October 17th -- The Night of the Hunter
Without a doubt, one of my all-time favorite movies and one of the only genre films that my parents and I ever agreed on, "The Night of the Hunter" is an unmitigated masterpiece. Singlehandedly responsible for anyone that ever wanted to get a "love/hate" tattoo on their knuckles, this film still has power and resonance almost sixty years later.
Robert Mitchum stars as Harry Powell, one of the best, scariest screen villains of all time. A fake preacher, Harry travels the rural roads of America, wooing and killing widows for their money at every stop. While spending some well deserved time in jail, he meets a condemned killer. The killer has stolen and hidden $10,000 somewhere on his farm. When Harry gets out of jail, he hightails it straight to the farm and proceeds to make nice with the widow and her two children, a boy and girl. The girl falls in love with harry right away but the boy isn't so sure. After all, Harry seems awful interested in the stolen money, money that the childrens' father gave to them to hide. They've promised not to tell but Harry can be a mighty persistent guy. After killing their mother, the children go on the run with the fake preacher in hot pursuit. It's up to a kindly woman who runs a childrens' home to help the kids before Harry catches up to them.
Everything about this film is masterful. This was actor Charles Laughton's first (and only) time in the director's chair and he turns in a near-perfect piece of Southern Gothic. Shadows are long and hard, the settings have a dreamy, unreal quality to them and the sound-design accentuates creepy night-time noises and animal sounds. The children's getaway via river raft is the stuff of legend and the ending is outstanding.
If you're looking for a quality film this Halloween that just happens to be suspenseful, look no further than "The Night of the Hunter." I can guarantee that you'll never forget Mitchum's performance. Or those awesome tattoos.