Here Be Monsters

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Good novels don't often make good movies. The communion of author, character and reader is usually lost in translation. But Thomas Harris' Lecter stories have been blessed with caring midwives: four films and not a lemon among them. The trick, which Red Dragon pulls off in smart fashion, is to take sensation seriously, to find its root in loneliness and love.

Everyone — the detective (Edward Norton), the supervillain (Anthony Hopkins), his acolyte killer (Ralph Fiennes) and the blind girl he befriends (Emily Watson)--is a wounded creature with the gift, or curse, of second sight. They see too deeply into both want and fear. They recognize that it is equally risky to know oneself or reach out for another. For inside us all, the dragon dwells.

This darkly seductive, flawlessly acted piece is worlds removed from most horror films. Here monsters have their grandeur, heroes their gravity. And when they collide, a dance of death ensues between two souls doomed to understand each other. The brilliant creepiness of the novels and the films derives from their daring to walk into the haunted house of madness, and live there. You may be able to shake off the scares and the gore of Red Dragon, but the sorrow in its unquiet heart will follow you home.