This film was done a disservice around the time it was originally released (1995) when it was compared to Silence of the Lambs. I suspect the main reason was due to the fact that the lead investigators in both films are female. That is really, though, where the similarities end.
Dr. Helen Hudson (Sigourney Weaver – Paul, Aliens) is a psychologist and a criminal profiler who specializes in serial killers. She is also an agoraphobic. The agoraphobia began when she was attacked while working on a previous case in which her testimony shot down the insanity plea of killer Daryll Lee Callum (Harry Connick Jr. – Hope Floats, Dolphin Tale). Daryll Lee is sentenced to death and vows to get revenge on Dr. Hudson. He manages to escape prison and attacks Dr. Hudson. Dr. Hudson is now confined in her apartment in San Francisco.
It is now 13 months later and the San Francisco Police Department is investigating what seems to be a series of random murders of women. Inspector Marie Jane Monahan (Holly Hunter – The Piano, The Incredibles) knows that the murders are linked, but Lieutenant Quinn (J.E. Freeman – Miller’s Crossing, Wild At Heart) does not allow the department to speak of a serial killer. Monahan and her partner Reuben Goetz (Dermot Mulroney – My Best Friend’s Wedding, Zodiac) are not allowed to ask for help from the FBI as a result and the investigation is going no where fast.
Dr. Hudson, sitting at home drinking and self-medicating, listens to the police scanner and reading the news sees the stories about the murders. She begins to phone Monahan with tips and theories. Monahan traces her calls and then shows up at Dr. Hudson’s apartment. She wants to enlist Dr. Hudson as a consultant. Dr. Hudson refuses. But the detective is very persistent.
After first suffering from panic attacks while looking at the crime scene photos, Dr. Hudson calms herself down and realizes that the serial killer is replicating the murders of famous serial killers like The Boston Strangler. Monahan and Hudson begin to work closely together to capture this killer.
This is not your typical serial killer whodunit as we know who the killer is almost right off the bat. There is tension throughout, however. The tension is created by us being doled out a little information at a time and the good guys getting put in dangerous situations. The film is well-written and is a thrilling up and down ride. It pulls you in with the engrossing story, good acting, confident directing by Jon Amiel (Entrapment, Sommersby), and beautiful cinematography by the late Laszlo Kovacs.
Both Holly Hunter and Sigourney Weaver have made careers out of playing strong women. Hunter’s character seems to have a handle on things while Weaver’s is just holding on to her sanity. Weaver still uses many of her usual bag of tricks with that strict tone in her voice and plenty of sarcasm. She hits all the right notes with her interpretation of the character.
While this is not a “classic” like Silence of the Lambs it is a decent film within the serial killer genre. It gives us some insight into the minds of serial killers and the people who try to catch them.