One of the biggest injustices of pop culture is that Michael Mann’s Manhunter has been lost in the shadow of the (admittedly brilliant) Silence of the Lambs, as well as the film’s 2002 remake Red Dragon. While I can understand people choosing Silence as their favourite of the series, for me Manhunter stands tall as the best these adaptations have to offer.
It was the late ’80s when the VHS became the dominant videotape format and prices fell to a point where they were affordable. We begin with this home video aesthetic, something that was low quality to see in a movie theatre in 1986, and feels even more dated the increasingly accessible and high-definition standards of today’s cameras.
Before we even see the relevance of family home videos to Manhunter‘s mystery, we are shown perfect homes filtered through the lens of an intruder, disturbing the idyllic sleep of a couple by observing them in the dead of night. The score, partly composed by New Wave band The Reds, builds dread and scatters inflections in the synth drones suggesting that something strange is invading this world. As the wife wakes from her slumber, before she even matches the killer’s gaze, the title card hits.