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YMMV / The Night of the Hunter

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  • Adaptation Displacement: Hardly anybody remembers that this was originally a novel by Davis Grubb (a best-selling and critically acclaimed novel, in fact).
  • Award Snub: Unavoidable, since the movie was panned on release. In hindsight it's considered one of the premiere Noir thrillers, and that Robert Mitchum and Lilian Gish deserved Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress consideration.
  • Complete Monster: Harry Powell, a Serial Killer and self-appointed preacher, is introduced reminiscing about his previous murders as he was fleeing the sight of his latest murder. After sharing a cell with a bank robber, he gets out of prison and marries Willa, the bank robber's wife, believing her children knew where the stolen money was hidden. He skillfully endears himself to the town, and practically brainwashes Willa into believing his every word. When she overheard him asking the children about the money, he slits her throat as she was laying in bed, dumps her body into the river, and makes up a story to cover for it. In order to get the children to tell him where the money was, he threatens to murder the son, John, while his sister watched. While pursuing them, he kills a farmer, steals a horse and chases them across the state. Powell was a chilling psychopath who is unfettered when it comes to what he wants.
  • Ear Worm:
    • "Chiiiiiiiiiillll-dren? Chiiiiiiiiiiil-dren?"
    • "Leeaaaning, leaaaning."
  • Heartwarming Moments: "They abide and they endure."
  • Moment of Awesome: Rachel singing "Leaning on Jesus, leaning on Jesus" in counterpoint to Powell's "Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarm." It's a beautiful moment showing the tension between the two, and a CMoA for Rachel showing how tough she is, and that her motives are pure.
  • Memetic Mutation: LOVE and HATE tattooed on the knuckles, 'nuff said. The speech he gives explaining those tattoos also pops up every now and then (e.g.: Do the Right Thing).
  • Moral Event Horizon: If Powell didn't cross it when he murdered Willa in cold blood, dumped her body in a river and made up a story to cover for it, he most certainly did when he threatens to murder John in front of Pearl. You could argue that while he was a nasty and horrible person to begin with, threatening to murder a child just for stolen money shows just how much of a monster Powell is.
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  • Padding: For some viewers, the last twenty minutes or so drag and drag hard with their emphasis on Powell getting his comeuppance. While this satisfied The Hays Code, which stated all villains needed to be punished and that murderers could not get away with the deed, you can't really blame this on the filmmakers since that's how the novel ends and the film very faithfully adapts the novel. Likewise, the same sequence shows the hypocrisy of the townsfolk who want to lynch Powell and claim to be doing this on behalf of the same kids whose abuse they enabled by buying into Powell's scam, and the larger social point that Laughton wanted to emphasize was that Powell is merely an extreme manifestation of some of society's ugliest tendencies.
  • The Scrappy: Icey Spoon, you are an ass.
  • Signature Scene:
    • Rev. Powell telling the story of Right-Hand-Left-Hand and his Knuckle Tattoos.
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    • The shot of Willa Harper's corpse at the bottom of the lake, with her body tied and weighted down to the car, and her hair floating eerily among the underwater vegetation.
    • The entire river-escape montage scene, with Pearl singing a night-story and then John on seeing Powell's silhouette pursuing them from afar, mutters in horror, "Don't he never sleep?"
    • The singing duet between Rev. Powell and Rachel Cooper during the Night when Powell stands outside the house, with Powell singing "leaning" and Rachel joining in "Lean on Jesus".
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Robert Mitchum himself defended this film by noting that it's important people don't simply trust people just because they dress like a preacher and quote the Bible, noting that dangerous predators use this as a means to get victims.
  • Values Dissonance: Yes, Rachel is a Cool Old Lady, but the scene where she uses Corporal Punishment on one of the children may not endear her to some contemporary viewers.
  • Values Resonance: On the other hand, part of the reason for the film's revaluation over time was in critics finding the horrors represented by Harry Powell (a misogynistic religious fanatic fooling people with his aura of good pastor) increasingly relevant in modern society. This also goes for the film's portrayal of Ms. Cooper as a strong, independent older woman who saves the day without the aid of any man.
  • Vindicated by History: The film did so poorly that Charles Laughton never got a chance to direct another, but is today acknowledged as a masterpiece by everyone who knows anything about film.


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