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Stake Land (2010): Zombieland With Teeth


This is quite possibly the best post-apocalyptic film I have ever seen. Stake Land was co-written by Nick Damici (Mister in the film) and Jim Mickle (director) and it is brilliant piece of horror Americana.

Jim Mickle’s direction is practically flawless, he leaves no loose threads and at no time did the film meander. This was Mickle’s second feature length film and it is  for that reason alone that he shows so much promise. Nick Damici as another of the “Jobbing Actor” types that until now has never been given a decent enough role to show his talent. This man will leave a huge mark in the business. Connor Paolo (as Martin [and what a lovely touch, naming the lead actor after the ‘vampire’ in George A. Romero‘s cult classic]) Paolo has been working steadily since 2003 and it shows. He did a good job.

I was surprised and pleased to see Kelly McGillis as the Sister. She’s come a long way since Top Gun and she hasn’t lost anything in the acting department. Michael Cerveris played religious leader Jebidia.  He is another actor who has been working steadily in the business for years and it shows. An excellent actor by any standard and one who, if they ever do a biographical film about Yul Brenner, should definitely be cast as Brenner. Danielle Harris played the pregnant Belle. Danielle is known as the new “Scream Queen” and as powerful as her performance was, I did feel it was a shame she didn’t have more to do.

Danielle Harris

Danielle Harris

The  “Readers Digest” version of the plot is as follows:  Young Martin finds himself in a world gone mad and overrun with vampires. After his family is slaughtered by a vampire he is saved by Mister. Mister is a vampire hunter and his reputation is starting to precede him. Mister and Martin are heading for “New Eden” in Canada, the news is that New Eden is vampire free. On their journey north to New Eden, they pick up: A nun, a marine and young pregnant girl. After they pick-up the nun, they briefly lose her, but she is one tough Sister and makes her way back to the pair.

During  their journey, they not only kill every vampire they come across but they also have to fight off the religious zealots who have a tendency to kill, rape and otherwise mistreat other survivors that have the misfortune to cross their path. While all this is going on, Mister is teaching Martin how to become a hunter like himself. The land they are travelling through is bleak and practically deserted. They do come across the odd “town” where survivors have banded together, but these towns are open targets for the vampires and for the zealots.

At one town they come across the pregnant Belle who hitches a ride as she wants her baby born in New Eden. The foursome then head out and they come across a marine who has been left out as a sacrifice to vampires by the zealots.   I will  stop here with the plot synopsis as I don’t want to have any spoilers in the review.

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This film was a great mix of  gore, scares, sadness, humour and pathos. The inclusion of the religious “cult” survivors and their rabid pursuit of God’s work was an excellent counter-balance to the stoic, taciturn hunter Mister. The cinematography was sharp and beautifully dark. The only problem I had with the film was the narration by Paolo. He spoke in a deeper more gravelly tone, to show that he was older than in the film. This worked well except for the music. The soundtrack was intrusive during the narration and I had a bit of a problem actually making out what Martin was saying. This is probably a personal problem as I do suffer from Tinnitus.

The casting for Stake Land was spot on. The people that the protagonists meet and interact with, looked like real people. The biggest ‘name” in the film was Kelly McGillis and she looks nothing like she did in her Top Gun days. Because they cast so well, the film, at times, almost felt like a documentary it added that touch of realism.

The vampires were excellent. Mickle and Damici chose to use the ‘old fashion’ type vampires for their film and it was a welcome change.  No one sparkled or wandered around in the sun. These vampires, for the most part, were mindless, savage drinking machines. They were not witty nor were they overly articulate. They were scary.

If you only watch one post-apocalyptic film this year, try to make it Stake Land.  It’s a film that’s got bite.

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Categorised in: Entertainment, Film Reviews, Horror Film, Science Fiction, Social

13 Responses »

  1. loved this film,
    it has some of the best atmospherics I’ve ever seen in a zombie/post apocalyptic film.
    loved what they tried to do with the zombie-genre too, interesting stuff!

    Like

    • I fell in love with it, I need to get a blu-ray copy for my collection! :-D

      Like

      • I’d get the DVD but Scott has it so it just seems daft xD haha tis a brilliant film!

        Like

      • Agreed! I just got a blu-ray copy of it! LOL

        Like

      • well that escalated quickly! Amazon?

        Like

      • Well, I should say I just ORDERED it! LOL It will be in tomorrow!! :-D

        Like

      • well I figured you didn’t just pluck it out of the computer screen xD although that would be amazing!
        Tomorrow, that’s quick!
        does blu ray actually make much of a difference? I’m thinking of, you know, moving with the times…but from what I’ve seen it doesn’t look an awful lot different to dvd :S

        Like

      • The main two things about blu-ray are: Usually better special features (but not always) and much better sound and display – you can literally get right on top of the screen and still not see a pixel. They are generally better for FX and explosion heave action, but not for animated features. Oddly enough they are so perfect that they lose their depth and texture and look very cartoonish!

        Like

      • Haha ‘you can literally get right on top of the screen and still not see a pixel’ lol! sorry, I’m just imagining you testing that theory xD
        Christ, even the cheapest blu ray players are bloody expensive! I have such a crappy little TV, blu ray would be wasted on it. Not convinced by them, likewise with HD TV….I know people that pay extra for the Sky HD channels…I’ve watched them, and I swear they look no different
        Think I’ll stay in the dark ages with my cheap DVD player xD haha

        Like

      • Yeah, if you don’t have an HD telly, it’s a waste of time getting a blu-ray player… I’d wait until you’ve got enough dough to get both! And, yes I did get right up on the telly to test it! LOL

        And you’re not wrong about the HD channels, they aren’t really HD for the most part! :-)

        Like

  2. Reblogged this on MikesFilmTalk and commented:

    I’m following Tyson’s (Head In A Vice) example of popping up old posts that I’ve updated with new photos just to how well it goes this time. Cheers!

    Like

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