The Silence of the Lambs can best be described as a classic contemporary Horror film, regardless as to what others may say. Some may call it a Thriller, some will say Suspense, whatever. It all boils down to it's subject matter, and at it's core, it's a Horror film.
There are a lot of affective scenes that manage to get under your skin. The way Hannibal Lecter speaks, being a Psychologist...but also Psychotic. Managing to affectively get under a persons skin, right into their psyche...because he knows exactly how to do it. Any scene involving Buffalo Bill is truly something to be genuinely turned off by, but also you can't help but be interested in the mind of the character.
Their is clearly an American fascination with Serial Killers. The darkest depths of the human mind has always been of interest, especially film makers. It's a pity though that a lot of them can't seem to grasp that side of the world, but I feel that in many aspects, this film does.
Thomas Harris (author of the book the film is based on) got a lot of inspiration for the character of Buffalo Bill from very prolific Serial Killers the likes of Ted Bundy, Ed Gein, and Gary Heidnik. While in the film his past isn't really heavily delved into, you get a good grasp on the man, as he wasn't always this way. Lecter said it best: "Billy was not born a criminal, but made one by year of systematic abuse."
Ted Tally wrote an amazing script, given what he was working from with Thomas Harris' novel. And Jonathan Demme filmed a really great and tight thriller.
Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling is nothing short of an amazing performance. A woman cop, with a lot of psychological depth and baggage, being the main character in a Horror-Thriller is so rare, but it works wonderfully here. It's a hybrid: Cop thriller, Horror, Psychological Noir piece. By making the hero a woman is a plus, as you've definitely stepped away from the basic well known formula, bust she's also a heroic figure trying to figure out the riddle.
Hannibal Lecter is the most popular villain known to the Horror realm. A good man, locked inside this insane mind. If we deny the dark side of our minds, we live an often bland existence, and they'll end up showing themselves at the most inopportune moments. Anthony Hopkins played the part perfectly and wonderfully. He understood it to a great degree and every scene involving him you're drawn into everything he says, his mannerisms, ticks, etc.