Review by Jack Foley
IN an age when it’s cool to make vampires pale imitations of their formerly terrifying selves (a la Twilight and The Vampire Diaries) it’s good to finally find a film that puts the bite back into the genre.
Jim Mickle’s Stake Land is a ferociously entertaining indie horror that combines post apocalyptic road elements with contemporary Western values and good old horror shocks.
It’s cold-blooded, mean-spirited and grimly unrelenting… and all the more memorable for it!
The film serves as a travelogue delivered by teenage vampire hunter Martin (Connor Paolo) who is forced to up-stakes and hit the road with vampire killing expert Mister (Nick Damici) after his family are slaughtered by blood-suckers.
Heading for the mythical state of New Eden (which is allegedly vampire free), they slowly pick up a surrogate family – Danielle Harris’s pregnant woman and Kelly McGillis’s nun – while trying to avoid the attentions of both the night dwelling vamps and a band of religious nuts led by violent preacher Jebedia Loven (Michael Ceveris).
Mickle’s film works on many levels but is notable for the way it treats viewers as adults who don’t require too much heavy explanation or vampires to be angst-ridden lost souls.
As such, it thrives on the often unspoken chemistry between Martin and Mister (the latter assuming a Mel Gibson meets Clint Eastwood iconic kind of quality), while finding what heart that exists in the various portrayals of the women.
But anyone expecting everyone to come out the other end OK had best think again, as Mickle sets up a cruel world early on (with the devouring of a baby) and remains faithful to the rules he has put into play.
It’s a measure of how much you’ll enjoy Stake Land that you’ll genuinely root for the disparate heroes without ever knowing whether they’ll be afforded the ‘luxury’ of survival.
And, likewise, you’ll be impressed at how tense things can be one minute, or how cruelly ironic (and humorous) they become the next.
Admittedly, there are problems that the low budget sometimes highlights, while a late duel between opposing foes requires a bit of a stretch, but in the main this is a bold, adventurous and thrillingly ruthless horror vehicle that successfully manages to combine the likes of The Outlaw Josey Wales, Mad Max and The Road with an identity that’s very much its own.
Running time: 98mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: October 17, 2011