'Hannibal' vs. 'Silence of the Lambs': What's Different?

Yahoo! TV

Step aside, "The Following," because the next mind-controlling serial killer to hit the small screen is here, and he's hungry. NBC's new thriller drama "Hannibal" is the prequel to the story that has terrified millions since it went mainstream in 1991's Oscar-winning "Silence of the Lambs." 

But is it even possible for "Hannibal" to touch the unforgettable nightmare fuel that was Sir Anthony Hopkins's "Lambs"? Maybe so! Because this new imagining of the cannibalistic tale is set many years before the film and even before the novel of the same name by Thomas Harris that it's all based on.

Here's how the new take on Hannibal Lecter's life compares with the film version that made him a household name.

A free man

"Silence of the Lambs" fans can scarcely remember a Hannibal that's not behind bars -- or wearing a muzzle or the severed face of a cop. Until now. "Hannibal" explores the life of Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) before his incarceration, when he was still one of the world's most respected psychiatrists. We will finally get to see fiction's most refined serial killer in his early days as a free man, with no stigma, carefully juggling his double life and concealing a deep, dark secret -- which, as the movie reveals, must have been hard for such a prideful man.

Buckets of blood

"Lambs" is pretty gruesome -- no question. Who can forget the human-skin coat? But ultimately it's more of a psychological thriller than a straight-up bloodbath. The TV show seems to be taking a heavier hand with fake blood and gore -- serving up graphic blood spurts and puddles, impaled bodies, and questionable gourmet meals.

Get a glimpse of the gory crime scenes and Lecter's home in this "Hannibal" trailer:

The finer things in life

It was pretty obvious in "Silence of the Lambs" that Lecter was not exactly living in the manner to which he was accustomed; his cell block was packed with foul characters, to say the least. So if you ever wondered what Lecter's hoity-toity life of art, sophisticated clothes, architecture, red wine, and, er, fine food was all about, "Hannibal" is your chance to find out.

Lecter's creepy yet grand Gothic pad -- which is filled with odd memorabilia, such as stuffed birds and mesh fencing masks -- includes a lavish library and, of course, a top-of-the-line kitchen.

More Hannibal

Did you know that Anthony Hopkins appeared in "Lambs" for only 16 minutes? Hard to believe, but it's true. (Not too bad for taking home the best-actor Oscar.) "Hannibal" will give the psychopath/sociopath a lot more screen time and therefore a lot more chances for you to sleep with the lights on.

Mikkelson talks about what drives his "Hannibal" character: 

William Graham is the new Clarice Starling

In order for FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) to solve the case of Jame Gumb (aka Buffalo Bill) in "Silence of the Lambs," she had to walk a slippery slope of trusting Lecter and detesting the cunning monster that he was. In "Hannibal," the detesting part is not even a factor (at least at first), because his sick and horrifying habit is still on the down-low.

Instead, Special Agent William Graham (Hugh Dancy), a criminal profiler and serial-killer hunter who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, develops a seemingly trusting friendship with Lecter while depending on him for psychological support. Lecter is hired by FBI Behavior Sciences head Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) to help ensure that Graham doesn't lose his mind. Oops, bad decision.

Watch a "Hannibal" preview clip of Lecter, Graham, and Crawford: 

More cases

As bone chilling as Hopkins was as Lecter, Ted Levine as the serial killer Buffalo Bill was no walk in the park. Buffalo Bill, who kidnapped women so that he could later make a coat out of their skin, was the focus of the FBI's investigation for the entire movie. And it was Lecter who cryptically helped Starling capture the psycho. In "Hannibal," there will be a lot more bad guys for Graham and the FBI to hunt down -- with Lecter's "help," of course. Some cases on the docket: In Episode 1, "Aperitif," college girls are disappearing, and the feds are on the case of this disturbing trend; in Episode 2, "Amuse-Bouche," the BAU is hunting down a murderer who buries victims alive in order to cultivate mushrooms.

So, who's hungry? Tune in to the premiere of "Hannibal" on Thursday, 4/4 at 10 PM on NBC.

Check out photos from "Hannibal":