Saturday, January 09, 2021

Climate of the Hunter

Imagine My Dinner with Andre, if Andre Gregory were a vampire—maybe. The truth is you really can’t appreciate the singularly distinctive tone and atmosphere of this Edward Albee-esque horror (presumably) film, unless you just dive right in. As a bonus, you can pick up the dinner-party menu ideas along the way in Mickey Reece’s wonderfully strange Climate of the Hunter, which releases this coming Tuesday on VOD.

Middle-aged sisters Alma (the self-medicating Earth Mother) and Elizabeth (the unmarried and uptight corporate professional) are delighted Wesley, their friend from childhood has returned to the country and is summering at his nearby lake cottage. He might be a bit older than they, but he still cuts quite the dashing figure in their eyes. During dinner, it is clear they are both super-interested and he subtly stokes their rivalry.

Initially, most of our suspicions regarding Wesley’s potentially undead nature come from his subsequent testy reunion with his son Percy, who bitterly resents his father’s decision to entrust his dementia-suffering mother to a nursing home. Nobody says it outright, but it is clearly implied Wesley is not like other men. Reece and co-screenwriter John Selvidge never have them fully declare one way or another, but their dialog never sounds evasive in this respect. Excessive of coyness can easily get annoying in less exactingly executed films, but the uncertainty in
Climate becomes a source of entertainment.

Nevertheless, there is no denying a lot of the things coming out of the characters’ mouths are absolutely bonkers. Honest to gosh,
Climate must have some of the most verbose and grandiose speeches you will ever hear in a horror movie (presumably), but that is only the half of it. The carefully crafted grindhouse look (rendered in a deliberately boxy and confined aspect ratio) and the meticulous, ultra-1970s period details set this apart from just about every other vampire (presumably) film you have ever seen.

Ben Hall hams it up magnificently as Wesley. He oozes sinister charm wooing the sisters and recites long passages from Baudelaire without ever gasping for air. This is a crazy, over-the-top portrayal of a larger-than-life and possibly undead figure, but he commits to it in deadly earnest. Likewise, Ginger Gilmartin is undefinably weird as Alma, who is either the more down-to-earth sister or the crazy one.

Cinematographer Samuel Calvin and production designer Kaitlyn Shelby (and the design team) have done some remarkable work here, but it is clearly in service of Reece’s auteurist genre vision. It will be way too much for a lot of viewers, but serious cult movie patrons have to see it for themselves. Very highly recommended for its very targeted audience,
Climate of the Hunter releases Tuesday (1/12) on VOD.