Director: Jim Mickle
Starring: Connor Paolo, Gregory Jones, Traci Hovel, Nick Damici, James Godwin
The most dangerous thing is to be alive
In the near future, bloodthirsty vampires has taken over and ruined society as we know it. A young teenager named Martin is saved by a cowboy looking fella that goes under the name “Mister” and is taken under his care and protection.
They decide to head up north to find a safe place called New Eden in Canada, but on their journey they will not only come across vicious vampires, but also a fanatic religious cult of men that are perhaps even more dangerous than the undead.
Stake Land has an interesting concept. It tries to do the post-apocalyptic thing where they switch out the zombies and rather let vampires be the evil monsters. Vampires are rarely used in this way for some reason and that does make this movie feel very fresh and original.
Even if the premise might keep you interested, the film fails in delivering the post-apocalyptic feel to the viewer, although it surely does try its best to make you feel for the character and engage in the situation with a lot of overly dramatic and emotional sequences. It is a bit of a frustration film in that you feel that it should have been a better movie than it was, but it sadly fails in grabbing you and giving you the emotional ride that it so desperately tries to do. The subplot with the religious brotherhood also felt unnecessary and I would have prefered if they had kept it out or made it the main plot of the film.
There is also a problem in that the characters aren’t fleshed out very well and that the story doesn’t really deliver anything interested after the initial setup. The “Mister” character plays out like your typical outlaw cowboy and even if they do try to give him some emotions, he doesn’t become anything more than a typical “bad ass gunslinger”. Martin is a typical young trainee who has to learn how to survive and make a life for himself in this new world. Even if these characters feel very cliché, they do work somewhat thanks to the good performances by the actors. Genre favorite Danielle Harris also shows up as a love interest for Martin, but she is sadly a bit underused.
Stake Land was directed by Jim Mickle, a young director who has started to make some noise with his films, which include the film he did before this called Mulberry Street and his newest feature We Are What We Are (a remake of a Mexican film with the same name from 2010). He doesn’t quite hit the balance of the emotions and the action/scares in this one though, perhaps that’s also to blame due to the fact that he also co-wrote the script aswell (with Nick Damici). Being a good director doesn’t necessarily mean you also can be a good screenwriter and vice versa.
Stake Land tries to do a lot at the same time. It tries to deliver a new take on vampires, it tries to give a dreadful atmosphere and it also tries to mix in a religious subplot all the time while using a very western inspired way of telling this story. It becomes a bit too much and could have used some more touches on the script before going into production. It is however still an entertaining watch and it does have some good performances and it does feel very fresh. See it if you are sick of seeing vampires as lovable creatures, you can do way worse than this if you are going to choose a modern vampire film.