By Jerome Reuter
Not to long ago, the talk of television was a show called Hannibal. The show was somewhat of a prequel to Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, focusing on the relationship between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter. This was just one of many incarnations of the worlds infamous Psychiatrist turned cannibalistic serial killer. At the same time, there’s currently a show entitled Bates Motel, probing the early years of Norman Bates. Both of these offer an interesting backstory into two very different antagonists. Both of these villains have had their exploits carries out on he screen for decades. However, my question is; are these shows really necessary?
In my opinion, that question yields two completely different answers. On one hand, horror has a guaranteed audience. No matter what style and adaptation may take, many of can’t help but rush out to see what form a new interpretation may take. Learning the origin of a villain is always something audiences find fascinating. How did Norman go mad? What was his relationship with his mother like? At times, our curiosity ponders these questions. In Manhunter, we know Graham caught Lecter, so how did it happen? Knowing what the end result was for both of these characters, it is interesting to see how everything transpired. We’re aware of the effect, but what’s the cause?
There is a downside to having programs such as these. It’s also a downside that’s impossible for me to overlook. Shows such as these rob the characters of their mystique; they take so much away from the imagination. Both Lecter & Bates are characters that have a certain aura about them. In some ways, the less we know about them–the better. It all boils down to ‘less is more.’ We KNOW Lecter’s a madman, who has a way of getting into your head. We KNOW Norman Bates is someone who barely holds onto his own sanity. So much emphasis on their backstory is the equivalent of too much exposition dialogue in a screenplay. If we know who the killer is after reading two pages of a story, then what’s the point of finishing the murder mystery? Sometimes, it’s what we don’t know that keep characters such as this so endearing.
Personally, I’m not a fan of these shows myself. I can understand why other people would be. Curiosity of the unknown will always be a guaranteed draw. I see shows such as this as nothing more than a cash grab, there’s always a dollar to be made. Both Manhunter and Psycho were films that wove their way into our dreams, and made iconic screen villains in the process. I’m not sure what the future will hold, but it’s bound to be better than Hannibal Rising