A funky seventies soundtrack, a remote woodland setting, and a dinner guest with a garlic allergy make up the tapestry of Mickey Reece’s and John Selvidge’s 2019 horror film Climate of the Hunter. What is this estranged guest’s secret? Anyone who has ever seen a vampire film will quickly solve this mystery as this film is a fun homage to the classic vampire films that have inspired and contributed to vampire lore since F. W Murnau’s Nosferatu. A witty screenplay and creative directing make Climate of the Hunter a must see for any vampire enthusiast.
The tone is set with an eccentric woman named Alma explaining to her sister Elizabeth that her dog Otis is philosophical. Alma is an artist who lives in a cabin in the woods while her sister Elizabeth is a businesswoman who clearly looks down on her sister’s artistic lifestyle. Despite the woodland setting, these women are dressed up in elaborate dresses and jewelry. The wardrobe plays a big role in setting up the seventies style. While the wardrobe certainly gives the film a setting, it also contributes to the classic horror of older vampire films and novels.
The retro style meets the Gothic in this film as Alma, in large tinted sunglasses trudges through the woods in a trenchcoat smoking pot with her strange woodsman neighbor. Other Gothic conventions are invoked in the character of Wesley, the poetic friend who visits from Paris to charm the sisters with his poetry and stories of lavish European life. A major theme of the Gothic is madness, which is a theme used throughout the film as the feelings of women are often dismissed as mental illness.
Reece and Selvidge’s film is stylish in its directing and clever in its merging of the modern, the retro, and horror aspects. Lighting effects are used throughout the film in the presence of Wesley to make his scenes more romantic or mystical, and there are also some campy effects that fit right into the film’s aesthetic. Ginger Gilmartin, who plays Alma, and Mary Buss, who plays Elizabeth, do an excellent job of portraying their sisterly rivalry and making every dinner scene uncomfortable with their oddball charms. Ben Hall, who plays Wesley, gives a fun performance as the elegant classy friend with a sinister secret.
Climate of the Hunter is currently featured at the Chattanooga Film Festival. Light on the blood, but heavy on the horror, Climate of the Hunter is a truly enjoyable film that fans of 70’s cinema will appreciate.