The Night of the Hunter

The Night of the Hunter, the beginning and the end of Charles Laughton's career as a director, is a intriguing tale with some very dramatic cinematography, great characters and themes that make for a compelling narrative.

The plot follows a self proclaimed preacher Harry Powell, on his hunt for the money stolen by Ben Harper which location is only known by his children. What ensues is gripping tension and terror, with the unrelenting persistence of Harry Powell, before rather peculiarly ending with a preaching uplifting tone. It is this transition bordering on a variety of genres and themes which may have initially deterred viewers from its first release in 1955, a film noir aesthetic mixed with horror, tension and later strange animal imagery, before concluding with an uplifting a preaching tone. Its a shame as I believe Charles Laughton truly created a film worth watching, and perhaps a first step for great things to come.

Most memorable of the film, is the strong use of bold silhouettes and dark space being very effective in creating a dramatic noir atmosphere, heightening the tension and narrative with some key shots - such as the barn house with John Harper seeing the preacher Harry Powell across the horizon. This made for some very interesting use of camera shots too with the scene of the basement.

The scene with the Mother underwater is also very captivating, being contemporary for its time and very iconic. It definitely stood out for me in particular.

While some unintentional humour is to be had for a modern audience that further perpetuates the curious presentation of the film, with the old lady Rachel Cooper wielding a shotgun in triumphant defence of the children.

Nevertheless, the film is very good indeed with an enticing plot and well orchestrated cinematography. It brims with a dark and tension-filled atmosphere that is only further contrasted by the peculiar ending with a distinct change in tone.


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