In many vampire films, the story usually takes place in a desolate castle or manor where a visitor has to travel several miles and, at times, over terrible terrain to visit the Count or some aristocratic equivalent. With large great rooms and cobwebbed corridors, the aristocrat uses his charms in order to stave off mortality by drinking the blood of others. A doctor or scientist convinces the other upper crust to eliminate the menace that surrounds them. The Climate of the Hunter, a film produced by Perm Machine and distributed by Dark Star Pictures, shatters this environment and provides a different, albeit lurid atmosphere in a nearly abandoned area of vacation cottages during a mild winter.
Alma (Ginger Gilmartin) is visited by her sister Elizabeth (Mary Buss) at her cottage when Wesley (Ben Hall) a friend they haven’t seen in years, shows up and occupies his vacant cottage across the way. Wesley charms the two single women with tales of his excursions in São Paulo, Brazil. The nightly conversation with Alma, Wesley confesses that his wife resides in an insane asylum and culminates with an astronomy lesson with Wesley professing that the Vega star is his favorite. The Climate of the Hunter is off to a flying start.
Wesley is visited by his angst-riddled son Percy (Sheridan McMichael). Angered by Wesley’s pestering about his life and the addition of his abandonment of his mother, Wesley plays a sadistic joke upon his father by adding garlic to a salad to their dinner with Alma and Elizabeth. Wesley becomes sick as he states to the two women that he is allergic to garlic. As Wesley coughs and vomits, a strange object ejects out of his mouth at the dinner table.
Because of this incident, Alma confides in the local resident and eccentric BJ Beavers (Jacob Snovel) who believes there’s something “not right” about Wesley. Alma begins to investigate Wesley’s habits and starts to surmise that Wesley may be a vampire. Alma’s daughter Rose (Danielle Evon Ploeger) visits her and, along with Elizabeth, sense that Alma is losing her grip on sanity. Terrified of the threat that Wesley could inflict on her sibling and offspring, Alma must make the decision that, if Wesley is a vampire, what’s to be done about it?
Co-written by John Selvidge and Mickey Reece, who helmed this vampiric masterpiece by crafting his own unique take on this horror subgenre. Mr. Reece eschews the sweeping gothic for a more contained one which I would coin “backwoods gothic” with its spare rustic cottages as opposed to the decay and crumble of a mansion or castle. Wesley, despite sleeping in the day, is not confined to a coffin or tomb. Mr. Reece provides a claustrophobic domain for Alma, Elizabeth, and BJ within their own cottages, utilizing them as their own stately mausoleums.
The spare cast is exceptional with Ginger Galmartin excellent performance as the cannabis toking, insightful but scared in her own skin free spirit Alma. Mary Buss is delightful as the severe, uptight but vulnerable Elizabeth. The pair are fantastic as an oil and water combo. Sheridan McMichael is perfectly cast as the angry and insecure Percy who is a living sketch straight out of an Edward Gorey book. Jacob Snovel is an excellent comic foil as the nosy and old BJ Beavers. Ben Hall gleams as the erudite charmer with an essence of darkened undertow joined with a mysterious air that makes the character of Wesley so compelling.
While I stated above that Climate of the Hunter is a masterpiece, it may not be for everyone. If you like your films straight with no chaser, this may not be your beverage. However, if you like to see what a spare and twisted take on an older man with vampire potential looks like with plenty of ambiguity, then this mind-bending vision is for you.
Starring Ginger Gilmartin, Mary Buss, and Ben Hall
Written by Mickey Reece and John Selvidge
Directed by Mickey Reece
While Climate of the Hunter is a masterpiece, it may not be for everyone.