Stake Land

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The county is in ruins, the economy has collapsed, and worst of all, mindless vampires now own the night. In this new hell, one man spends his time hunting the fiends, but when he comes across something he cares more about than revenge, he may have to sacrifice it all in order to save it.

Truth be told, I’ve been waiting for this film since the introduction of Twilight. Not necessarily this one in particular, but a vampire film that does not have the new norm of “conflicted” vampires that don’t enjoy being a vampire. You know, a film instead where the vamps actually enjoy draining their victims in the most sadistic of ways, after all, I don’t remember Dracula questioning if it was right to turn Lucy Westenra before chowing down. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have the Twilight hate most do, after all, you don’t sell a million tickets if someone doesn’t like it, and if someone thinks sparkly vampires are cool then so be it, to each their own, it’s just not my thing is all. Truth be told, though Twilight gets the brunt of the hatred, it’s far from the only movie with the new norm of conflicted vamp. It’s been going on for years, Twilight just added the sparkly bit and that seemed to send everyone over the top. I think it’s kind of lame personally, most people would most likely enjoy being a vampire, but people are going to like or hate what they’re going to like or hate, so again, just not my type of vampire is all. The savage, almost zombie like vamps in Stake Land on the other hand are exactly my type.

Our film begins after America has completely fallen apart. The economy only worsened from what we know now before completely collapsing, and the country followed suit soon after. As if America joining the ranks of the many nations that fell before it wasn’t bad enough, the country has also been overrun by legions of blood thirsty vampires who are protected by a religious order known as The Brotherhood. These vampires aren’t in control of their minds anymore, having reverted to beast like creatures driven mad by their lust for blood, roaming in hordes and small bands all across the country. In this new world, hunters scour the land killing vampires in exchange for supplies, citizens hole up together in small towns turned strongholds, and the new golden land is Canada. One hunter in particular, known only as Mister, has become very good at his job, easily trading handfuls of vampire fangs at each of his stops. The only thing Mister cares about is killing vamps, having long ago lost any love for life, but things change when he comes across young loner Martin and decides to escort him up to Canada, picking up the wandering Belle, played by the smoking hot Danielle Harris, along the way. Things get complicated when The Brotherhood decide they’ve had enough of Mister hunting down their vampire charges and kidnap Martin while leaving the hunter for dead. Unfortunately for The Brotherhood, Mister is a hard man to keep down, and not the type to piss off, something The Brotherhood is going to learn firsthand when he comes looking for some payback.

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{Mister and Martin make one hell of a team}

I really liked this movie, I mean really, really liked it. Not only was the film brutal as all hell, but it shined as a vampire flick, no pun intended, and it gave me a chance to review a vampire flick for The Year of the Undead. I went and back and forth on whether to post this, vampires being a part of the undead family but not any particular kind of zombie. However these vamps have some definite zombie like qualities, and after a second watch, I figured what the hell. I’m starting to warm up to the writing team of Nick Damici, also playing Mister, and director Jim Mickle as well. I wasn’t a huge fan of their previous film Mulberry Street. I could appreciate the originality of it, but it was so disjointed and downright silly in its people to rat people to zombie rat people premise that I tuned out, even if the characters were interesting and the actors portraying them very talented. With Stake Land they have really outdone themselves though, to the point where I’m going to have to check out the film they made together after this We Are What We Are.

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{This is one of the nicer looking vamps}

Stake Land has a lot going for it, but its biggest success is obviously in the vampires. First of all, they look amazing, don’t expect long flowing capes and piercing green eyes, these are animalistic monsters. I liked their vicious look and thought it added to the monstrosities they were supposed to be, nothing even close to the vampires we’ve become used to in movies. I also liked that there really wasn’t much of a supernatural aspect to the vampires, for instance when they’re staked they don’t explode or disintegrate, they just die. It made them seem like a real threat, almost like a natural aspect of this world. Of course what I liked the most was how much the vamps reminded me of zombies, they seemed very much like reanimated corpses with a perpetual and instinctual hunger to feed on the living, a hunger that killed any rationale part of their brain that had remained after they turned, only instead of flesh these guys and gals go after the blood. One scene in particular cemented it for me where a vampire is caught standing in a daze, staring at a portable bathroom stall waiting for the human inside to make his way out. He has no other interest and he doesn’t try and break in, he simply stands and wait as if only the basics of his brain are still firing. I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing more zombie like vampires in cinema after this.

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{These are most assuredly not the conflicted kind of vampires}

Stake Land also features some fantastic performances by every actor here. Nick Damici is in top shape as vampire hunter Mister, pulling off the vengeful loner routine with finesse, his young ward Martin (played by Conner Paolo) does just as well, and Danielle Harris is of course stunning. I’m sorry but the woman is this reviewer’s choice for hottest actress in horror, hell, I’d watch a chick flick if it had her in it…well, not really, I try and stay as far away from those things as possible, but you get the point. What really impressed me though were the performances by the vamps and those portraying The Brotherhood. The vamps act more like wolverines undergoing heroin withdraw than the smooth, suave blood sucker we’re used to, and the actors do a good job of showing that animalistic nature. The Brotherhood, well, they do a terrific job of making you hate them, and you will truly come to hate them. The Brotherhood are far more sadistic and twisted then the vampires. The vampires act the way they do because it’s their nature while The Brotherhood does their thing simply because they’re heartless, sick bastards.

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{Let’s just say that if this film had a “Most Evil Bastards” award, the vampires wouldn’t be winning it}

That was another thing that impressed me, the boundaries Stake Land doesn’t mind crossing. There is nothing sacred in this movie, and there are things that will make your stomach churn, not because of how graphic they are because, even though the effects shown are great (the makeup specifically), they’re not very prominent. No, what will make your stomach churn are the acts themselves, the vile things done to pretty much anyone, children, the elderly, the handicap, they’re all up for slaughter (and worse) here. I’ll just say that Stake Land is not for the squeamish.

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{That is the face of a man who has seen some things}

If you’re looking for a great vampire flick that features the brutal creatures we’ve all come to love as well as an excellent story, than look no further, Stake Land is the film for you.

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: Jim Mickle (Mulberry Street, We Are What We Are)

Starring: Nick Damici (Mulberry Street, World Trade Center), Conner Paolo (Camp Hell, Mercy), and Danielle Harries (Halloween {2007}, Halloween 4, 5, Left for Dead)

Written By: Nick Damici (Mulberry Street, We Are What We Are) and Jim Mickle (Mulberry Street, We Are What We Are)

Released By: Glass Eye Pix and IFC Films

Release Year: 2010

Release Type: Straight to Video

MPAA Rating: Rated R

Rotten Heads: Four and Half Heads Out of Five

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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