Directed by Jim Mickle
Written by Nick Damici & Jim Mickle
Starring: Connor Paolo, Nick Damici and Kelly McGillis
Martin was a normal teenage boy before the country collapsed in an empty pit of economic and political disaster. A vampire epidemic has swept across what is left of the nation’s abandoned towns and cities, and it’s up to Mister, a death-dealing, rogue vampire hunter, to get Martin safely north to Canada, the continent’s New Eden.
It’s possible that low expectations help yield the best horror movies. I’ve seen this advertised in just about every horror outlet imaginable and just thought it looked kind of lame. I hear the words vampire or post-apocalypticc and I usually just move on to the next movie. These two scenarios are just done to death. Stake Land is a surprisingly endearing exception.
Brought together under the worst of situations, Martin (Connor Paolo), and the mysterious Mister, (Nick Damici), quickly become master and student in the face of the vampire apocalypse. The unlikely pair must navigate through the desolate roads and woods of a rapidly dissolved America in an attempt to make it to Canada, the rumored New Eden. Along the way they take up company with a random assortment of survivalist characters, including a nun, an ex-Marine, and even a pregnant girl; talk about dead weight in a vampire-road flick right? Ditch the prego.
Gore-filled? Yes, please.
Stake Land suffers from one thing in my opinion: a terrible name. The poorly chosen name almost caused me to miss this dark sleeper. Stake Land is full of the things you would expect. Dead towns and factories stretch across the horizon, ramshackle safe houses, barren woods, and an assortment of evil things. You’ll never get bored with the visual presentation. I love it when a director takes such pains to make the countryside come to life.
The vampires are refreshing for a change. Hulk-powered vamps have been replaced with a breed stronger than humans, but still not overly difficult to kill. Some vamps have mutated into super-vamps and there’s never much lag-time between their disturbing scenes. Enjoy the baby scene at the start of the film. Maybe even more terrifying than the vampires, are the religious zealots preaching a rather heavy-handed sermon. Our protagonist duo has to avoid vampire-infected areas along with the religious territories on their way to the promised land.
The acting is right where it should be in a film like this. Believable characters and above-average acting help an already done story gain life of its own. Kelly McGillis plays her woman of God with skill. A compassionate soul that never lends herself to outright bleeding heart dynamics, McGillis does a great job. The sacrificing character is one of my favorite horror movie archetypes and her performance seals it. Beautifully filmed and creating an environment of both desolation and hope, this is one horror movie that takes the importance of character development and relationships seriously. There are no simply disposable deaths in this film, everything makes sense in Stake Land, and you can count me as surprised and pleased. Check it out.