This 1955 film is a strange, nightmarish depiction of evil loose in the land. As the Criterion Collection describes it,
The Night of the Hunter—incredibly, the only film the great actor Charles Laughton ever directed—is truly a stand-alone masterwork. A horror movie with qualities of a Grimm fairy tale, it stars a sublimely sinister Robert Mitchum as a traveling preacher named Harry Powell (he of the tattooed knuckles), whose nefarious motives for marrying a fragile widow, played by Shelley Winters, are uncovered by her terrified young children. Graced by images of eerie beauty and a sneaky sense of humor, this ethereal, expressionistic American classic—also featuring the contributions of actress Lillian Gish and writer James Agee—is cinema’s most eccentric rendering of the battle between good and evil.
I first saw this film at the recommendation of a friend who’d seen it decades earlier, and who shivered when she told me about it. The memory of it still scared her after all those years. While I watched it, my critical side noticed the slow pacing and wondered at some of the artificial-looking sets, but as the story deepened, the film took on the quality of a dream. The children couldn’t run fast enough to escape the evil man pursuing them. No matter what they did, he was still close behind them. The shadows darkened, my heart beat faster, and I couldn’t tell how the horror would end.
The Night of the Hunter is a spooky movie and I hope you like it.
(I’m including a link to Roger Ebert’s review of The Night of the Hunter because I always liked his film criticism, and because I miss his work.)
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