Out of the harsh winds of Oklahoma, filmmaker Mickey Reece’s name has suddenly been sent out over much of indie film America over the last couple of years. Going the long way around the only way he knew how, Reece has quietly written and directed 27 feature films since 2008. After turning heads at Fantastic Fest with Strike, Dear Mistress And Cure His Heart (a nice nod to The Velvet Underground), his new film Climate of the Hunter has broken through enough to boost Reece’s signal to a lot more antennas across the film culture landscape.
A seductively silly chamber piece between two bickering sisters and a suave francophile who may or may not be a vampire, Climate of the Hunter is anything but traditional. Described as a sister film to Strike, Dear Mistress And Cure His Heart, Mickey Reece and his writing partner John Selvidge aren’t necessarily trying to subvert the expectations of the learned horror fan; it’s just kind of what they do, so don’t take it personal.
Brushing aside the air of the reluctant auteur, Reece comes across as an easy going film geek that just sees the art of filmmaking a little bit differently than most. In our conversation below, we dive into the director’s newfound recognition, his Soderbergh-esque body of work, and his next film Agnes about demonic possession featuring Rachel True (The Craft) and Sean Gunn (The Suicide Squad). We also touch on his plans to play Garth Brooks in a future film called Country Gold with George Hardy (Best Worst Movie, Cyst).
Synopsis: Two sisters, Alma and Elizabeth, along with a dog who’s described as a “philosopher,” have come to Alma’s remote house to reconnect with Wesley after twenty years. Alma is recently divorced, Elizabeth is a workaholic in Washington, D.C., while Wesley lives in Paris dealing with a wife recently struck with a fatal disease. When the three come together for dinner it has all the makings of a lovely adult melodrama about loneliness, and the desire to connect and share our lives with someone… but we must add to the mix one otherworldly piece of information: Wesley could be a vampire.
Dread Central: You have this unintentional mystique. You’ve said that making films has really been a way to hang with friends and you’ve used the same stable of actors, so to speak, but with films like Agnes coming up, has it been cool to expand your cast with more well known actors like Rachel True and Sean Gunn?
Mickey Reece: Yeah, I feel like I’ve worked with every kind of actor at this point just having made so many movies for so long that, even though I haven’t worked with actors that big before or that known before, it’s no different than any other actor. It’s all the same when you get there and you just put it in their hands.
DC: When did the outside film world first come knocking? I heard of you pretty recently through Spectacle in New York…was it theaters like that or the folks at Laser Blast Film Society that approached you? I know the ball got rolling with Fantastic Fest.
MR: You know, that’s the weird thing about all of this. Climate was already in festivals at that point and I think Agnes was already shot at that point when those movies played at Spectacle. That was a matter of Peter Kuplowsky set that up. He’s kind of the only one that’s ever cared about the old movies. (laughs) Now, they got onto Alamo [On Demand] and stuff so they’ve got more eyes on them. More awareness.
DC: What film of yours would you like people to watch first before Climate of the Hunter or do you even care?
MR: It’s hard to say. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the stuff on Alamo…
MR: …but there was that documentary Belle Íle . That was literally made as a primer to get audiences familiar with what they’re watching before they watch it. So, I think that’s as good of a starting point as any and then you can watch any film after that and know where it’s coming from.
DC: When you were talking about how people just assume you’re this weird, shadowy auteur, to my understanding, you would always make the film, show it locally and then never put it out yourself for quote-unquote mass consumption, right?
MR: Yeah. I didn’t know any better, I didn’t know what to do with it after that point so I was like, ‘Alright, well, let’s make another one.’ Because it was just for fun.
DC: I think what ended up happening is that searching for your movies was part of the fun for film buffs. It made it more special and that felt intentionally mysterious but it really wasn’t at all.
MR: Yeah, no, it was just out of ignorance and inexperience. To us, it was just preparing a movie for the next premiere. It was like a band getting together and practicing a new set before playing a show.
DC: I think it worked for you because the interest to see a movie can come from it just not ever being released on DVD or that it’s not available on streaming. That’s half the reason why I used to go to a theater. This is your only chance to see it, virtually or at a repertory theater. You seem to have unwittingly tapped into that which has made your films more intriguing. I think that’s really interesting.
