Charles Laughton's only directive feature, The Night of the Hunter, is literally one of my all-time favorite movies whether it is watched on Halloween or not. In my opinion it has one of the most unforgettable haunting stories, a pretty good villain, especially when dealing with the likes of God and whatnot, and even at an hour and a half running time, I've never seen such a film be drawn out and have such unforgettable characters, their actions, the pacing, the timing, the suspense. It is one of the greatest movies that I think needs to be seen more and more by people every time it is watched. So what's the story?
A father has stolen a vast sum of money and promises his kids John and Pearl to never tell anyone about the money and to keep it secret so that they can use it for future purposes. It isn't until they come across the villain supposed "Reverend" Harry Powell, who I will say is one of the best villains I've ever seen in a film, in fact, I can never tell if something other than him is controlling him, or if that's what he is entirely, but he is one of the greatest movie villains I've ever seen. He meets up with the family to get to the money but is only in it for the money. John and Pearl try very hard to protect what's rightfully theirs but once he finds out he kills their mother, jeesh, that's overkill, and chases after the kids to get the money. It isn't until they come across a motherly figure who takes care of them as they seek shelter there, and it's up to Jon and Pearl to make sure that the money isn't taken and that they're lives are spared.
As if I really need to tell you any more about this movie? This movie is simply a gem, but what's so scary about it? Well, the villain is the person who makes everything scary, and you know what taking a character who is just so despicable and so memorable that the film literally falls into place. I would be lying if I said it was scary, because it is in fact the film that I think has the least bit of scares out of all of the films, but, you know what, if it's scary because of that one character, that's all I need. This film I couldn't agree anything more or less. My favorite scene in the movie is when the villain and the woman trying to protect them are singing "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms". That right there is what got me into this movie, the theme. The white light shining to where the woman is and the dark night to where the villain outside is, it tells everything that is perfect in this movie, and I freakin' love that.
Are there any problems? Well, considering that it was made in 1955 does it still hold up? The answer is yes, yes it does. The acting may be a bit outdated but, because the characters are so likable and so interesting, I can't judge the film THAT harshly. Yeah, some of the stuff is pretty obvious today, but, believe it or not, I could care less.
This film is perfect to watch all the time and I literally would be entranced by it every time it is seen. Everything in this movie is perfect, the characters, the actors, the music, but most importantly the theme of what this movie is supposed to be about. I can't wait until this movie is well known to more people and I certainly hope that people will be able to watch it and show it to their friends and whatnot.
The Night of the Hunter: Unmitigated classic, warming unforgettable characters.