Not surprisingly, many horror movie villains suffer from serious mental illness, mental disorder, or physical ailments that can cause them to behave strangely. Become monsters who commit atrocities against innocent victims, stalking, murdering, raping, molesting and bullying their prey.
Sometimes a vicious cycle of torture, misery, insanity and criminality is created in which the victim becomes the victim of other victims who are often just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Their actions are so horrific that some people confuse their actions with demons, immortal goblins, mutants, ghosts, or demons themselves.
Although these films often allow supernatural and natural possibilities to explain the description of events, medical science usually allows for only one cause, although the cause, mental illness, applies to the villains and victims of films like Stephen King’s enormous, which take many forms to carry out, all horrifying and terrifying.
Although Dr. Glen O. Gabbard’s observations concerning Hannibal Lecter are based on Thomas Harris’s novels, Gabbard’s views are pertinent to the film’s adaptation, too, since the movie franchise featuring Lecter and FBI agent Clarice Starling is founded on Harris’s books.
Gabbard finds the psychology behind Hannibal (1999) rather self-contradictory and the author’s view of psychiatry “ambivalent,” wondering whether “sophisticated readers” are likely to accept Harris’s portrayal of “a hard-core psychopath [with] enduring and loving attachments to internal objects,” but it is clear, from his review of the novel, that Gabbard views Lecter as a character who is intended to represent a psychopath.
For Kaylor Jones, an upper-division student in the Psychology & Counseling program at Grand Canyon University, the DSM’s account of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) (“in some contexts” also known as psychopathy and sociopathy) fits Lecter. ASPD is defined, she says, “as a remorseless, habitual and pervasive disregard for or violation of the regard for others,” which certainly seems to describe the “often charismatic and superficially charming [killer who is able] to quickly analyze people and determine how they can best be manipulated [and who can] switch off their empathy at will.”
Psychology and psychiatry support Harris’s characterizations of his villain as an anti-social psychopath, but what about Starling? What effect is her grueling conflict with Lecter likely to have had on the FBI agent? To find out, we have to turn from Harris’s novels to the CBS television series Clarice (2021).
The series picks up a year after Buffalo Bill’s murder spree and focuses on Starling rather than on Lecter, portraying Starling as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of her encounter with Lecter and, indeed, as a result of her own childhood. As viewers are likely to recall, the cries of the lambs being slaughtered on her relative’s Montana farm traumatized her as a child, causing her to have nightmares about them.