Monday, July 1, 2013

¡Qué horror! 2013 Candidate #14

¡Qué horror! 2013
Candidate #14

(April 2013)

For the record, I love Bryan Fuller’s TV work (though the Mockingbird Lane pilot did leave me wanting), and the show of his I really, truly, and completely loved was Wonderfalls.
So the fact that Caroline Dhavernas is part of the cast of Fuller’s adaptation of Hannibal is all sorts of awesome.

Of course, that’s not the reason why I’ve singled out Hannibal--another TV series (after Les Revenants)--for a ¡Q horror! candidate slot this year; Dhavernas is many things, but a “horror” she most certainly is not.
Hannibal is here because this is a solid adaptation of Thomas Harris’ serial killer novels featuring Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter.
Ostensibly, Red Dragon is the main source material for the show, a novel which has already been adapted to film twice, in 1986 by Michael Mann under the title Manhunter, and in 2002, by Brett Ratner.
According to Fuller’s roadmap of the show though, Hannibal Season 4 would be the adaptation proper of Red Dragon, while, if the stars align, we may actually see a television adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs,* envisioned as Season 5 of the show, should we get that far.
And if the level of creative quality remains constant (or hopefully, actually increases), then that’s a future I’d very much like to see. 

In Season 1 alone, we’ve got some heavy directorial hitters like David Slade (whose excellent Awake Pilot was one of last season’s TV highlights), Michael Rymer (who solidified his geek cred with his work on Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica), and 75-year-old Peter Medak (who scarred many an audience member with the chilling quiet horror of 1980’s The Changeling).
Then there’s Guillermo Navarro, frequent cinematographer for Guillermo del Toro (including the upcoming Pacific Rim), who won a whole slew of awards--including the Oscar--for his work on El Laberinto del Fauno. Navarro had previously worked with Fuller as DP on the Mockingbird Lane pilot, and here, he directs a trio of episodes (as do both Slade and Rymer, taking a lion’s share of the season between the three of them).
Some Twin Peaks episode helmers are also in here: James Foley (who also brought us the big screen adaptation of Glengarry Glen Ross) and Tim Hunter (no, not the Books of Magic kid).

All that livewire creativity and talent behind the camera, and we haven’t even gotten to the excellent cast.
The cold, clinical detachment Mads Mikkelsen brings to his Hannibal is a fine offset to the twitchy, tortured nature of Hugh Dancy’s Will Graham. And, you know, Mikkelsen had to walk in the intimidating footsteps of both Brian Cox and Sir Anthony Hopkins.
Plus, there are those guest star turns:
Gillian Anderson, who enters at the midpoint of the season, under the beautifully unlikely name of Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier;
Fellow Chris Carter alumnus, Lance Henriksen;
And other past Fuller collaborators: Raúl Esparza, Eddie Izzard, Ellen Greene, and Ellen Muth (but that was a pretty evil way to wrap up her guest starring stint, Mr. Fuller, an evil way…).
So with both Dhavernas and Muth having made their appearances, all we need are either Lee Pace or Anna Friel (or both) to enter Hannibal’s world, and we’ll complete the Past Fuller Leads Trifecta.

In a world where TV procedurals have reached well beyond saturation point, one of the things that saves Hannibal from the potential pitfall of becoming just another one of those “serial killer of the week” shows is the serialized nature of its narrative.
Coming into the show with a general idea of the overarching narrative (from the Harris novels and the previous film adaptations of the material), the audience is hooked. They want to see how the cards fall, they can’t wait for the other shoe to drop, for Graham and company to discover exactly what kind of a monster Lecter really is.
It’s the same approach to story that was successfully utilized in Smallville (at least, for the first few seasons), and more recently, in Bates Motel.
We all know Clark Kent eventually becomes Superman, we all know Norman Bates eventually kills his mother and a whole string of unfortunate motel guests, we all know Hannibal Lecter eventually ends up in the loonybin where he gets to play cat and mouse with Clarice Starling.
Part of the fun lies in watching how we get there.

And thus far, this is some morbid, gruesome “fun.” (Network television is getting away with a lot these days…)
If I could ask for something though, I’d ask for a bit more psychopathology; the show doesn’t really bother to explain the whys of their killers. We meet them fully (mal)formed, without any significant idea of how these sick puppies got so ill, without knowing the twisted road they walked to get here.
It’s almost as if Fuller and company are saying, serial killers really are inexplicable.
It’s almost like they’re saying, there is no “Why.” Serial killers simply are.
And that’s a truly horrifying thought…

* A possibility that both intrigues me (because there were some bits of the novel that were dropped in Jonathan Demme’s adaptation; among them, Jack Crawford’s turmoil, the seeds of which, have already been planted by Fuller and company in Season 1) and terrifies me (because The Silence of the Lambs is one of those brilliant lightning in a bottle moments in cinema, where everything seemed to align exquisitely).
Again, for the record, Demme’s Silence is, thus far, the only Harris film adaptation that I’ve been completely floored by. All the others--from Mann’s Manhunter, through until Peter Webber’s Hannibal Rising--haven’t come even close.
Here’s hoping Fuller’s Hannibal can succeed where all those others failed…

(Hannibal OS’ courtesy of

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