FANTASIA FEST 2020: ‘Climate of the Hunter’

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Climate of the Hunter

Climate of the Hunter is the 27th feature film from underground filmmaker Mickey Reece (Cure His Heart, Strike, Dear Mistress) and it just made it’s Quebec premiere at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival. In Climate of the Hunter two sisters, Elizabeth and Alma, played by Mary Buss and Ginger Gilmartin respectively, are pitted against each other as they contend for the affections of a man, Wesley (Ben Hall) who may or not be a bloodsucking vampire.

Initially, I was intrigued by the premise of Climate of the Hunter. A psychosexual melodrama that questions the mental health of its desperate, lonely characters as they eat, converse, and flirt around a dinner table. Based on the summary I thought I was getting a melodramatic dark vampiric comedy-horror film that would be in the vein of Dark Shadows (2012). Turns out I was wrong. I can honestly say that Climate of the Hunter was not the vampire film I was expecting at all. And I do not mean that in a good way. 

Climate of the Hunter

The best thing about this film to me was the cinematography and lighting. Climate of the Hunter is visually captivating throughout the entirety of the film. It features beautiful shots of wilderness. interesting close-up angles and lighting used throughout the film to shift the intensity and mood of the scenes.

Additionally, it is Ben Hall’s performance as Wesley that kept my attention. Wesley is arguable the most interesting thing about the film, which still isn’t saying too much. The scenes with him kept me more entertained than the others. It is the swagger and debonair vibe that he exudes that makes you believe or at the very least question: is this man a vampire. Additionally, he also does a great job of shifting from suave to perverse and sinister in a seamless way.

As for the other characters, no one else’s performance really stood out to me. The side characters, in particular, feel random and lack substance. It is obvious that they are there to just add drama and help push the story along. However, they come off feeling like a throwaway character that didn’t add enough to the story.

For example, Alma’s estranged daughter Rose played by Danielle Evon Ploeger (Last Girl Standing) seemingly gets caught up in Wesley’s allure and pursues him at his cabin alone. At the cabin, Rose and Wesley give into both of their desires. The next day her mother, Alma, assumes her daughter’s abrupt departure was just a result of their family drama. However, we don’t get confirmation if she is dead or alive. So we are left to speculate that Wesley disposed of her body or that the the entire scene was just one of Alma’s hallucinations. 

Climate of the Hunter

Something else I found interesting was how the film touches on predatory behavior with the use of vampires. It is commonly known that vampires are predatory creatures that stalk their prey. Additionally, in many vampire films, their bloodlust and sexual desires are interconnected. So the film does a good job of acknowledging that.  A good example of this is during a dinner scene where Wesley imagines Rose, Alma’s daughter naked or with fang marks in her face.

Lastly, the film explores gaslighting versus female intuition. Alma seems the only character that suspects something sinister about Wesley. She tries to warn her sister and daughter however, they use her mental health history as a tool for deception. Causing her to question her own sanity at times. Even towards the tail-end of the film, it becomes hard to tell what is fantasy and reality. This is likely supposed to be the intent. I assume the audience is not supposed to fully understand if what is happening is Alma’s hallucinations or real. Nonetheless, the lack of clarity left me feeling lost and confused.

Overall, the film has its ups and downs, but more downs than ups, unfortunately. Climate of the Hunter is meant to be a psychosexual melodramatic dark comedic take on old vampire perverts with a cast of oddball characters as it explores their mental health and desperations. While the premise sounds interesting, the execution misses the mark for me. What I got instead left me feeling intrigued, bored, lost, and confused all in that exact order.  The beautiful cinematography and Ben Hall’s performance are the most interesting things throughout the film.

'Climate of the Hunter' is Not the Vampire Flick You Think You're Getting
  • 6/10
    Rating - 6/10
6/10

TL;DR

Overall, the film has its ups and downs, but more downs than ups, unfortunately. Climate of the Hunter is meant to be a psychosexual melodramatic dark comedic take on old vampire perverts with a cast of oddball characters as it explores their mental health and desperations. While the premise sounds interesting, the execution misses the mark for me. What I got instead left me feeling intrigued, bored, lost, and confused all in that exact order.  The beautiful cinematography and Ben Hall’s performance are the most interesting things throughout the film.