Mental illness on film is a tricky thing.
When it’s told in a straight-forward linear manner, it can feel hollow or disingenuous (looking at you, Ron Howard). But if it leans too far into the abstract, it can be difficult to comprehend exactly what’s going on, or what we’re meant to believe. As with many psychological conditions themselves, sometimes the answer is that there are no easy answers.
The latest film from prolific director Mickey Reece (who’s churned out a remarkable 27 films since 2008) doesn’t tumble into the abyss, but it leans just about as far as it can go without losing its balance. Even at a brief runtime of 81 minutes, it’s a mixed bag of psychedelics, melodrama, and downright weirdness, something wholly watchable even when it’s not entirely comprehensible.
Climate Of The Hunter takes its time setting the stage, which unrolls the slow-burn tone but also allows the cast to shine. Through a web of dreamlike visuals, we’re taken to a cabin in the woods where our protagonist, Alma, is doing her best to escape from the world. The more we meet the people in her orbit—her sister, her daughter, her long-lost childhood friend—the more we understand why she’s been in a “vacation home” for two years.
The three central characters all appear to be in their 50s and above, but their age isn’t presented as a gimmick. Instead, it’s a refreshing casting decision that gives their conversations more weight and adds credence to their dilemmas. Ben Hall steals the show as the silver-tongued Wesley, but Ginger Gilmartin and Mary Buss aren’t far behind as the two competitive sisters.
To call Climate Of The Hunter “mumblegore” doesn’t really fit, but viewers should be prepared for plenty of Reece’s self-trademarked “people talking in rooms” brand of filmmaking. What unfolds within and in between those conversations involves betrayal, secrecy, gaslighting, deception, and a little bit of rage, but to give specifics would ruin half the fun.
Ultimately, it’s Reece’s unfiltered flair that safely positions the film somewhere between being a total drag and flying off the rails. The cinematography isn’t a selling point, but there are plenty of star filters and perhaps some Vaseline on the lens to give the aesthetic a distinct look. The FX are scarce, mostly used for dream sequences and brief cutaways, but they hold your interest. Perhaps the most memorable element, oddly enough, is the food, presented with titular voiceovers and brimming with 70s dinner party energy, right down to the jello salad.
With that in mind, Climate Of The Hunter might be an acquired taste. Many will appreciate its offbeat wavelength, despite a real lack of scares or suspense. Others will find themselves rather bored and wondering what the point is. It’s a film that feels intentionally polarizing, or at least one that doesn’t mind a split audience.
Because it’s likely no matter to Reece. He’s probably hard at work on film number 28. (Maybe even 29 or 30 by now.)
Climate Of The Hunter screened as part of the 2020 Chattanooga Film Festival. If you’d like to check it out for yourself, or any of the other films in our upcoming CFF 2020 coverage, visit the Chattanooga Film Festival website (U.S. residents only).
[CFF 2020] ‘Climate of the Hunter’ is a Trippy Retro Conversation Piece on Mental Illness
Weirdo visuals and solid performances keep ‘Climate Of The Hunter’ from feeling like a narrative drag.