Friday, 27 March 2015

March Monsters: Stake Land (2010)

Stake Land (2010)
Director: Jim Mickle
Starring: Connor Paolo, Nick Damici, Kelly McGillis
Running Time: 98 min

  I've heard a lot of good things about this film and I dig post-apocalyptic stuff.  From what I gather, this is kind of like "The Walking Dead" but with vampires instead of zombies, which should be interesting because vamps can only work at night, giving mankind a glimpse of safety during the day.  Hopefully, this will have some good tips on what to do in a Vampocalyptic setting because it's coming people! 

  Martin, a teenage boy, is rescued by a strange loner named Mister, after his family is attacked by a vampire at the beginning of the apocalypse.  Unfortunately, Mister was only able to save Martin and as they travel up north in search for the New Eden, he takes Martin under his wing and trains him on how fight off vampires and how to survive in this new world.
  On the way, Mister saves a nun from being raped by two guys, Mister has no mercy on these perpetrators and leaves one of them to die on the road.  Still terrified, the nun is slowly brought back to the vehicle and Mister and Martin let her know that she is safe.  Over the next couple days, Sister, the nun starts to trust them and becomes part of their entourage as they continue their way to the great white north of freedom.  Unfortunately, the vampires are not the thing that people need to worry about these days.  The religious right or "The Brotherhood" have gotten even more extreme and have taken over patches of land throughout the northern parts of the US.  They are feared as well as hated and unfortunately, they are pissed off at Mister.  During a stop the group, Martin, Mister and Sister, hear the cries of a baby inside an evangelist tent and when they go to investigate, they get trapped by "The Brotherhood".  The leader of this particular group, Jebedia Loven was the father of one of the rapists that Mister killed to save Sister, so there is nothing friendly about this encounter.  Loven ties Mister up and they leave him defenseless in the middle of the road to die that night and take Sister and Martin back to their camp to "educate" them.  Can Mister escape and save Martin and Sister from these religious nuts or will he be a midnight snack for these wild undead?

  This was really good and not what I was expecting from a lower budgeted vampire flick.  Director/co writer Jim Mickle (We Are What We Are, Mulberry St) and lead actor/co-writer Nick Damici (Mulberry St, Cold In July) create a very different of bloodsucker here.  Instead of the suave and sophisticated vamps that we've seen over the years, they break them down into these unthinking blood hungry animals, which is a very delightful change.  They seem to be more of a cross breed between zombies and a pack of wild dogs, but stronger and a lot harder to kill.  On top of that, the effects team on this project is pretty awesome, considering the budget restraints, and not only do the creatures look amazing but the there are some very good bloody kills as well.
  Also, I found it amusing that Mickle and Damici made the religious right the other villain and one of the things to fear in post apocalyptic times.  Michael Cerveris (The Mexican, Cirque du Freak), who plays the leader of "The Brotherhood" Jebedia Loven, really nails the character and he and his followers can be at times just as frightening as any of the undead at night.

  I'm trying to think of stuff that I wasn't crazy about and there really isn't that many bad things to say.  Sure, the story is simple enough, it's not something we haven't seen and you kind of know what is coming but the way that Mickle & Damici develop this yarn and add simple nuances to it, like the animalistic vampires, allows it to be fresh again. Also, considering this is a low budget picture, I think that director Mickle took full advantage of this and was able to use his small cast to really focus on what was important and tell a great road/coming of age story with a vampire twist.
  The only thing that I wasn't a huge fan of was the ending but I understand why they did it.  I just don't know if that was the best idea for the characters or if it would have been true, but it did create a very impactful scene at the end and it did make sense in a way.  However, this doesn't hurt the film in any way, it's just what it is.

  This is a great vampire flick and anyone who is looking for some old school vampire carnage should check this out. These vamps certainly don't sparkle.  This is a simple but well told road story, peppered with enough violence and gore that will make you want to see it again and again.  So, if you're looking for a creature flick that you can sink your teeth into that doesn't drain you of your precious time, grab this and let feasting begin.

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