‘Stake Land’ – absorbing, and sort of moving, and quite scary…

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Stake Land

Directed by Jim Mickle

Screenplay by Nick Damici and Jim Mickle

2010, USA

Horror films, despite their divisiveness, are uncannily successful as time capsules. Stake Land, despite its many flaws, quite exhaustively captures the zeitgeist of 2010 America. Director Jim Mickle’s second feature is a vampire-apocalypse-road-movie featuring a dumb, animalistic class of vampires–that is to say zombies with more rules and more christian iconography. The film features a hard-assed father/Moses figure (Nick Damici), a rosy cheeked young lad learning the vamp-killing ropes (Connor Paolo), a nun (Kelly McGillis), and a young pregnant lady (Danielle Harris) among others, and all are making their desperate way up to New Eden (read: Canada). Along the way they encounter vampires aplenty, but, and believe you me, the real horror may just lie in the unturned human population.

Stake Land isn’t a bad film–it’s absorbing, and sort of moving, and quite scary–but it embraces the Apocalypse aesthetic to a fault. The actors, all deliver good performances, but the film very rarely shows them speaking with each other, and when they do its largely in pithy, hopeless one-liners. An outrageous amount of the film is narrated in bleak voice-over by Connor Paolo, but even his character doesn’t accumulate much depth. But this is a film about People, not specific people, and while Stake Land operates in formula, it’s a formula that seems to have particular relevance these days. It’s also shot beautifully, and there are just enough unique touches–an evil Christian contingent air-drops vampires on a peaceful community of survivors, for one–to give the Stake Land an identity all its own.

– Emmet Duff

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