Study Guide

The Silence of the Lambs Shock Rating

Shock Rating

R

While it's nowhere near the gory heights of its brain-eating sequel, Hannibal, The Silence of the Lambs is one bloody appetizer. It was so violent for its time, many actors turned down roles in the movie because of the violence, including Michelle Pfeiffer, Meg Ryan, and Geena Davis. (Source)

The camera lingers on graphic photographs of skinned corpses. Hannibal Lecter bites a chunk out of one guard's face and cuts off another guard's face to use as a mask, and Buffalo Bill sews together a suit women's skins, complete with locally sourced merkin, which we get a gruesome glimpse of as Clarice searches his lair.

What makes this film especially repulsive is the way it engages all the senses in one memorable scene. When a girl is fished up from the river, Clarice is brought in to analyze the body. But first, she and the other professionals in the room put a Vicks Vapo-Rub type substance under their nose. No, they haven't got a cold. It's to mask the stench of the decomposing body.

Clarice has to look at every detail of the body, from the broken fingernails to the diamond-shaped patches of skin removed from the victim's back. But the ultimate discovery is found in the victim's throat. A bug cocoon. And when it is removed with a pair of tweezers, the body seems to sigh, an eerie noise that sticks with you long after the body is wrapped back up and taken away.