Fantasia Festival Review: Climate of the Hunter

Year: 2019
Runtime: 80 Minutes
Director: Mickey Reece
Writers: Mickey Reece, John Selvidge
Stars: Ginger Gilmartin, Mary Buss, Ben Hall, Sheridan McMichael

By Tom Moore

The newest film from veteran indie auteur Mickey Reece, “Climate of the Hunter”, is a vintage vampiric horror story set fittingly in a cabin in the woods and right between a feud between two sisters. The film takes us into the reunion between three longtime friends at a vacation cabin in the woods. Sisters Alma (Ginger Gilmartin), who is recently divorced, and Elizabeth (Mary Buss), a workaholic living in Washington D.C., are constantly quarrelling about their positions in life and slightly competing for the attention of their longtime friend Wesley (Ben Hall). While Wesley is a prolific and sophisticated writer, he has plenty of family issues of his own as his wife is in a mental clinic and his son Percy (Sheridan McMichael) doesn’t like him. However, as Wesley’s nightly behavior and ritual become noticeably stranger, one question starts to become more prevalent and pertinent – is Wesley a vampire? hunter Right from when we meet Alma and Elizabeth, there’s this vintage “B-movie” energy that can felt that’s kind of alluring and while it’s does create a jarring first impression, it does eventually pique your interest. It’s easy to get the vibe that “Climate of the Hunter” isn’t like a lot mainstream horror we see today and that’s what made it so interesting to watch. The dialogue has a strange elegance to it as Wesley recites some of his favorite poems and there’s this passive aggressive nature to it all that fuels the conflict between Alma and Elizabeth. Even the way Alma refers to her dog, who’s described as a philosopher and hilariously wearing a cone of shame, is straight up “B-movie” horror at its finest. The costume design, which is definitely very 70s/80s inspired, adds to the strangeness and felt reminiscent of a recent favorite of mine – Peter Strickland’s “In Fabric”.
“Reece really knows when to kick up the tense scares in just the right places. Not to mention, there’s a small nod to the look of Nosferatu that’s both heartwarming as a horror fan and creepy as hell in the moment.”
Rather than a killer red dress be our main antagonist though, the film’s main baddie comes in the form of Wesley. Hall’s performance is incredibly entrancing as his sophisticated monologue and seemingly endless wisdom are impossible to resist, especially for Elizabeth, and he really sinks his teeth into all the great dialogue. Wesley’s intentions are perfectly kept into the shadows and it’s really refreshing to see him be much more of a mental threat than a physical one. Whether we see his true intentions as he gawks at Alma’s daughter Rose (Danielle Evon Ploeger) or is pulling off some incredibly daunting gaslighting tactic towards Alma as she figures out his true form, it’s easy to see that Wesley is soaking in information to turn it against everyone around him. climate of hunter 1 Reece really does an excellent job making Wesley’s actions so compelling and effective by slowly building them and making Alma’s awareness grow through some trippy dream sequences. All of the sequences surrounding dinner conversations are very intriguing because of how Wesley’s vampiric personality slowly comes out. There’s an especially surprising moment when Percy eventually comes to dinner and Wesley is almost completely outed through a clever trick that Percy pulls on him. With each conversation, you can also feel this slow divide being created between Alma and Elizabeth and how differing lives have them seeing each other in harsher lights.
“Reece creates a really rad vampire flick with “Climate of the Hunter” that’s sort of a throwback vintage “B-movies”
There’re also some great visuals that come into play that amp up the horror in a way that’ll be delightful to any fan of the genre. While some of the more artsy visuals do come off a little odd at times, there’s a lot that Reece adds here that works in sucking viewers into the moment. From how the great glittery costume design creates this otherworldly element to the final dinner scene to the horrifically trippy, vampire filled dream that Alma has, Reece really knows when to kick up the tense scares in just the right places. Not to mention, there’s a small nod to the look of Nosferatu that’s both heartwarming as a horror fan and creepy as hell in the moment. Even more unsettling is the tricky finale that creates an unexpected end that takes the term gaslighting to some terrifyingly real places as well as create some odd astrological visuals that are hypnotizing. climate of the hunter Reece creates a really rad vampire flick with “Climate of the Hunter” that’s sort of a throwback vintage “B-movies” and features plenty of unsettling sequences, entrancing visuals, and fun performances from the entire crew – but especially from Hall. 4 stars “Climate of the Hunter” will be showing at Fantasia Film Festival from 20th August to 2nd September.
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