Vampire flick aficionados should definitely drop in on “Climate of the Hunter,” a stylish, chatty and camp blood-sucking homage to “Dark Shadows” and the pretentious British films in the genre from the 1960s.
Prolific Oklahoma indie filmmaker Mickey Reece even managed to make this period piece look as if it was shot on grainy celluloid.
But it’s most valuable as a tutorial on the difficulties of creating “camp,” as this film festival favorite is the sort of airless enterprise you end up with when camp doesn’t quite come off.
The first hints you have that this isn’t all that serious come from the characters with what look like spray-on tans. An homage to George Hamilton in “Love at First Bite,” perhaps?
Alma (Ginger Gilmartin) and Elizabeth (Mary Buss) are two sisters with 40 fast receding in the rear view mirror, competing for the attentions of this older man they’ve known for years. Wesley (Ben Hall) is a well-heeled, well-traveled writer, prone to pontification, dropping Goethe and Baudelaire into dinner conversation.
He’s also dapper, rolling up to their vacation home in the woods in a 1970 Mustang convertible, leisure-suited, his spray-tan and dye-job varying just enough from scene to scene to suggest “vanity.”
Elizabeth works in DC, and Alma is more wrapped up in “aging gracefully.”
“How’s that?” her sister cattily wonders.
One of the sisters’ name was on a mental hospital report in the film’s opening image. But here, that’s not a disadvantage.
“He’s clearly into sick women.”
Over the course of a couple of days, they chat and flirt and take strolls with Wesley. Alma’s married daughter Rose (Danielle Evon Ploeger) comes in, gripes a bit and distracts Wesley. And his resentful son, aspiring writer Percy (Sheridan McMichael) shows up and drops a lot of hints.
“Mom’s gone, you’ll live forever and I’ll never have children.” The ladies speak of Wesley being “a little long in the tooth,” but Percy is even less kind about “his twilight years, or whatever these are to him.”
Alma has vivid dreams about vampires gathered for poker games. That could be a byproduct of hanging with local “character” and aged pothead BJ Beavers (Jacob Ryan Snovel).
It’s a film of long dinner chats with classical music warhorses playing in the background, Wesley dropping Pere Lachaise cemetery anecdotes and Percy serving dear old-or-ageless Dad a salad.
“Is there GARLIC in this?”
The tidbits above are the lightest moments in this, although I was amused by Dad’s endorsement of Percy’s prose, “though it lacks subtlety, taste and style” and a random flash of nudity in one dinner chat. Insert shots, with narration, of ’70s style dishes being served, like other “comic” attempted comic touches, left me cold.
Gilmartin’s Alma is the centerpiece here, and while a perfectly natural actress, she looks just enough like Molly Shannon that one is disappointed when nothing all that funny ever comes out of her mouth. Hall (he played an FBI agent in the abortion drama “Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer”) is properly oily, and overall, the cast is as intentionally arch as the material demands.
But for all its virtues — the ’70s take on “pretentious” is spot-on — it didn’t amount to many laughs, any frights or much of all that would provoke more than a “Look at that apparition in a Nosferatu mask” and other DIY low-budget novelties.
Yes, Reece has been doing this for years and his films have taken on a nice polish. And I dare say this one would “play” in the right group setting, with proper alcoholic lubrication.
But from its nonsensical title to the inconsequential plot behind that title, “Climate for the Hunter” doesn’t have enough to offer to make it worth recommending, save for members of the vampire camp cognoscenti. And even they might prefer seeing it tipsy.
MPA Rating: unrated, bloody violence, nudity
Cast: Ginger Gilmartin, Mary Buss, Ben Hall, Jacob Ryan Snovel, Danielle Evon Ploeger and Sheridan McMichael.
Credits: Directed by Mickey Reece, script by Mickey Reece and John Selvidge. A Dark Star release.
Running time: 1:28