Director: Jim Mickle / Writers: Nick Damici, Jim Mickle / Starring: Connor Paolo, Nick Damici, and Kelly McGillis
IMDB Plot Summary: 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.
Friday night I had the privilege of attending a free advance screening of Stake Land, a new post-apocalyptic horror tale set to hit theaters on the 22nd of April. As the Cinefamily site warned, even though this is a vampire movie: “These vamps don’t sparkle like couture in the sunlight, and they sure as hell don’t want you to love them — they’re dirty, scary bloodsuckers who’ve become the dominant predators in a post-apocalyptic hell.”
The movie starts off in a way many post-apocalyptic flicks seem to, first with a scene introducing us to the characters and the state of the world they’re living in – in this case, Mister (Nick Damici) and Martin (Connor Paolo) headed down the road with some sort of creature making noises in the trunk – followed by a flashback that illuminates how things came to be as they are. In our flashback scene, we see how Mister rescued Martin when the rest of his family was killed by a vampire. The portrayal of vampires in this movie seems to be drawing really heavily on the current zombie zeitgeist, as these guys are a far cry from the suave, sophisticated Dracula portrayed by Gary Oldman, or the “emo-teen vampires of Twilight.” No, these vampires are portrayed as unspeaking creatures mindlessly pursuing any living, breathing human in hopes of feeding on them. But these zombie-like vampires aren’t the only bad guys in the movie. The post-apocalyptic state of the world, and particularly the US, has left an opening for what appears to be a radical new iteration of the KKK simply called “the Brotherhood.” This group, led by brother Jebediah Loven, espouses the belief that the vampires have been sent by God to help purify humanity by feeding on non-believers and non-whites.
This movie really did feel to me a lot like a darker, more serious version of Zombieland in its presentation of a coming-of-age type story about young Martin and his relationship with Mister. (Apparently it also was reminiscent for some of The Road, but I still haven’t gotten ’round to seeing that one!) The two make their way through the Eastern/Northeastern portion of the US together, picking up Sister (Kelly McGillis of Top Gun fame), Willie (Sean Nelson – token black character, take a guess as to whether he lives to the end of the movie), and Belle (Danielle Harris from a whole lot of Halloween movies) as companions for portions of their journey in search of idyllic-sounding “New Eden.” Fending off vampire attacks and trying to steer clear of the Brotherhood along the way, we get to see Martin do a lot of growing up under the guidance of Mister, who almost seems to be in search of some sort of never-quite-defined redemption.
As someone who hasn’t been particularly excited about the zombie or vampire crazes, this movie might not normally have been very high on my list. I found it to be a really fun ride, though, with a perfect balance of darkness and humor, and of course heavy doses of action and gore along the way.
Chris score: 4.5 out of 5.