Hannibal: The Complete Season Two

Hannibal Season TwoWORDS Rich Wilson

Of all the material available for a franchise, the saga of Hannibal Lecter seems the least likely to work within the format of television. Common thought is Thomas Harris’ much-beloved cannibal creation is best with a straitjacket and mask, dispensing pearls of wisdom from behind toughened glass to the FBI. And of course, Anthony Hopkins’ celebrated portrayal is seen as definitive, the classic fava-beans-and-chianti line heard a thousand times and ridiculed from comedians to game show hosts alike. Difficult then, to take the concept and slot it into a story-of-the-week format. However, not only will NBC’s surprise hit show make you forget everything you thought you knew about Lecter, it could easily be the best interpretation yet. Writer Bryan Fuller has sensibly avoided clichés and previous incarnations, keeping only the characters and resetting everything else. It’s a bold and successful move that has produced one of the consistently best shows on TV.

Fuller’s masterstroke was in the casting of Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen as Lecter. Outside of his villainous turn in Casino Royale Mikkelsen is virtually unknown in the US, although devotees of European cinema have long realised his greatness; here he makes Lecter his own. Impeccably dressed, intense, psychotic and always charming, Mikkelsen finds his own vibe for the character and completely stays away from Hopkins’ portrayal. The counterbalance comes from the equally good Hugh Dancy as FBI profiler Will Graham, almost as crazy as Lecter, who hallucinates the gruesome murders he investigates as a means of catching the perpetrator. The show rests on these two characters and their interaction and Mikkelsen and Dancy are superb, sparking off each other in tension-filled scenes. Fine support comes from Laurence Fishburne and a selection of continuing guest supports from the likes of Michael Pitt (brilliant as the doomed Mason Verger) and Gillian Anderson as Graham’s very odd therapist.

And of course, Will Graham needs therapy, locked away in an asylum after Lecter framed him for a series of brutal slayings at the climax of the first season. That twist was daring and audacious, and the first half of season two explores its implications, Lecter loose to construct his little schemes while Graham slowly regains his sanity. Season two tends to drop the killer-of-the-week formula in favour of the longer, slow-burning story of these two men—one suspects Fuller planned it this way all along—and the show is all the better for it. As the season runs it becomes difficult to see the line between sane and psycho that Graham and Lecter present. It culminates in a truly outstanding two-part finale that cannot be predicted, and a final twist that very cleverly harks back to the beginning of the season, with the wily Lecter once again pulling all the strings. Fuller has stated he wants the show to run for six seasons, bringing in characters from both the books and movies. That’s an appealing prospect, particularly if this level of quality can be maintained. With a plethora of great television currently on offer—Boardwalk EmpireThe StrainThe Walking DeadHannibal by far and away has the greatest depth. Beautifully written and performed, it looks stunning, is genuinely unsettling, and for those who seek out visceral pleasures, bloody and gruesome—if you want to see someone sewed inside a horse, this is the show for you.

The quality of the home release does justice to NBC’s faith in the show, with a feature-length behind-the-scenes documentary that covers all aspects of production; interviews; features; plenty of deleted scenes; and commentary from cast and crew on half of the episodes (during which Mikkelsen proves himself to be ridiculously funny). This is a fine package, a good way to catch up or revisit, and a great primer for the next season of television’s most mouth-watering show.

Hannibal: The Complete Season Two is available on DVD and Blu-ray now. To win a copy on DVD, enter details below.

The ‘Burbs

WORDS Naila ScargillThe Burbs

As a film fully deserving of its cult status, the news of a Blu-ray release for Joe Dante’s ‘Burbs was great news indeed, and this Arrow release does not disappoint. True to form, the distributor has put out what is surely the film’s definitive version; a transfer approved by Dante himself is perfect in its imperfection, holding a pleasing slight graininess. And, as is expected, there is an impressive array of extras.

For a film not particularly well received at the time, The ‘Burbs has dated very well, its mixed tone balanced perfectly. The horror, while dark at heart, is presented in slapstick fashion, and the comedy remains laugh-out-loud funny, boosted by at times improvised dialogue—the shoot took place during a writers’ strike—that contributes a sense of mayhem as the characters agitate themselves into a frenzy. It’s testament to the actors’ chemistry and effectively underlines the sense of community the premise hinges upon: that of suburban values versus the unknown, a wry look at small-town xenophobia.

There is nothing a hard-core fan could want for in this package. Most essential of all are Dante’s personal workprint cut and “A Tale of Two Burbs”, which compares the differences between the latter and theatrical cut, with an optional commentary from Dante.

The ‘Burbs is available on Blu-ray now

White Settlers

WORDS Naila Scargill White Settlers

To tout White Settlers as a ‘Scottish referendum horror’ is a simplistic nonsense; there is no sociopolitical philosophy to be had here, the script and its characters far too paper-thin to achieve anything but what the film is: a paint-by-numbers home invasion. This much is clear within the first few minutes, as Sarah and Ed, a young couple, view a house for purchase: the estate agent is politely hostile, and informs them of the house’s history as the site of a battle between the Scots and English; and Ed shows his prejudiced view of Scottish countryfolk as he sneers his reluctance to move away from city life. Add a tiresome overemphasis on the lack of phone signal and the first act does not even attempt to move away from cliche.

Thankfully this gives way to a fairly taut second act that, again, approaches nothing new, but sees a fine, believable performance from Pollyanna McIntosh; free of wooden dialogue, she singlehandedly carries the film. The suspense here is meted out well, some good imagery — a moonlit silhouette of one of the pig-men attackers is a nice touch — complementing events to highlight the desperation of Sarah’s situation. All good work is undone with a crude final act, however, which leads to an unintentionally laughable climax.

White Settlers opens today