MR: Yep, you hit the nail on the head. It was kind of unintentional. I was never just sitting away being precious about the work or anything.
DC: It does feel like your movies exist in a bubble and when people watch them, they want to live there for awhile. They definitely have your fingerprint. Are you just watching movies that other people aren’t watching?
MR: Ohhh…heh, that’s funny. Maybe. I think with the awareness of Climate of the Hunter, I think a lot of people hit the nail on the head with Daughters of Darkness on that one. That was most certainly an influence.
DC: Totally, I can see that for sure.
MR: Man, I don’t know. I’m definitely straight just ripping off movies but I don’t know what I’m ripping off? It’s like I’m ripping off stuff that I don’t know what I’m ripping off or that I’m not really paying homage to. I just do it on accident because I’m just working intuitively.
DC: What makes your films unique, and any filmmakers’ films if they’re lucky enough to find a voice, is how you personally remember the films that you’re taking inspiration from. Your memory is part of your talent.
MR: Exactly. That’s exactly what it is. It’s based on just taste and the taste is just the stuff I’ve consumed but I don’t necessarily know how to pinpoint it. I will watch movies and see things that I’ve done in my movies and be like, ‘Oh! I guess that’s where I got that from’ but I didn’t purposely do that.
DC: I wanted to ask you about Country Gold. It’s based on George Jones and Garth Brooks. Are you playing Garth Brooks?
DC: And who is the character of Daddy that George Hardy plays?
MR: George Hardy plays Garth’s Dad.
DC: If you look at your film Alien with Elvis, it seems like you’re making movies about maybe your heroes in a fictional world. It’s almost like your version of heaven having these characters interact. Are icons like Elvis and Garth Brooks people you’re a fan of or do you just like the idea of them?
MR: I am absolutely not a fan of Garth or Elvis or George Jones or any of them. In fact, for country music I prefer George Strait. This is the story and this is an alternate timeline between Garth and George. I don’t think it’s that hard to wrap your head around. This is my own version of Garth and George. This is just the idea of kind of a Last Detail with Garth and George and it speaks more to legends and heroes solidifying their place in pop culture and George trying to make his legend permanent by being cryogenically frozen. It’s so intentionally not historically accurate.
DC: If you’re writing now about the Heaven’s Gate cult, I assume, you’re writing about Marshall Applewhite?
DC: First of all, I could see Ben Hall as a good cult leader.
MR: (laughs) Wouldn’t he be awesome? You know, honestly, George Hardy would probably be pretty good, too.
DC: Because you’re dealing with a cult and a mass suicide that effected a lot of people, is your version of that going to be historically accurate and does it need to be?
MR: The Marshall Applewhite is actually pretty historically accurate. There will be some surrealist elements in that they speak about some otherworldly things. It doesn’t cover the suicides. It’s a pro Heaven’s Gate movie. It’s like a movie if Heaven’s Gate members were making the movie.
DC: With Climate of the Hunter, I feel like it’s more of a movie about seduction or the art of seduction more than vampirism.
MR: I don’t find it that seductive.
DC: Wesley is just such a seductive figure and he’s completely manipulating both sisters.
MR: I don’t take the character Wesley seriously. I just think he’s kind of a nerd who’s going around saying a bunch of bullshit the entire movie. Basically, whenever he drops one of those monologues and name drops Baudelaire, to John [Selvidge] and I we’re cracking up writing that stuff.
DC: Yeah, he’s more of a suave poser. Almost like a hypnotist.
MR: Exactly. Seduction sounds serious and I just don’t know that I view it that way. That being said, I do feel like the movie is funnier than most people do. People are going into it thinking it’s this serious horror movie and it doesn’t help that when you get into it you’re like, ‘Oh, this isn’t what I thought it was at all and now we’re trapped!’ It gets funnier and more surreal as it goes on. I think every filmmaker rips off Bergman and that’s what I was doing with Strike and that’s what I’m doing with Climate. I’m no better than any other filmmaker. They’re all ripping off Bergman.
Climate of the Hunter is in select theaters December 18 and On Demand January 12, 2021.