Film Review: The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Into the Dark - Video Vault Review: The Night of the Hunter

Two small children run for their lives from a murderous preacher in the only film actor Charles Laughton ever directed. The Night of the Hunter is part fable and part thriller, both pastoral and horrific, a beguiling blend of qualities that usually mark the work of an amateur… but sometimes a genius.

Laughton is as precise and purposeful as Orson Wells (using Well’s cinematographer from The Magnificent Ambersons), but there’s also a naive, experimental quality to the film, in the way Laughton mixes realism with German expressionism, and solemnity with odd moments of Tex Avery-style comedy. There are a few moments where the juxtaposition jars me, but the film is an otherwise rapturous, gorgeous, cinematically inventive, and genuinely uplifting film.

Robert Mitchum as the evil preacher is perfect casting. He meets his match in sweet but stalwart Lillian Gish, whose character takes in wayward children and isn’t afraid to pick up a rifle if anyone threatens them. 

Whether you watch for enjoyment or a deep appreciation of film as art, prepare for a smorgasbord.

Rating: 4.5/5 ★★★★½ 

Into the Dark - Video Vault Review: The Night of the Hunter

Shelley Winters doesn’t fare too well in Charles Laughton’s "The Night of the Hunter."


About Scott_S

Scott studied film and sociology at Indiana University and is currently the video producer for a large publishing company. He is the director of several independent films, including "House of Hope," "Off the Beaten Path," "The Day Joe Left," and "Found." For more about Scott, visit Scott is also one of the principal organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Festival. (

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