Southern Gothic Noir Pt. II: Night of The Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
Visually one of my favorite movies of all-time, this dark fairytale is set in the swamps of the American South and borrows the language of film noir. It’s a delicious combination, and the film has been highly influential for many prominent filmmakers.
Robert Mitchum (wonderfully creepy as always) plays an unscrupulous con-artist and self-appointed preacher, who memorably uses the tattoos of “good” and “evil” on his knuckles to narrate a parable about human nature. Shelly Winters appears as the (as usual) hapless wife who ends up collateral damage in Mitchum’s scheme to find the money hidden by her now-deceased convict husband, the location of which is only known by her children. In a truly brilliant casting decision, American’s Sweetheart, Lillian Gish, is the children’s savior - a tough old hymn-singing woman with a shotgun.
The whole film is told from the children’s point of view as an eerie fairytale with frogs, rabbits and spider webs appearing in the foreground and stark expressionist sets filled with shadows.