The Night Of The Hunter (1955)

Director: Charles Laughton
Plot: A religious fanatic marries a gullible widow whose young children are reluctant to tell him where their real daddy hid $10,000 he'd stolen in a robbery.

Genre: Drama/Film-Noir/Thriller/Horror
Awards: -
Runtime: 93min
Rating: PG for mature themes.



The Night Of The Hunter is highly-rated by many critics whom at first viewing back in the mid 1950s thought it was an appalling piece of work. This is a film that many couldn't appreciate until nearly a few decades after its initial release. Snubbed of all major awards, The Night Of The Hunter will always be remembered for two aspects: Robert Mitchum's ominous performance as Harry Powell, and the extraordinary cinematography.

Mitchum's character is terrifying because he's religiously insane, and he hunts children to his advantage. The terror sequence at the basement in which two young kids are trapped by Powell in his quest to get what he wants - a large sum of stolen money, is at least unnerving. The photography work is top-notch, contributing to the film's dark, dream-like atmosphere through the use of shadows, obscure lighting, and clever silhouettes. Moreover, by capturing quick takes of night animals such as owls, the filmmakers are able to highlight the 'impending presence of a hunter' through such visual images.

The problem of The Night Of The Hunter is that it doesn't shock enough. Charles Laughton (while he's good) is no Hitchcock. And Harry Powell isn't anywhere near creepy Norman Bates. There are too many happy moments, and the music accompaniment doesn't strike enough fear in viewers. The Night Of The Hunter promises to be a rich horror thriller, but it lets itself down in the final third when its sustainability is often called into question. No doubt Charles Laughton's only directorial effort is unusual and unique, but it's overrated in my opinion.

SCORE: 7.5/10

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