Saturday, February 13, 2021

Climate of the Hunter – review

Director: Mickey Reece

Release date: 2019

Contains spoilers

I didn’t know what to expect from Climate of the Hunter, but whatever proto-expectations I had were dashed by what I saw. An urbane, witty, character driven drama that may or may not be about a vampire.

It is a film where weirdness abounds – though much of that may or may not be in the mind of one of our primary protagonists and it is with Alma (Ginger Gilmartin) that things begin – or with her psychiatric report, at least.


Dated 1977 it suggests she has delusional disorder, somatic (I assume disorder), body-dysmorphic disorder and schizophrenia. Was this a diagnosis before the film began or following the events of the film. If the latter it may be that it is an attempt to understand her actions in film and/or an accurate diagnosis, either way it might be that when we see things in the film through her point of view, it is from an unreliable witness – and yet we also see things that she will not have been privy to. However, it certainly colours our perception.

Elizabeth and Alma

So we start proper at a holiday home owned by Alma and her sister Elizabeth (Mary Buss). Elizabeth is a lawyer who works in DC and complains of jet lag, Alma is an artist who has her dog, Otis, with her. Elizabeth is unaware, we will discover, that Alma has sold her condo and moved to the holiday home permanently. The two sisters are very different – Elizabeth unmarried and judgemental of her sister who is divorced and has an adult daughter, Rose (Danielle Evon Ploeger). Close by to their holiday home is one owned by Wesley (Ben Hall), a childhood friend they haven’t seen for twenty years – they are expecting his arrival.

Ben Hall as Wesley

Wesley is a writer and has a pretentious patter in which he quotes poetry, including Baudelaire, but is also very charming and urbane. Later he will admit that he has had his wife, Genevieve (Laurie Cummings), committed – something that his son Percy (Sheridan McMichael) holds against him. The evening of his arrival they have a dinner party. An idiosyncrasy of the film is that with each evening meal a voice describes the food and it is the worst of the 70s cuisine, such as jello salad. It is a bizarre tick that serves the film well.

like the dead

That night Wesley is observed by the other permanent resident of the area, BJ (Jacob Ryan Snovel). BJ is a bit of a conspiracy nut and he and Alma often share a joint. He is convinced that Wesley is a vampire and his belief affects Alma. There are moments from her point of view that add to this narrative – she goes in his cabin during the day and sees him laid out as though dead and when Percy feeds him a garlic salad, which causes him to have an allergic reaction, she finds a used tampon he coughs up. Alma notices that he is powerfully charismatic, but that doesn’t make him a vampire, of course. Other tells are for the audience and Alma is not present, for instance when Percy suggests that he is going to sell the cabin (which Wesley has given to him) and Wesley suggests he saw it being passed down the generations, Percy responds by questioning what generations – mother is gone, he will never have children and Wesley will live forever.

dream of Orlock

Of course, that could just be a throwaway nastiness aimed at the father he dislikes. They do speak about his “lifestyle” but the dialogue is playing with our expectation that he is a vampire – it is not mentioned in stark terms – there is a suggestion that the lifestyle led to Genevieve’s condition but that could equally be a drug reference amongst other things. We also see what appears to be a bite and a change in the eye colour of the one bitten and we see him with fangs in another scene – both of which are not seen by Alma. Alma does have dreams containing vampiric imagery, including a Count Orlock designed character.


Is he a vampire? We don’t know for sure – I think the viewer can read the film both ways and both are equally fine. The power of the film is in the dialogue and the performances – keeping the viewer locked in. The mystery also keeps the viewer locked into the film. There are moments of oddity – such as visual graphics as Wesley speaks that go un-noted by the characters. When Wesley’s attentions fall onto Rose she is suddenly sat naked in his stare and scenes like this indicate that much is within the eye of the character rather than objectively occurring in the story.

This is not going to be for everyone but I was rather taken by it. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

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