Why Quentin Tarantino Thinks Once Upon A Time In Hollywood Is More 'Terrifying' Than The Silence of The Lambs

Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lector in The Silence of the Lambs

There are few filmmakers more respected than Quentin Tarantino. The Oscar-winning director has had an indelible impact on Hollywood and is considered by some to be one of the best filmmakers of all time. His films are known for their controversy, snappy R-rated dialogue and ultra-violence, but recently the director suggested that his latest, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, is more terrifying than Jonathan Demme’s classic The Silence of The Lambs.

While talking to fellow director Edgar Wright, Quentin Tarantino suggested that the Spahn Ranch scene from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is truly terrifying. Eventually he went on to compare it to The Silence of the Lambs' finale. First he addressed his own scene, saying:

When you watch the movie with an audience the first time... it achieves something I think is difficult to achieve in a movie. It achieves terror. The audience is terrified for Cliff and the air in the theater changes. They are genuinely afraid.

In his interview on the Empire Film Podcast, Tarantino mentions that there is terror in his own film versus the ending scene of The Silence of the Lambs, which he says is wonderfully executed but not necessarily terrifying. As he put it,

That sequence [the ending] is magnificent. I would push back on one aspect of it though. I've seen some movies before. I did not think Jodie Foster was going to die. At that point in the movie I would have been surprised if it ended with Buffalo Bill killing Jodie Foster. No, I've seen too many movies to think that was actually going to happen... One of the reasons that that scene [Spahn Ranch] works so effectively is because Cliff could die.

After discussing audience reactions for a number of films, including Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, Hot Fuzz and The Silence of the Lambs Quentin Tarantino noted what he considered to be the differences between terror and suspense:

There's a difference between suspense and terror. On one hand it's razor thin on the other hand It's as wide as the Grand Canyon. Suspense is ‘what's going to happen?’ Terror is [when] you know exactly what is going to happen and you don't want to see it.

According to Tarantino the final showdown between Buffalo Bill and Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling doesn’t qualify as terror. While that is certainly a hot take, I can see where he is coming from. The Spahn Ranch scene in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is absolutely a nail-biting sequence, but is it more ‘terrifying’ than The Silence of the Lambs? In Tarantino's eyes, it looks like that’s the case.

In Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt, finds himself at the infamous Spahn Ranch, a former studio lot that was inhabited by Charles Manson and his followers. What follows is a taught stand-off between Booth and the residents of the ranch.

Fortunately for Cliff Booth, he makes it out alive. But he could have just as easily been killed, at least according to Tarantino. That slight difference is what elevates the scene into pure terror, as opposed to the suspense at the end of The Silence of the Lambs. While I certainly understand Tarantino's point, as he has no qualms about killing off major characters in his movies, I don’t know if I’m sold on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood being more terrifying than one of the best horror movies of all time.

What do you all think? Is that Spahn Ranch scene really more terrifying than the final confrontation between Clarice Starling and Buffalo Bill? Vote in the poll below or let us know in the comments, because I’m not sure if I’m sold on the idea yet.

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Braden Roberts

Into tracksuits by Paulie Walnuts, the Criterion Channel and Robert Eggers.