The Night of the Hunter (1955)

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A young boy stands like Peter Pan, hands on his hips against the pale background of his bedroom wall.  A light pours through the window before him, casting him brightly despite the darkness in the room.  The intersecting beams of the window pane cast a skewed cross across him, this distorted cross moving downward to the right against the wall.  Suddenly, a large shadow steps into the frame, a personage of darkness that steals most of the light in the room.  The boy is now cast in darkness.  Here we have a filmic sequence derived from an appeal to the literature of images, a distorted religiosity beckoning the arrival of a diabolical presence.  We have a moving picture demonstrating the shrouding of innocence by the waves of a harsh world, a world frustratingly characterized, as we will later learn, by abusers of power and manipulators of morality.  Such flattery and gamesmanship is brought more into the light, as it were, when the light recedes into nighttime.

Not to mention, it’s very scary.

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Nosferatu (1922)

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The greatest vampire film of all time is no romance.  It does not star beautiful people with pale skin and delicate seduction.  There is no high-collared regal wear.  There are rats, not bats; and there’s a rodent-like creature in monkish robes who casts monster-like shadows on brown walls.  The greatest vampire film of all time is a filthy Expressionist nightmare, filled with sickly frames, and jagged teeth matching a jagged mise-en-scène. Continue reading

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

The Maltese Falcon (1941): John Huston's Noir masterpiece featuring a ...

“The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.”—Sam Spade, The Maltese Falcon

It is a recipe for disaster in the world of film noir to be incapable of formulating a good, old-fashioned threat.  Continue reading