FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL 2020 REVIEW! I was first introduced to Mickey Reece’s work when I saw Strike, Dear Mistress, and Cure His Heart at the 2018 Fantasia International Film Festival. Reece’s filmography all share a singular aesthetic, akin to Ranier Werner Fassbinder meets 1970s soap opera, which is something that I can truly appreciate. His latest film, Climate Of The Hunter, lives in the same weird world that his other creations inhabit. It’s a self-aware yet earnest tribute to the bland suburban culture of yesteryear mixed with high drama and exceptionally weird food pairings. Seriously, there is one dinner where hot dog-baked potato soup is being served.
Climate Of The Hunter is essentially about the relationship between two middle-aged sisters named Alma (Ginger Gilmartin) and Elizabeth (Mary Buss). Elizabeth is a very busy woman living in Washington, D.C., who has taken some time off to visit her sister Alma at their shared vacation cabin. Alma is an artist, which means she spends about 50% of her time smoking weed with her weirdo neighbor BJ Beavers (Jacob Snovel), and the rest of the time…maybe making wooden sculptures. The sisters are both delighted at the outset of the film because their childhood friend/mutual crush, Wesley (Ben Hall), will be returning to his neighboring cabin, and the three are getting together for dinner that evening.
“…vampires who can eat cherry cheese pie, pot-smoking vampire slayers, and a dog named Otis with a cone on his head…”
Wesley is charming and worldly, having spent time in Brazil and France. He often quotes literature and poetry and is basically everything a woman over forty looks for in a man. He flirts relentlessly with both sisters, and at first, they both have a rekindled affection for Wesley. Then, when Wesley’s son Percy (Sheridan McMichael) comes to dinner and Wesley has a strange allergic reaction to garlic, Alma’s suspicions arise that Wesley just might possibly be a vampire. BJ Beavers shares her belief and tells her what to do to kill him. While all of this is going on, Elizabeth and Alma’s daughter, Rose (Danielle Evon Ploeger), insist that Alma is losing her mind, even though both women fall for Wesley’s charms.
Climate of the Hunter is amazing because of Mickey Reece’s singular voice. The same story told by almost any other filmmaker, except maybe Brian DePalma or Alfred Hitchcock, whose influences can be seen in the film, would be boring or make no sense. However, under Reece’s watchful eye, this weird world of jello salads and vampires who can eat cherry cheese pie, with pot-smoking vampire slayers, and a dog named Otis with a cone on his head, works. Reece is a bit like Harmony Korine or, again, Fassbinder in creating an aesthetic that could not possibly belong to anyone else. His Dracula meets Grey Gardens masterpiece, Climate of the Hunter seems like it was made simultaneously in 1978 and 2020; it lives in a world both shockingly familiar and distinctly foreign.
The performances are all great, particularly those of Ginger Gilmartin and Danielle Evon Ploeger. The cinematography by Samuel Calvin calls to mind a ’70s Giallo film, and Kaitlin Shelby’s production design is close to perfect. The script by Reece and John Selvidge is fantastically dramatic. This weird little slice of vampire movies is definitely not your average bloodfest. It’s odd and dreamlike and one of my favorite films I’ve seen so far this year. So give Climate of the Hunter a shot!
Climate of the Hunter screened at the 2020 Fantasia Film Festival.
"…there is one dinner where hot dog-baked potato soup is being served. "