15 - 98mins - Horror - 17th June 2011
Stake Land is set in a post apocalyptic world where a vampire epidemic has spread over the whole country leaving only small pockets of people left to fend for themselves. One such group consists of Martin (Connor Paolo), just an ordinary kid before the vampires, and Mister (Nick Damici), a vampire hunter, as they travel north through infected America to the promised land of Canada where rumours are of a safe zone called New Eden. As Martin and Mister travel, they run into new people and communities both good and bad who each have their own unique ways of coping with the disaster.
For a film with the title Stake Land you might think you know what you are letting yourself in for but the enemies are rather ambiguous and are what I would call the offspring of a vampire (only come out at night, need to be staked etc) and a zombie (brain dead drones, don't get bit or you will turn etc). Whatever they might be though, they still do their job of looking evil and warrant a wide berth if survival is the aim of the game.
Fleeing to the only safe patch of land left while being chased by zombies/vampires/the diseased/[insert appropriate evil entity here] has been covered rather exhaustively of late hence Stake Land will be getting no bonus marks for originality. But it is by no means a bad attempt despite having been done better by others before it and is certainly one or two notches above the swathes of budget horror flicks out there. This is mostly due to the film not solely relying on the vampire gore factor to sell it to the audience. The actors are capable and the script and direction from Jim Mickle leaves me wanting to see the characters make it through the ordeal without dying- not an emotion I usually have when watching a horror.
In many respects it sets itself up in a similar vein to The Road with a similar feel to it as a small group set out against everyone else to try and overcome their troubles. The pace of the film is slow highlighting their efforts to journey across the country and the bleak music and well constructed post-apocalyptic sets with signs declaring that all hope is lost succeed at pulling you into the world that has been created.
When compared to its counterparts, I found that it toned down the scare factor and action was more of a premium than you might expect for a film of this nature. It seemed to dabble more with the emotional turmoil that the characters were going through focusing on character development rather than setting out to make you require a change of underwear- although it still has its moments.
I was not blown away but it was refreshing to watch a horror movie that had a bit of depth focusing on communities coming together to help each other in times of hardship as well as filling my requirement for action, blood, gore and religious fanaticism.
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