At it’s heart, The Night of the Hunter is a condemnation of the hate and bigotry that religion at its most fanatical can bring about. Robert Mitchum plays Harry Powell, a self-proclaimed “preacher” whose ministry consists of marrying “sinful” woman and killing them.
While in prison for auto theft, he is jailed with a man who had hidden $10,000 with his children. Upon Powell’s release, he makes a beeline for the money, swarming into the children’s lives as their stepfather. Mitchum is over-the-top as Powell, a man who seems religious but is evil to the core. Especially chilling is the way he preaches his gospel, and how he ropes other people, especially his victims, into believing his maniacal message.
The latter half of the movie gets a little surreal and loses the emotional and psychological tautness the first half had. And the movie’s final moments get extremely melodramatic. If anything, watch it for Mitchum’s portrayal and the creepy way he twists the Word of God to his own end.