After the 1980s run of horror, the 1990s really took a turn for the worse, didn't they? I have this list that some schmuck made of every horror movie released in a given year and according to what is listed, The People Under the Stairs and Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare are the big contenders for best of the year.
I remember 1991 and not fondly. I also remember my local newspaper running articles on the movie Popcorn and how it was the end of horror movies because of its self-referential nature (who knew that only a few years later this would become THE style). The articles also said Popcorn was the scariest movie released in a long time and that one should only see it if one wanted to be permanently damaged. No, I didn't get to see it. I ran across it on Netflix awhile back and got bored about 30 minutes into it. maybe someday I'll give it another try.
Have you noticed the problem here yet? The list I consult does not include The Silence of the Lambs as a horror movie. Well, screw that guy, right?
So if one of our primary qualifiers is that a horror film must be scary, why isn't this on the list? Sure, there's nothing supernatural about it, but no one ever said the supernatural was a requirement for horror. Misery, the best from 1990, was on that year's list of horror movies. Silence exploits much of the same psychological factors as Misery: it's oppressive, it's claustrophobic, it's deranged.
But maybe it's too real to be horror. This was made in the very early 1990s and the 1970s and 1980s mindset that created it was bludgeoned with serial killers. It's much closer to a police procedural-style thriller than a horror movie. Again, I ask, is it scary? YES. And that's why most of the knock-offs like Copycat and The Bone Collector didn't resonate with horror fans. (Plus, those movies didn't have cameos by Roger Corman.) It comes right down to the fact that Hannibal Lecter and Buffalo Bill are scary and that Clarice Starling, perhaps cinema's most capable "Final Girl," faces them and comes out OK at the end. The Silence of the Lambs is a horror movie. If you disagree, tell me why.