Climate of the Hunter

Climate of the Hunter is a difficult movie to describe. If you can imagine a vampire tale being done in soap opera style, and then filtered through the surreal tone of a David Lynch picture, you might be on the right track. Or maybe not. That's just the best I can do right now. Of course, this hard-to-define quality is precisely what I liked about the film. It's different from anything else on the cinematic landscape at the moment.

Alma (Ginger Gilmartin) and Elizabeth (Mary Buss) are sisters who don't exactly get along. They compete for everything, including the affections of old friend Wesley (Ben Hall), who comes to visit them after many years of distance. Both women are smitten by the dapper gentleman, although he remains married to his currently institutionalized wife. Wesley is well aware of their fondness for him. He makes every effort to charm both sisters. After a bizarre vision, Alma comes to believe he's actually a vampire. She's got mental health issues, though, so it could just be a delusion.

Director Mickey Reece shoots Climate of the Hunter in a square aspect ratio, almost like an old TV show. He has his actors deliver heightened performances that are a notch or two above how people would really behave. Dialogue has an intentionally stylized quality to it, with Wesley speaking in a floral manner that's slightly removed from authentic speech. Cinematographer Samuel Calvin provides a gauzy, atmospheric look that accentuates the inherent weirdness of the tale.

The cumulative effect of these creative decisions is that the movie develops a hypnotic vibe. Several scenes are simply Wesley, Alma, and Elizabeth sitting around the dinner table, sharing a meal and talking, yet it doesn't grow dull because there's a perpetual sensation of wanting to know where Climate of the Hunter is heading. A streak of dark humor running right down the middle also keeps the intrigue alive. The manner in which the film plays with the conventions of vampire stories is quite humorous.

A number of really wild, kooky events take place in Climate of the Hunter, not the least of which is a surprise appearance by Wesley's wife at just about the most inopportune moment imaginable. Again, the unpredictable nature of the movie is what pulls you in. Reece creates an ambiance of mystery that grows on you. In the end, the core idea seems to be that sexual attraction is a thrilling, dangerous thing. Alma and Elizabeth get lulled by Wesley's magnetism. They could never guess where that would take them. Neither will you.

out of four

Climate of the Hunter is unrated, but contains adult language and nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 25 minutes.