Night of the Hunter (1955)
Reviewed on 2008 August 1
I rented this Appalachian-styled Grimm’s Fairy Tale of a movie for two of my friends one Halloween, when our local video outlet was out of Rosemary’s Baby. One of my friends nodded off, but my other friend and I loved it. Charles Laughton only directed one movie in his life — the critics hated it when it was released in 1955 — but he managed to give us a cult flick that is still referenced today.
Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) is a con man in the garb of a preacher, and that’s a lot of what makes the movie so disturbing. This freak thinks he’s doing the will of God by liberating widows from their money (and more). He learns of a fresh source of funds, a lady named Willa Harper (Shelly Winters), and goes after her, snowing pretty much the entire town and Willa’s little daughter, Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce). Her son, John (Billy Chapin) seems to be the only one who sees right through Harry from the beginning.
It’s the Depression, Harry knows Willa has a score of cash, and he’s not going to let a stubborn little kid stop him. We know from the beginning that Harry is not all there and as the movie continues he gets progressively scarier. Several people noted it’s a children’s view of the world, and in many shots this film even looks like a kid’s nightmare, or at least some of the darker illustrations from a book of fairy tales. What’s really creepy is the fact this is based on a true story. After you see the movie, do a Google on “Harry Powers”.
Three chocolate morsels. It’s not for everyone but if it does it for you, it’ll be a favorite.