31 Days of Halloween — Day 17: Red Dragon (2002) — by Jody Horror Guy

red-dragon-posterEditor’s note: The hosts of Horror Movie Podcast are always impressed by the knowledge and insights of our listenership in the emails and voicemails that we receive, as well as in the comments here at HorrorMoviePodcast.com. This year we’ve asked several of our listeners to participate in our 31 Days of Halloween by contributing written reviews. This review was submitted by listener and friend of the show Jody Branham… You can follow Jody on Twitter @JodyHorrorGuy.

“If I told you, you wouldn’t even try it,” replies Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the film’s opening when asked what is in the meat they are eating at a dinner party after a night at the symphony. Anthony Hopkins returns as Lecter in the third (although chronologically first) installment of the wonderful (well, mostly wonderful) saga based on Thomas Harris’ novels.
This prequel to Silence of the Lambs centers on FBI Agent Will Graham (Norton), who after suffering nearly fatal wounds from bringing Lecter to justice, is brought out of retirement to help catch a new deadly serial killer. Known as the “Tooth Fairy” because he leaves bite marks in his victims, this new killer slays entire families and leaves shards of mirror glass in their eyes.

The killer, Francis Dolarhyde, (Fiennes) believes he is the “Red Dragon” a mythical figure from a 200 hundred year old painting and has found a new victim in the form of a blind co-worker named Reba McClane (Watson). A lack of clues forces Graham to turn to Dr. Lecter for help. Naturally, its “quid pro quo” and Graham must get on Lecter’s level to decipher his clues.

This film really works because it takes everything that worked in Silence and duplicated it. The best moments of the film come from the exchanges between Norton and Hopkins, who is as deliciously charming and charismatic as he was 11 years prior when he brought home the Oscar for his first portrayal of Lecter in Silence.

Also worth noting is Watson’s superb performance as the blind Reba, who even after finding out that there is something very disturbing about Francis, still wants to believe that there is still some good in him deep inside.

The plot moves with startling intensity, slowing down from physical horror only long enough to let us get into the psychological horrors of both the Red Dragon and Dr. Lecter’s minds. Director Brett Ratner takes a break from buddy-cop action and family drama (in Rush Hour 1&2 and Family Man, respectively) to do something completely different than he has done before. Instead of taking after Ridley Scott’s high action, gross-out approach in Hannibal, he follows in Silence director Jonathan Demme’s footsteps and delivers a movie that is stylish, scary, and well-crafted.

While squeamish viewers and minors should avoid this film, Red Dragon is a must-see.

Score: 9/10

— Jody Horror Guy

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4 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 17: Red Dragon (2002) — by Jody Horror Guy

  1. It’s been a while since I watched this one and I don’t recall liking it quite as much as you do, Jody but these reviews you’ve been contributing are really great! You’ve motivated me to revisit this and give it another chance (not that I hated it or anything, just didn’t quite love it as much as the previous films).

    Out of curiosity have you seen the original adaptation of this novel; 1986’s Manhunter? Of course it lacks Anthony Hopkins in the iconic role of Lecter and maybe plays out as a bit more of a police procedural/crime movie than the more modern take on the franchise (which I personally feel leans more towards horror) but I think it’s worth checking out if you haven’t seen it and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on it if you have.

    • David, I’m with you. I actually think I’ve only watched this once, so maybe I should revisit. Actually, it might be time for a re-watch of the Hannibal trilogy.

      Jody, another excellent review!

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