Fantastic Film Festival Australia Report 2: CUTTERHEAD & CLIMATE OF THE HUNTER

For our second report from the Fantastic Film Festival Australia, we take a look at the nerve-shredding Danish thriller Cutterhead, and the indie vampire movie Climate of the Hunter.

Cutterhead (Rasmus Kloster Bro)

For those not in the know, the name Cutterhead suggests something gory and perhaps vicious. In reality it is the name of a crucial section of a tunnel-boring machine, which as this film demonstrates, can be just as terrifying. We follow PR-coordinator Rie (Christine Sønderris) as she visits the titular machine and its workers. She is writing a report on the development of the new Copenhagen metro that is being constructed and how the international workers cooperate despite language barriers. As you may have guessed things go wrong and Rie, alongside Portuguese miner Ivo (Kresimir Mikic), and Eritrean worker Bharan (Samson Semere), must race against the clock to escape the machine before the air runs out.

Fantastic Film Festival Australia Report 2: CUTTERHEAD & CLIMATE OF THE HUNTER
Cutterhead (2018) – source: New Danish Screen

This is by no means a new setup, but that never arises as an issue here. A snappy script that is happy to throw every idea at the screen means that the film rarely falters. You may be asked to suspend disbelief at times, but it doesn’t matter for long, as the film swiftly moves on to the next disaster, each as creative and engrossing as the last.

These moments of danger are very well executed, with a couple standing out in particular. In an early scene, the excruciatingly realistic use of sound as the chamber Rie is trapped in begins to depressurise, will linger long in your memory. Then, as the film reaches its climax with time running out, a horrific fight breaks out that will suck the air straight from your lungs.

The film is so good in these heart pounding sequences, that when it slows down for a moment to catch its breath, it’s a little disappointing. In the slower moments, there is a tentative attempt to explore how different people react when their life is on the line, but the film never really commits to this idea, and so it only succeeds in being half-baked.

Fantastic Film Festival Australia Report 2: CUTTERHEAD & CLIMATE OF THE HUNTER
source: New Danish Screen

One thing the film certainly gets right is the casting. The audience is immediately thrust into the claustrophobia with Rie, with all the crashing of tools and whirring of machinery around her. For the next 84 minutes, we are stuck by her side. It’s helpful then that Sønderris is a captivating presence to watch, and she carries the film with ease, which in this type of project especially, is very difficult.

Overall, Cutterhead doesn’t necessary break much new ground, and there are a few weak spots hidden along the way. However, what it does well, it does very well indeed and Sønderris excels in an extremely difficult, extremely physical lead role. For a quick adrenaline shot of a movie, you can’t go much wrong with Cutterhead.

Climate of the Hunter (Mickey Reece)

Before sitting down to watch Climate of the Hunter, I had never heard of director Mickey Reece or indeed his work. The Oklahoma City native has been quietly and efficiently making features for over a decade, averaging at least two every year. Despite little international acclaim, Reece and his unique style has developed a cult following. Although Climate of the Hunter is no runaway success, I am definitely intrigued enough to dive into the back catalogue of such an unusual director in the hope of finding some gems.

Fantastic Film Festival Australia Report 2: CUTTERHEAD & CLIMATE OF THE HUNTER
Climate of the Hunter (2019) – source: Betmar-Heliand Productions

Climate of the Hunter tells the tale of two middle aged sisters, Alma (Ginger Gilmartin) and Elizabeth (Mary Buss), who are staying in their lodge in the woods. They wait upon the arrival of an old friend, Wesley (Ben Hall) who they have not seen for twenty years. Wesley is your classic dark mysterious man, and as the story unravels, Alma begins to fear that he in fact has a sinister secret that could endanger them all.

The film has a low-fi 70s aesthetic to it. There’s a grainy feel to the set up, and the use of zooms and the boxy 4:3 ratio certainly add to this. Reece’s shooting style is almost reminiscent of the great Peter Strickland, although, at least here, he never quite reaches those heights. It’s a shame that despite the intriguing vibe, concept and a great cast who never put a foot wrong, there’s not really much to the film at all.

Long conversations over the dinner table each night between the three are intriguing enough, with subtle and not-so subtle flirting delighting one sister and enraging the other. But it never really sparks to life. Sheridan McMichael as Wesley’s son Percy and Danielle Evon Ploeger as Alma’s daughter Rose enter the fray, but again the story doesn’t really pick up.

Reece clearly knows his way around a camera and his imagery at times is spectacular, but the film is never as interesting as it could have been. It’s fun enough to watch, especially with standout Hall reeling off the emphatically written monologues, and the 80 minutes do breeze by easy enough. The film is certainly no major success, but it has lingered in my memory, perhaps due to its unique and intriguing aesthetic.

Check back soon for more reviews from the festival.

What is your favourite nail-biting thriller? Let us know in the comments below.

Cutterhead is available now on digital platforms. Climate of the Hunter is out now in the US.

Find out more about Fantastic Film Festival Australia here.

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