Unable to convince her to leave the life she’s grown accustomed to, he returns later, only this time as an avenging angel. avenging angel

The violent and bloody gunfight that ensues ends with a bunch of bad guys dead, a seriously wounded Travis Bickle, and a crying Iris huddled behind the couch. The police arrive and the newspapers make Travis a hero. Iris’s parents later write to him, thanking him for saving their daughter’s life – she’s back home with them in Pittsburgh and going to school. Travis even re-connects with a woman he tried to date earlier, Betsy, played by Cybil Shepherd.

There has been some speculation that the ending was all just a dying dream, and that Travis actually dies in the shoot-out. However, I think that Scorsese wanted to show us how whimsical fate can be, and just how thin the line between villain and hero can be sometimes. If Travis had been a little quicker with his gun and actually shot the politician instead, he would have been reviled as a murderer. Instead, he kills a pimp, a drug dealer, and a Mafioso – all to save a little girl’s life – and becomes a hero.

As far as I’m concerned, Travis Bickle did not fit the psycho stereotype we’ve come to know and love — no messed up childhood filled with physical and sexual abuse, and killing isn’t the only way he can find emotional satisfaction or sexual release — he was just a guy who got pushed to the edge, and who finally fell over it. Over_The_Edge

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders, by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry

helter skelter

Charles Manson is the first, and only, “true crime” serial killer we have looked at in this course. He is also the only serial killer to come with his own soundtrack, specifically The Beatles’ White Album. He was convinced that every song on the album held hidden significance aimed only at him. He was a lot like Stephen King’s Annie Wilkes in that he felt his musical idols, The Beatles, were speaking directly to him in their music. Only instead of creating romantic fantasies as a result of this belief (like most starry-eyed fans), Manson became convinced they were telling him to start a race war with their song lyrics, specifically the song, “Helter Skelter.”

This book is the work of the prosecuting attorney – Vincent Bugliosi – who was pretty much responsible for realizing that a seemingly unrelated series of murders in the Hollywood hills actually were related.  And, that they were the work of one man and his “family”. It was fascinating for the most part, even when I felt like I was getting bogged down by the weight of all that detective work.

Charles Manson, like nearly all of our fictional serial killers, had a shitty childhood. As a result, he’d spent most of his life in prison by the time of the murders. And of course, he has been in prison ever since.

Manson is a lot like John Doe, the serial killer in “Seven” in that he gets others to do the actual, messy killing. Only in his case, the motivation is not personal, or sexual, or moral. It’s political. With a little crazy thrown in there for good measure.

Nowadays it’s hard to imagine what was passing for philosophical thought and political discourse back then, but personal charisma went a long way towards smoothing any rough edges. And Manson apparently had that in abundance. Even so, it is hard to imagine all the hopeless drifters wandering around looking for something to believe in. Instead of joining the Peace Corps and making the world a little bit better, they ended up being part of a “family” who believed their leader was a man of vision who would help them survive the coming Armageddon. The fact that they were creating the seeds for that biblical event by committing these shocking, high-profile murders seems to have only made it sweeter.

If this post has not been full of my usual, snarky comments and wacky pictures it’s because, unlike every other killer we’ve encountered this term, Charles Manson and his “family” of weak-minded toadies was real. And their victims were real. Somehow it’s not as much fun poking holes in a serial killer’s motivation and methods when it’s the real thing. Manson is still alive, and still in prison. Most of the “family” is also alive. Before “Helter Skelter”, Manson was a wannabe singer-songwriter, and a number of musicians have recorded his songs.  There is a Charles Manson Fan Club.

Helter Skelter, the bookwas an amazing opus, an operatic rendition of the end of the Sixties. Complete with all the trappings – sex, drugs, rock and roll … and Death. If you were alive then, and you ever had a moment when you thought it would never, could never end – the publication of this book, with its 50 pages of black and white photographs of all the victims, their houses and properties, along with almost 700 pages of painstaking details and mind bogglingly horrifying facts was the final, orchestral blast of the decade. Kind of like the last song on another Beatles albumsgt pepper

The Silence of the Lambs, directed by Jonathan Demme


There is so much going on in this movie, so many conflicting sensations. It’s like standing in the surf up to your waist in the middle of August – you have the light and heat of the sun beating down on you, the chilly water sluicing around your body as the waves rise and fall, the soft sand between your toes, and the knowledge that most shark attacks occur near shore in two to three feet of water. shark-and-surfer

Part of the fun of this movie is having not one, but two, serial killers to play with, er, worry about. The first one we’re supposed to worry about, Buffalo Bill (played by the always delightful, and always surprising, Ted Levine).  Bill is running around killing and then skinning women (thank God it’s not the other way around), and making the FBI crazy. And the second one who is “safely” behind bars, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (played by a chillingly urbane Anthony Hopkins). Lector is a brilliant psychiatrist and a bloodthirsty cannibal.

When the calculating head of the Behavioral Science Unit, Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn), sends little FBI trainee, Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), to go see Dr. Lecter on a fake “mission” to get his serial killer profile it made me cringe. Talk about sending a lamb to the slaughter! However, as is often the case, by the end of the movie everyone in this little threesome gets more than they bargained for.

I have to admit I felt sorry for Buffalo Bill. He was all kinds of messed up and it looked like he had experienced a bad childhood along with mental illness. He was horribly alienated from himself (suffering from gender dysphoria), and other human beings as well. His classic line, “It uses the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose” when speaking to one of his captives pretty much says it all.buffalo-bill

The U.S. Senator’s attempt to humanize her captive daughter on TV definitely fell on deaf ears in his case. Besides, I don’t think Bill even owned a television.

On the other hand, Dr. Hannibal Lecter is a whole different kind of serial killer. Unlike Buffalo Bill, Lecter finds it easy, maybe insultingly so, to hide what he is. He’s smart, wealthy, accomplished … he could easily be living a great life, but instead he’s driven by dark desires to do unbelievable things.lecter

At least, we hope he’s “driven” by those desires, and not the other way around. Unlike Buffalo Bill, Lecter seems more “driver” than “driven” when it comes to his murderous impulses. Then there are those creepily heightened senses he possesses – smell definitely, hearing yep, taste probably (ick). Lecter the psychopath is the kind of over-endowed human being who makes me wonder just where humanity is heading, evolutionarily speaking – smarter and kinder? Or smarter and crueler?

But let’s leave these two losers behind, and talk about Clarice Starling. starlingSmart, driven, unbelievably tough – I want to be just like her when I grow up. It is Starling, with her “good bag and cheap shoes” who pierces through Dr. Lecter’s egotism and boredom, causing him to recognize her for that rare bird, an authentic human being. Dr. Lecter, to his credit, returns the favor and acknowledges Starling’s worth and professionalism. (Something it takes her boss, Jack Crawford, an entire movie to do, by the way.)

So it’s no surprise at the end when she could conceivably shout at Crawford (who is slowly going upstairs), and tell him Lecter is on the phone right now, but she doesn’t. You could take the cynical approach and say Lecter was playing Starling (and who would know how to better than him?), but I think at the end they were just two outsiders who’d grown to respect, and maybe just a little bit, like each other.jodie-and-anthony