This comically fastidious telling of the Hannibal Lecter origin story completes the extreme makeover of grindhouse fare that The Silence of the Lambs started 15 years ago. Meaning: Respectable audiences who wouldn’t be caught dead at a (sniff!) horror movie still want severed heads; they just want the bloody meal served on Royal Dalton china. You couldn’t find a fancier chef than Girl with a Pearl Earring director Peter Webber, who backlights every smoke puff and clutters the frame with top-dollar tchotchkes as hungry young Lecter (Gaspard Ulliel) hunts down the lean, flavorful Nazis who ate his chubby-cheeked sister. The movie is so fussily made that it’s tempting to believe Hannibal Rising is actually a massive deadpan joke on Lecter lovers. It’s more tempting, anyway, than another round of distasteful hero worship centered on the myth of the suave mass murderer. (The movie even charts Lecter’s path across Europe on a superimposed map as if he were Indiana freakin’ Jones.) The truth is that Lecter was a lot more compelling as a glorified guest star than as the main attraction.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 6, 2007