Beyond Horror: The Night of the Hunter

Genuinely creepy. The only film Laughton ever directed.

The Stake


The Night of the Hunter is the only film Charles Laughton ever directed. Made in 1955, the film remains as haunting and effective as any modern horror movie.   There a few comparable cinematic experiences to The Night of the Hunter and its beautifully rendered nightmare Preacher hunting orphaned children.

The first thing one notices in The Night of the Hunter is the distinct visual aesthetic Laughton adopts. Existing in the director’s creative landscape between the reality of the simple American life and the horrors of a Grimm fairy tale, Laughton builds a story of shadows and sharp angles around Robert Mitchum’s rock-edged jawline and the soft faces of the children he pursues. The director adopts with pleasure the stylized performance and heavy shadows of German Expressionism and gleefully mixes his stunning imagery with a horrific story.


That story is of a serial-killing preacher, Harry Powell and the widow that…

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