10 April 2011

Clarky's Review: The Night of the Hunter

This week it was my choice for horror club and after the last couple of weeks of Argento I wanted to mix things up. Normally I bring modern(ish) films to the table and my main goal is to be as balls out scary as possible. However, this week I thought I would change it up and I went for an old school film, The Night of the Hunter.

I had never seen this film before but it has appeared on top 50 horror lists and is meant to be a classic so I thought I would chance it. I have to say I did really enjoy this film but I'm not sure that I would classify it as a horror film.

The film looks glorious and some shots in particular are spectacular. I loved the shots of the bedroom before the murder and the wide shot of the fruit cellar when Harry Powell goes down. Half the screen is blacked out and its like the director has pulled the camera back to show the set, but it really works well. On reading up on the film afterwards I learned that the director Charles Laughton was a theatre director initially, which in hindsight these shots reminded me of. Fin also remarked at the time that it reminded him of some of the German expressionist films of the 1920's such as The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.

The journey down the river also contains numerous images of animals and I think these often symbolise the children's vulnerability. These, the sets (as previously mentioned), the lighting (which was incredible - especially when Harry Powell first turns up at the Harpers house and when he was sitting outside Mrs Coopers house) and a number of the camera angles (including an ambitious crane shot at the beginning and the simply breathtaking underwater shot) still stand up today and were outwith the norm at the time for a Hollywood picture. This may account for the poor critical reception of this film upon its release.

Some people have stated that this was the reason that Charles Laughton never directed again after this film, whilst others state that it was because Laughton preferred directing in the theatre as you could change things night from night and update it and improve as you went along, whereas with film you could not change anything once you had put it out there. Whatever the reason its a real shame that he never directed again (as for how this film was panned upon its release I'm not sure how this could be the case!).

The performances are universally excellent, with Robert Mitchum oozing charisma and menace in every scene. No more so than the scene where the children were trying to escape in the boat - I was literally shouting at the TV telling them to hurry up! The child actors are also excellent as is Lillian Gish as Mrs Cooper.

Whilst I wouldn't say that this is an out and out horror film, it does contain an incredibly unnerving and unsettling "bad guy". It's an incredible film to look at with some exceptional performances and I was gripped for the entire 90 minutes. I would recommend this film to everyone.


  1. "Fin also remarked at the time that it reminded him of some of the German expressionist films of the 1920's such as The Cabinet of Dr Caligari."

    This is possibly the most pretentious thing I have ever heard in my entire life (and I'm not talking about Clarky).

  2. Thats what happens when you're a horror aficionado with two seasons of horror club and a horror class under your belt!

    Still better than "God gave everyone a gift and in my case it was fashion"

    (it was a good point though and Fin should stand by it and shouldn't be embarrassed)

  3. Thanks Clarky I do stand by it think it was a good point.


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