Fantasia Review: Climate of the Hunter

Two sisters are reunited with a childhood friend. As they both vie for his affections, one of the sisters feels that something is off about the man she used to know. She becomes convinced he’s a vampire and decides to do what she has to in order to protect her family.

Director Mickey Reece (Tarsus, Mickey Reece’s Alien) brings Climate of the Hunter to Fantasia International Film Festival. Co-written by Reece and John Selvidge (Man Sitting in Chair, Suedehead) the film follows a woman named Alma. She lives in a somewhat secluded cabin with her sister, Elizabeth, taking an extended vacation to visit. Their old friend Wesley comes back to the states for a visit after several years of traveling the world. While the two women are initially infatuated with Wesley, being a handsome, worldly writer, Alma quickly notices something isn’t right. The filmmakers truly excel at building the tension while also making the viewer uncertain of what is real and what is fantasy.

In many ways, Climate of the Hunter reminds me of classic 70’s horror films such as George A. Romero’s Season of the Witch. Alma has wild, vivid dreams and is clearly more wild and unstable than her younger sister. It blurs the lines of reality and makes Alma’s point of view unreliable. I don’t necessarily love that the filmmakers chose to go with the “unhinged woman” trope commonly shown in horror films, but it is in keeping with the time period they are trying to emulate. In that regard, Reece achieves a delightfully suspenseful film that feels like it could have just as easily been in theaters in the 70’s.

The three leads in Climate of the Hunter are not only amazing, but I also appreciate that the characters are all over 40. Ginger Gilmartin (Fingerprints, If Looks Could Kill) stars as Alma. Alma is first presented as a hippy, laid back, go-with-the-flow type of woman. As the film progresses, Gilmartin shows that Alma might have some underlying psychological issues that make it seem as though her theory about Wesley being a vampire could be a figment of her imagination. Mary Buss (Lord Finn, Mono) plays Alma’s younger sister, Elizabeth. She is the polar opposite of her sister, acting much more reserved, up-tight, and poised. Buss does an excellent job of conveying how Elizabeth both envies and admonishes her sister’s more outgoing personality. Both Gilmartin and Buss play off of each other quite well, showing the sisterly love between Alma and Elizabeth as well as the competitive nature and contempt for each other. Then there is Ben Hall (Arrows of Outrageous Fortune, Time Expired) as the alluring and possibly vampiric Wesley. Hall is fantastic in how he oozes with charm, but with a hint of something sinister about him. All three actors shine in their respective roles.

Everything from the visuals to the music helps to transport the audience back in time. Climate of the Hunter takes on a stunning soft focus that glitters, giving the film a very dreamy 70’s appearance. It creates a somewhat muted color palette because of that softness, but what the film lacks in vibrant colors it makes up for with striking patterns. The costume design also adds to the time period. Each outfit worn by the two main characters, especially the sisters, adds to their individual personalities. The music by Nicholas Poss (Mickey Reece’s Alien, You People) is absolutely groovy and is something I hope to be able to listen to on vinyl in the near future. Everything feels like it could easily have been made 50 years ago.

Climate of the Hunter is a breathtakingly dreamy 70’s throwback that uses old tropes to ensnare audiences. Reece and Selvidge clearly did their homework on horror films from this time period to create something that is both new and familiar. Part of me wishes they had moved away from the trope of the “unhinged woman,” but it also fits well with the overall look and feel of the film. Climate of the Hunter is dazzling to look at, tells an interesting story, and has superb performances from Gilmartin, Buss, and Hall. This is definitely a film Fantasia International Film Festival audiences should not miss.

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10

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