Climate of the Hunter is a new twist on the vampire subgenre of horror. Combining arthouse flair, ‘70s vampire mythos, dark humor, and psychological family drama, it was one of my favorites of the year. The film stars Ginger Gilmartin and Mary Buss as sisters Alma and Elizabeth, who begin to compete for the affections of Wesley (Ben Hall), a man from their past who returns to the secluded wooded community they live in.
The film received a limited theatrical run in December and will be available for streaming on January 12, 2021. Director and co-writer Mickey Reece has made over 25 films in the last decade and I got a chance to speak with him about his unique new film and his style of filmmaking.
Geeks of Doom: I just finished rewatching Climate of the Hunter for the second time. I genuinely loved the film in part because of how strange it is. Can you, the co-writer and director, give your synopsis of the film?
Mickey Reece: My synopsis of the movie is the synopsis of the movie, haha. Two sisters are vying for the affections of a man who may or not be a vampire. To me it doesn’t have a plot or a story. It’s more about the journey and less the destination.
Geeks of Doom: It’s interesting hearing you say the movie doesn’t have a plot. That’s kinda what I enjoyed most about it. It feels like it can be a stage play, with its small cast and isolated locations. Was that something you were going for?
Mickey Reece: As far as it becoming like a stage play, I knew it would be because it was all set in one location with a few actors. I knew it would be different than a movie, a lot of that is out of necessity for budget reasons. I had more money for this movie than I’d ever had before, but I spent it instead of special effects or big set pieces, I made the same movie I would’ve made on half the money and I enhanced the cinematography and spent more time with the actors. It was written to be a small movie. It could’ve been cheaper, but then it wouldn’t be as beautiful.
Geeks of Doom: I got the screener for this as a horror film since most films I review for Geeks of Doom are horror movies. But this is so much more than a horror film. There are also psychological aspects and deep-rooted family drama. Can you talk about blending genres?
Mickey Reece: It is not really a blending of genres to me, it’s just an arthouse film to me. You said you got the screener because you’re a horror critic. So when you make a movie with this type of budget, you usually get the most success by making it a horror movie. My sensibilities are more arthouse, so it was kind of like, how do I marry the two? How do I get audiences to watch an arthouse movie? I think that’s the age-old question. So I put some horror into it as well.
Geeks of Doom: We are in sort of a renaissance of arthouse-style horror, especially with companies like A24, and I feel this film is coming out at a perfect time to maybe gain some steam due those things you just alluded to. I don’t usually check Rotten Tomatoes, but I saw one review with this quote, “It’s like going to a restaurant and ordering the weirdest possible food on the menu; that’s like watching this film.” I thought that was perfect being there are actually scenes in your film that involve food.
Mickey Reece: As far as my direction to the production designer, it was really vague, but I knew I wanted all the meals to be ridiculous and disgusting like an abomination. Almost like the meals that they are eating would come out and eat them like in Beetlejuice. [Kaitlyn Shelby] was so married to that ‘70s aesthetic that she went and found the most disgusting recipes, real recipes from ‘70s cookbooks and then cooked them up. Once she did that, I said well we have to get them in the movie. It wasn’t written in the script to get display shots of the food, but once they were I knew we needed to showcase this presentation of this food. Then she would announce it herself, that’s her little baby voice, “Crown of frankfurters with pear and tuna salad.” Then we took her and did all the narration for the movie as well. That was all inspired on set.
Geeks of Doom: This may or may not be a vampire film. I watched it twice and I am still debating in my head. There is a character that displays fangs at one point, Wesley, played by Ben Hall. I thought he was fantastic in the film. Did you have an inspiration for the vampire? With vampires you can get inspiration from anyone from Christopher Lee to Bela Legosi. Was there a specific Dracula or vampire you were going for?
Mickey Reece: Frank Langella. That’s the image we were going for. Even in the “look book” for the film, where we were pitching the film to financiers it was a picture of Frank Lagella with his cowl on the way Wesley wears it at the end of the movie.
Geeks of Doom: Well it worked, because that’s what I saw immediately. There is a scene in the film where a character tells a story and they’re asked if it’s based on their life. Were any of the character moments in the film based on things that happened to you or in your life?
Mickey Reece: Well everything is presented in an abstract manner. It’s really the only way I know how to make films. Your subconscious takes over. If the film doesn’t write itself, then you should probably move on to one that does. If it doesn’t come out naturally from your subconscious onto the page, whether you mean to or not, then it’s probably not worth doing. So to answer your question, probably yeah but nothing I can pinpoint.
Geeks of Doom: I noticed on IMDb that you have worked with many of the people in the cast before. Is this your crew or did you build strong relationships throughout your career?
Mickey Reece: I think this is the best way to do it because you have to earn trust with another actor. Sometimes you meet a new actor and you just hit it off and you guys can go and create from there. But usually it takes time to build a foundation, a good relationship where they trust you and you trust them. With these people we already earned trust with each other so it’s easier to navigate when we want to do something wild or something that isn’t completely understood by one another.
Geeks of Doom: The movie comes out on digital January 12th. Is there anything else in the pipeline now that you want to plug?
Mickey Reece: I am currently writing a Marshall Applewhite biopic, from Heaven’s Gate. It’s going to show the lead up to him starting the cult. Not necessarily the cult itself, just him and Bonnie Nettles, the co-founder of Heaven’s Gate, sitting around. The conversations they were having which lead to them wanting to start a cult.
Geeks of Doom: Well that certainly sounds interesting and cults are back in vogue now, thanks to NXIVM and the documentaries about them. I want to reiterate, I am really rooting for this quirky little arthouse horror film you made because I really enjoyed it. Thanks so much for your time.
Mickey Reece: Thanks so much and thanks for having me.
Climate of the Hunter will be available on digital starting Tuesday, January 12th in the U.S and Canada, via iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox, Vudu, Direct TV, Dish Network, and all major cable providers. It’s a really intriguing little film that blends horror, psychological drama, and some truly dark humor. Go out of your way to check it out. Mickey Reece’s films are also available on Alamo On Demand.
Follow me on Twitter.