Climate of the Hunter ’s bizarre visual style and lack of story will alienate most viewers, but those who stick around will be treated to a unique experience.
Going into an independent movie, especially one made without the oversight of a major studio, always involves some level of risk. On one hand, with fewer people involved in the project, the original artistic vision is less likely to be compromised. On the other, there are fewer people to help steer the picture away from disaster should those in charge get caught up in the creative process. Often, this leads to films that are incredibly clear in theory but can become muddled in execution. Those fortunate enough to catch Mickey Reece’s new horror psychodrama Climate of the Hunter will have to decide for themselves whether or not the execution of a seemingly simple setup is brilliant or pretentious, but it’s guaranteed to get people talking.
The logline for Climate of the Hunter is almost deceptively simple: sisters Alma (Ginger Gilmartin) and Elizabeth (Mary Buss) vie for the affection of Wesley (Ben Hall) who may or may not be a vampire. Rounding out the cast of characters is Wesley’s peculiar son Percy (Sheridan McMichael) and grumpy neighbor BJ Beaver (Jacob Snovel). What would appear to be a simple supernatural romance on paper quickly reveals itself to be anything but, as Alma’s history of possible mental illness is revealed along with a long-standing tension with her sister. Trapped at a remote lake house, the two sisters subtlety spar with back-handed compliments and dirty glances that quickly move to the background upon Westley’s arrival. From here, the rest of the movie all but ditches any semblance of a coherent plot, as our characters wander around the midwestern wilderness and ruminate on everything from adult loneliness to an individual’s place in the universe. It’s very dense material that doesn’t quite relate to the story being told, but is still captivating through fully realized performances by the cast. Specifically, Hall whose seductive charisma channels that of other famous vampires such as Vincent Price, luring us in while keeping us keenly aware of something malicious underneath.
While the plot of Climate of the Hunter is quite intriguing on its own, where the movie excels is in its truly unique visual style. Early scenes of the film rely heavily on jarring zooms and pans that keep the audience off-balance and recall to mind the films of Quentin Tarantino, who was himself influence by exploitation films of the 1970s, coincidentally the period Climate of the Hunter takes place in. But Tarantino and the ’70s aren’t the only influences seen throughout: before Westly arrives, the banter between Alma and Elizabeth bears a striking resemblance to the searing dialogue in Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, a connection only heightened by each of the leads being named Alma, which opens up a possible avenue for interpretation focused on female sexuality and repression. Both women begin their stories as independent agents but soon question their reality due to manipulation and gaslighting from antagonistic forces, while also dealing with their desires. In this way, Climate of the Hunter could be added to the canon of feminist horror films in which our heroine’s defeat of the villain directly coincides with the reclamation of her desires, something continuously used as a weapon against her throughout.
Other influences include Shakespeare, through the theatrical monologues that lead the viewer to question the authenticity behind everyone’s words. While not a film filled with twists, each character has a clear goal, and nobody is above lying to get what they want. The films of Yorgos Lanthimos can also be seen through the film’s absurdism that is played completely straight throughout, resulting in some darkly comic moments that leave the viewer torn between laughter and horror and hooked to see what happens next, even if it may not make any sense.
Ultimately, the success of the movie rides on Reece’s ability to gracefully combine elements that seem directly opposed to each other into something new, and, in that front, he greatly succeeds. What’s happening on the screen may not always make sense, but Reece keeps the tone and style consistent throughout so that even if logically the viewer is lost, the emotions remain consistent. Climate of the Hunter is undeniably a very weird film that most will not appreciate, but it is worth checking out to see a bold merging of ideas and styles that are brought together through a dedicated cast and crew.
Climate of the Hunter was released in virtual and physical U.S. cinemas – including L.A, Philadelphia, Oklahoma, Winchester, Columbus and more – on December 18, 2020. It will be out on Demand and Digital on January 12, 2021.
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