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Stake Land

A movie directed by Jim Mickle

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"Stake Land" is an interesting, engaging independent horror film; for those who hate "Twilight".

  • Oct 25, 2011
*** out of ****

Since the zombie genre is a tired one, one simply cannot get away with making derivative trash any longer; even the most uninventive, unoriginal of filmmakers are now being forced to embed a twist on the genre conventions in order to entertain. Sadly, this could still mean that their movie is nothing more than survivors blowing off chunks of undead flesh and walking through burning cities and the like. Sometimes, I'm fine with that; but in order to be credited as one with talent, the filmmaker must be at least somewhat creative. And if you still find yourself craving some zombie action even in these dark days; then I've got a movie for you. It's called "Stake Land", it's an Independent horror film produced by Larry Fessenden, who owns Glass Eye Pix; the company that helped distribute the film. With his name attached, it will someday get an audience (hopefully when the rest of the world comes to terms with reality and realizes that Fessenden is just a really radical and cool guy overall). For now, I don't expect that many will see it; but if they do, then boy, they're in for quite a treat.

This bleak, depressing, but surprisingly involving spin on the zombie apocalypse situation/plot was written and directed by Jim Mickle, whose last film was "Mulberry Street", an eccentric horror flick that was also about zombies, but that time around, the infection was spread through rats; and passed down to the people were some of the traits of that very infamous rodent. Mickle hasn't necessarily made something terribly different here, but all-the-same, he once again proves that he can skillfully direct a movie that has both wit, substance, and material that prompts the audience to think. It's not for everyone - most depressing apocalyptic tales are not - but in a world where excessive violence, gore, themes of both the political and religious variety, and zombies themselves are constantly being abused by no-talent writers and directors, this is admittedly better than the average horror movie, zombie movie, or of course, depressing apocalyptic movie.

A world-wide epidemic is destroying American and the surrounding countries as the characters in the film speak. The problem seems to be that somehow, vampire-zombie hybrids have become very much possible; and they are vicious, hungry, and fast to react. In a world such as this, if one does not fight back, then they are the next victim.

The protagonists here are Mister (Nick Damici, who also co-scripted) and Martin (Connor Paolo), a kid that the older man takes in as a sort of apprentice. Over time, we learn that Martin has accompanied Mister on his journey through silent, destroyed earth and forest; in exchange for fighting experience and overall companionship. The two have plans to make it far in their journey; although in a world that appears to be constantly decaying by the moment, where will they go?

The two walk a lot, talk a lot, drive a lot, and kill their fair share of vamps; as I think one should refer to them as. After all, it's made clear that those unfortunately infected have more Dracula in them than born-again flesh. Anyways, I am getting slightly off track. In their travels, Martin and Mister encounter about as many humans as they do vampires. It doesn't take too long for them to add a nun, a pregnant young woman (Danielle Harris), and a marine to the ever-growing and ever-decreasing group. Sadly, not everyone can survive in the end, but we know how where this grand adventure will eventually lead, we have the appropriate expectations, and for now, we wait.

I liked Mickle's silent, observant treatment of this material. I am informed that his early intentions were to make a more excessive apocalyptic romp, which producer Fessenden disapproved of and referred to as "Terminator 5". I am glad that he set Mickle straight and led him down the right path; to make his own movie. Instead of loud noises and violence, the director cares more about his characters - and there's actually some well-written dialogue that is exchanged between a select few of them . I find it nigh impossible not to admire that; this could have easily been a dud, but it's energetic, visually accurate in its approximation of what it's like to live in a world of hell, and there are actually some brilliant little scenes that stick out in particular. In the story told, the group is captured by a religious cult; who believe that the hell-on-earth is the work of God himself. I can't say I was surprised that such people showed up; they always do in these kinds of movies. I imagine Mickle did his homework before he made "Stake Land", and while it doesn't have the best ending, or the most flawless of characters (save for Mister, who's a badass in every last sense of the word), but what it does have is a skillfully executed view of the end of days, creative and never over-the-top disgusting gore effects, and surprisingly enough, a purpose. It revives my faith in the zombie film; but then again, I suppose every year, someone's got to do that.

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More Stake Land reviews
review by . June 24, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Death in the World Come in a Form of a Pair of Fangs.....
Amid all the “Twilight” vampire movies and the “Vampire Diaries” on network TV, HBO’s impressive “True Blood”, I’ve been looking for a vampire movie that tries to be different. Last year’s “Daybreakers” was impressive as it portrayed a different side to the vampire myth, it puts the vampires in a world where they rule and the human race their food is in short supply. Well, being on vacation, I stumbled on a simple Indie vampire film …
review by . July 25, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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