Fantastic Fest Review: CLIMATE OF THE HUNTER

I must admit that CLIMATE OF THE HUNTER is the first Mickey Reece film I’ve ever seen and after seeing it, I’m totally ashamed of myself for not being aware of his work until now. Directed by Reece and co-written with John Selvidge, CLIMATE OF THE HUNTER is a seventies style erotic vampire story with a hint of dark humor. Averaging two films a year since 2008, Reece is a critically acclaimed indie filmmaker from Oklahoma City, and I will be seeking out more of his films in the near future. CLIMATE OF THE HUNTER had a screening at Fantastic Fest on September 22nd and will have an encore screening on the 25th.

CLIMATE OF THE HUNTER tells the story of two very different sisters, Alma and Elizabeth. Alma (Ginger Gilmartin) is a recently divorced free spirit, who enjoys smoking weed, has a dog who is considered a “philosopher,” and may or may not be suffering from some type of neurological disorder. Elizabeth (Mary Buss) is a workaholic lawyer in Washington, D.C., who has never been married and never had children, and she is wildly jealous of her sister Alma’s carefree lifestyle. With Alma’s remote cabin home as the backdrop, the sisters reunite with their friend Wesley, who they haven’t seen in twenty years. Wesley (Ben Hall) is a writer who lives in Paris and has been dealing with his wife’s deteriorating health that has led to her being institutionalized, and what the sisters don’t know is that he might be a vampire. 

The most remarkable thing about CLIMATE OF THE HUNTER is how the impeccable lighting and cinematography give an authentic seventies vibe to the film, thanks to cinematographer Samuel Calvin. I was quite taken with the immaculate attention to detail in this film, from the lighting down to genuine seventies style cuisine served in what appears to be bona fide seventies dinnerware. The witty, sometimes philosophical and darkly comedic dialogue is also notable and is the reason I was glued to the screen for the entirety of the film. The characters are delightfully three-dimensional, due in part to the consummate writing, and due to the fact that the actors give such finely nuanced performances and truly bring Alma, Elizabeth, and Wesley to life. 

As the sisters vie for Wesley’s attention, there are hints at him being a vampire, such as a conversation he has with his son Percy, who comes to visit. Alma’s daughter Rose also comes to visit and, despite the fact that she’s married and trying to have a baby, soon she’s flirting with Wesley as well. Wesley is older and charismatic, but there is also something mysterious about him. There are several dreamlike sequences that allude to Wesley having some kind of supernatural abilities that left me questioning what was real and what was not. The characters enjoy various meals together as a tiny voice announces each one in detail, which I found strangely amusing. The fact that Alma might be unwell is amplified when she gets advice from her dog as well as from her neighbor BJ (Jacob Snovel), who is sure Wesley is a vampire. From her uptight demeanor to some bizarre sequences where her eyes turn black, it is evident there is also something off about Elizabeth. Each of the three characters is unusual in their own way, but is there something otherworldly at work or is it that they’re each suffering from heartache or desolation?

On the surface, CLIMATE OF THE HUNTER is about a trio of eccentric friends who get together to reconnect and, unbeknownst to the other two, one of them might be a vampire, but it’s also about loneliness, aging, and the desire to be wanted and loved. CLIMATE OF THE HUNTER is an exquisitely shot film with a captivating story that is reflective and quirky, with a preternatural element, and highlighted by excellent performances from the cast. I hope to see more Mickey Reece films soon, but they appear to be quite obscure. I loved this one.

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