April 29, 2011
Nick Damici and Jim Mickle
Connor Paolo as Martin
Nick Damici as Mister
Kelly McGillis as Sister
Stake Land is Another Zombie Apocalypse, but With Vampires (that behave a lot like zombies). Horror fans will notice the title similarities to Zombieland. This is more than a coincidence.
An older man and teenage boy are perpetually on the road, attempting to reach the last place they believe the apocalypse spared – New Eden (sound familiar?). Yet, Stake Land is a much darker version of the tale and instead of zombies – you guessed it – vampires have risen from the dead to take control and transform many more into vampires. These are not the vampires of the Anne Rice books, Lost Boys, or even Twilight. They have no capacity for rational thought and seem more obsessed with mauling their prey than drinking blood. In other words, this is NOT a movie about vampires, but overly aggressive zombies with fangs.
All the usual assumptions about zombie apocalypse films are in this one. Zombies – oops, I mean ‘vampires’ – are everywhere. Small communities with limited exposure to the ‘vampire’ epidemic have managed to survive. The fabric of the country has been ripped apart and they are run by their own people with their own laws. Despair is everywhere, of which the teenage protagonist – Martin – continually reminds us with his running commentary. And, per usual, the ‘vampires’ become less important than the struggle between bands of humans. In this case, most surviving communities Martin and his companion, the vampire hunter known only as ‘Mister’, encounter are decent, save one – the Brotherhood. The area controlled by The Brotherhood is not so much a community as an expanding empire. Its hordes capture vampires and unleash them on other surviving communities, before invading. It is a neo-Christian group (that bears nothing in common with anything Christian) led by a prophet – Jebediah. They mercilessly kill and rape and quickly become the enemy of Mister and Martin, who are attempting to pass through.
A flashback, informs the Stake Land audience that Mister encountered Martin while his family was being torn apart by a vampire. Mister restrains him from becoming involved and kills the vampire. After their bloody introduction, the two become an inseparable pair. Mister trains Martin in the art of vampire killing as they make their way north. They pick up other strays along the way – a nun, a pregnant girl and an a former Marine. Together they attempt to survive the onslaught of The Brotherhood and the occasional vampires. In short, nothing you haven’t seen before.
The predictable plotline could be forgiven with a twist in the story, but there is none (unless you include the ‘vampires’). It is never explained why vampires have overwhelmed the United States, why those who are not mauled can be transformed into different types of vampires, or why the Brotherhood is so malevolent (and can somehow attract so many followers). Additionally, there are many episodic holes that become irritating as the film drags on. At one point when our heroes are surviving in wooded mountains they are chased by vampires through a cornfield, which is clearly on flatland… pathetic.
If you like vampire movies, DO NOT see Stake Land – you will be disappointed. If you are addicted to apocalypse movies, this one may be worth your time, but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.