He loves me. He loves me not. He isn’t a vampire. He is a vampire.
“Climate of the Hunter” is a moody drama that is all stylistic pleasure, making big out of its small budget.
Mickey Reece’s interesting film (make no mistake, this is not a horror film), a self-aware tribute to seventies grindhouse pictures, wisely refuses to sink into parody. Reece has made a film steered by a maverick sensibility in its screenplay and a style that is more than mere homage.
Two aging sisters (Alma and Elizabeth) bicker over their dog, trying to ignore that they have become lonely spinsters. They live in their cabin with Alma’s estranged daughter Rose.
Enter Wesley, a long-lost friend who strolls in out of their past with his son Percy in tow. Alma becomes seduced by Wesley’s poetry and stories of traveling the world.
Considered a black sheep by her family due to her free-spirited lifestyle, she begins to have romantic inclinations towards her new friend. As clichés would have it, Elizabeth has also set her romantic sights on Wesley and an even stronger friction develops between the two sisters.
As Wesley plays to the two women’s feelings and causes a deepening rift between them, Alma begins to notice something sinister about their old friend. Something in him changed. There are very credible rumors, and mounting evidence, that Wesley may very well be a vampire.
Actress Ginger Gilmartin plays Alma with a quiet and unnerved demeanor. Her Alma is beginning to be defeated by her age and loneliness but she brightens after encountering a man who lights a fire in her heart. Alma’s eyes go from glowing to shocked to fearful, and Gilmartin pulls this off with gusto.
Mary Buss as sister Elizabeth plays it more deadpan, but the performance is fitting with the film’s strange tone.
Using title cards to announce upcoming menus, the film evolves over a series of meals where complacency turns to distrust and perceived deception among the small cast of characters.
Reece, who has 31 directing credits to his name, according to his IMDB, wrote the film with screenwriter John Selvidge, the two have concocted a unique design of atmosphere and vintage aesthetic.
Reece and his cinematographer Samuel Calvin give the film a grainy look while the director’s style recalls a bohemian sensibility that runs through the film and its characters. At times, the film becomes a chamber piece, almost a stage play, of characters playing dangerous games of personal drama, with a cult film slant.
With its inelegant dinner party designs and soap opera-styled dramatics, Reece’s film owes as much to the television show “Dark Shadows” as it does to the low-budget yet stylishly-designed erotic vampire films of the early seventies. Every relationship here is designed for high drama, but nothing is reality-based. As people discuss whether a dog can be philosophical and a Portuguese priest is excommunicated for the sheer volume of his flatulence, the screenplay lets us know that this is a bizarre and mannered world that may be off-putting for casual viewers.
What the film is about is never quite clear and, frankly, it does not matter. Adventurous viewers are left to make up their own mind as to whether the film has a point. It is also up to the audience to decide whether Alma is truly psychotic, as we are shown when the character is introduced through a psychiatric report that labels her as just that. This woman could very well be insane. Are we seeing the strangeness of the other characters through Alma’s skewed view of the world or was she misdiagnosed? Is the audience seeing Alma through the poisoned views of the other characters? Is Wesley an actual vampire and do bloodsuckers exist in the realm of this film?
These are puzzles that the film gives no answers to and for a film designed as meticulously as this one, that is a big part of what makes “Climate” so titillating.
“Climate of the Hunter” is a full buffet of off-kilter delights. In every moment, the film is never what it seems. If your cinematic palate is brave enough, give this unique and artfully-directed film a try. I cannot say every viewer will be glad that they did, but not one of them will regret it.