Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Fantasia Festival review – Climate of the Hunter

My notes on Climate of the Hunter, which has screened/streamed at the Fantasia Festival

Sometime in the past – the exact time is hard to tell, though characters are plainly hold-overs from the late 1960s – middle-aged sisters Alma (Ginger Gilmartin) and Elizabeth (Mary Buss) spend time at a family cabin in the woods they co-own … only Alma hasn’t mentioned that she’s severed ties with civilisation and is living full time in their holiday retreat, just one of the many issues that arise from their lifelong, complicated relationship.

Arriving in the area is suave, rich-voiced gentleman Wesley (Ben Hall) – an old flame of Alma’s, who now seems more interested in Elizabeth, at least until Alma’s disapproving daughter Rose (Daniella Evon Ploeger) turns up.  Nothing can ever be settled in this menage – flirtations and arguments alike are sidetracked – because of unhelpful or ambiguous interlopers, including Alma’s dope-smoking paranoid neighbour BJ (Jacob Snovel), Wesley’s waspish son Percy (Sheridan McMichael) and ultimately Wesley’s near-catatonic fishlipped-from-facelifts wife Genevieve (Laurie Cummings).

The film keeps evoking 1970s vampire movies – the setting has a touch of Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, Wesley witters on like Barnabas Collins, and Genevieve in one scene sports that sparkly sheath-dress Delphine Seyrig sports in Daughters of Darkness – and hints keep being dropped that Wesley is a vampire, including his extreme allergic reaction to garlic in the food (akin to Udo Kier’s reaction to non-virgin blood in Blood for Dracula) and some pointed dialogue exchanges between Wesley and Percy about immortality and thirst.  But, as in all the movies cited, whether or not a character actually is a vampire isn’t entirely the point – and director Mickey Reece, who co-wrote with John Selvidge, has his characters talk round in circles, probing each other’s sore spots, building up a situation where it would be perhaps more sinister still if Wesley weren’t a supernatural creature but just a manipulative creep with very nice manners and a fund of anecdotes.

Reece has been amazingly prolific – more than thirty films in around a decade – but this is the first of his films I’ve come across.  It’s rough-hewn and cheap, but has quality performances – everyone here is at once alive, annoying and yet affecting – and an interesting, academy frame backwoods claustrophobic look.

Here’s the Fantasia listing.


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