Aside from being an acclaimed filmmaker, Quentin Tarantinoo is also an avid movie watcher, who closely studies the various ways in which directors use filming techniques to create the right atmosphere for the audience. In a recent interview for Empire, Tarantino contended that the scene where Cliff Booth enters Spahn Ranch in his movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is more terrifying than the end of The Silence of the Lambs.
"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... That sequence [at the end of The Silence of the Lambs] 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."
For context, in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Brad Pitt in the role of Cliff enters Spahn Ranch, which, unknown to him, is the lair of a murderous cult. Cliff's investigations lead him straight into the den of the cult, and for some time, a grisly death at the hands of crazed killers seems definitely on the cards for the character. Thankfully, Cliff leaves before anything drastic happens.
On the other hand, the end of Silence of the Lambs saw Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster, entering the lair of the notorious serial killer Buffalo Bill on her own. After a tense battle in which Bill very nearly overpowers her, Clarice finally gains the upper hand. According to Tarantino, the difference between his movie and The Silence of the Lambs comes down to what separates terror from 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."
Clearly, Tarantino has very strong ideas about what constitutes true terror. And now we can't help but wonder what a pure horror movie made by Quentin Tarantino would look like. The director had addressed the possibility a few years ago, admitting that his fondness for injecting humor into scenes would prevent him from making something like The Exorcist.
"If I had all the time in the world, I would love to make a really, really scary horror film, like The Exorcist. But I don't know if me taking my sense of humor and putting it in the backseat just to hit a tone of dread from beginning to end is the best use of my talents or my time. I don't know if I could let go of that humor and be able to make something like The Exorcist and keep that tone of dread all the way through."
This news originated at planetradio.co.uk with the Empire podcast.