The horror genre is the hardest nut to crack. Countless studio endeavors lead to a surplus of cheap found footage films and your familiar slasher that plagues audiences everywhere. It’s a genre filled with as many tropes if you were to combine the other tropes from every other genre. There are only so many different ways to tell a story about an exorcism. Every once in a while we’ll find some diamonds in the rough with the likes of The Babadook or It Follows. The originality found in those movies is present in the stories being told but most importantly it lies in the execution. Take the familiar and explore it through a distinct lens. What Bryan Fuller and company have accomplished on Hannibal for its three brief seasons not only explores familiar stories from a new perspective, it carves its own home in the genre and creates a tall throne from which to oversee all modern horror.
The world of Hannibal fits comfortably alongside other adaptations of the Thomas Harris novels, marking its own unique approach to how it shows the audience the horrific crimes, relishing the darkness surrounding our protagonists. In every adaptation of Red Dragon, Hannibal Lecter asks Will Graham “Have you ever seen blood in the moonlight? It appears quite black.” Lecter resides in the darkness, enticing others to take the plunge into a world of warm black liquid.
The visceral exploration of these breaking minds lends itself to a more abstract form of cinematic storytelling. Characters in their mind palace will often blend reality with visions of their own making – and occasionally someone else will make it for them. The mind palace can be a place of freedom or solace, but when Dr. Hannibal Lecter comes into play, the mind is a prison. Flashes of characters emerging from unnatural liquids, or people transforming into creatures such as wendigos or dragons. Imagery and writings revolve around these characters becoming something grander or scarier from the world around them. The gradual transformations remain elegant and terrifying all the same.
Hannibal’s horror doesn’t come from the hyper-stylized kills and the macabre nature of the show doesn’t demean its richness, it all works in tandem to further the show’s exploration of Hannibal’s grasp on people he chooses to surround himself with. The true terror lies within Hannibal’s claws as they sink further within his victims, his lovers, and accomplices (because those exist in this show). Like an excited child, he winds up his toys and waits to see what happens. Forces collide, some stray far into the unknown, and the outcome is never pretty. And yet Hannibal is still about more than the extent of the cannibalistic Dr. Lecter’s hold on those he surrounds himself with. It’s a romantic tragedy between two men, and their affair will become its own beast entirely.
Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham’s tumultuous romance isn’t what one should consider “bae goals” but it’s one worth examining, like all the relationships in this series, for being absurdly fucked up. From friends to adversaries, potential lovers, lovers scorned, and ultimately two men whose fates would remain intertwined forever, Hannibal enticed the characters and the audience to dive into Bryan Fuller’s distinct take on already recognizably twisted material.
This is Dr. Lecter’s world, everyone else just lives in it. Will Graham is the best and worst hope for ending the cannibal’s reign of terror. He’s just as likely to outsmart the monster as he is to join him as a murder husband. “Is Hannibal in love with me,” asks a doe-eyed former FBI agent. The two wrap around each other like a coiled snake, constantly one-upping each other as the embodiment of “can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em.” It’s less cat and mouse, more straight up murderous seduction. Beyond the confines of normality for a television program, Fuller and company took risks with this show. It paid off for three miraculous seasons. Haunting, beautiful, and intimate, there’s never been a show quite like Hannibal, at least not one quiet so interested in exploring the psychological and romantic sides of horror. It’s a sure bet to inspire a legion of horror shows and films through the years, as its fandom cries out for more servings from our favorite cannibal. Like the most spoiled food palette, we can go back to our previous meal plan. We know in our hearts where the richest servings lie.
At the edge of an eroding cliff, two men stand against a darkened sky as the bask in the aftermath of what can only be called a love crime. The affection shared in this moment penetrates the entirety of the show. From in front and behind the camera, unbridled passion is brought to the forefront by everyone involved. As the battle with a Great Red Dragon comes to a close, before the cold light of day pours over our two lovers, we can only hope Hannibal‘s blood appears a little less black.