Geek Speak

Is Hannibal Lecter the Greatest Serial Killer of All Time?

Serial killing is serious business. If you’re going to be successful at it, you need an eye for detail, a serious work ethic and absolutely nothing resembling a conscience. If you’re going to be great at it, maybe even the greatest, you need even more — style, wit and charm for starters, and a good fanbase that keeps your creator churning out sequels and spinoffs, of course.

What, you didn’t think I meant real serial killers, did you? I’m a weirdo, but not that kind of weirdo.

In the world of fictional serial killers, there is one psycho who towers head and shoulders over all the rest: Hannibal Lecter. Lecter is everything you want your serial killer to be. He’s handsome. He’s charming. He’s well read, an artist of some skill and one hell of a cook. Plus he eats people, manages to escape from even the most exquisitely wrought traps and prisons, and possesses an almost superhuman strength and ferocity. He is a nightmare come to life, which is exactly what you want in your serial killer.

Who would you take over Lecter? Who could you take over Lecter? Let’s start with the man’s fictive accomplishments. He’s starred in four novels, five films, one television series, an 8-bit retro video game and, perhaps most impressively, a musical — and that would be Silence! The Musical, which opens Friday, April 8, at the Bug Theatre. Who can even come close to that? Dexter Morgan might have a similar volume — six novels and a TV show that lasted for eight seasons, which was probably at least four too many, plus an obscure iPad game — but come on, that guy only killed other killers. He’s more like a glorified vigilante, and if we’re going to go that route, I’ll take the Punisher over Dexter.

Oh, the only serial killer who ever won an Oscar? Yeah, that’s Lecter (okay, Anthony Hopkins actually won Best Actor for his portrayal of Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, and the film itself took Best Picture and a bunch more Oscars for most everyone else involved). Nice Golden Globe, Dexter.

When it comes to style, who can touch Lecter? He has impeccable taste in wine, food, travel destinations and even strives to make his kills works of art, as well as delicious and nutritious meals. Yes, Patrick Bateman had his tailored suits, A-list status at New York’s hot spots and high-end business cards, but that guy loved Huey Lewis and the News. How utterly pedestrian can you be, Bateman? If you’re going to be killed and dismembered by a dead-eyed psychopath without a shred of empathy or humanity left in them, wouldn’t you rather it be by a cultured European polymath than some douchey stockbroker with more money than brains? Is there even any question?
Lecter has longevity going for him, too. His first appearance in a novel was in Red Dragon back in 1981, which is 35 years for those who are bad at math. The first movie based off of it, Manhunter, hit just five years later and the legendary Silence of the Lambs film was released just five years after that. Since then, Lecter has rarely strayed far from the top of the pop-culture heap, right up to the present day.  Norman Bates has been around longer, but what the hell did that momma’s boy do that was worth a shit between the 1960 adaptation of his 1959 novelistic debut and the debut of his recent TV show? Not a goddamn thing, other than maybe keep keep wearing his mom’s underwear.

Choose your serial-killing metric, and Lecter is your guy. His victim count is impressive. His creepy flourishes and fetishes are just the right mix of seductive and gut-wrenchingly grotesque. In the hands of one of the latest actors to play him, the incomparable Mads Mikkelsen, he has the best accent of any murderer ever. What else could you ask for? Oh, right, the singing! Well, you can get that at the Bug, where Lecter will serenade you with the joys of eating a man’s liver and the tackiness of Clarice Starling’s shoes, all while helping track down Buffalo Bill. That is a serial killer for the ages.

Silence! The Musical opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 8, at the Bug Theatre and runs through April 30. Tickets are $20 ($17 for groups of six or more) in advance, or $25 at the door. Recommended for mature audiences only. For tickets and more info, visit the Equinox Theatre Company website.

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Cory Casciato is a Denver-based writer with a passion for the geeky, from old science fiction movies to brand-new video games.
Contact: Cory Casciato