Although it played at many film festivals in 2010, it's release wasn't until this year. So surprise, surprise, my 2011 favorite didn’t hit mainstream Hollywood theatres. Okay, that was a bit of sarcasm. It should come as no surprise that my favorite movie of the year was a direct-to-video effort, a sleeper by the name “Stake Land”. Martin and Mister are vamp killers headed toward New Eden. While blood-suckers are the scourge of the Earth, mankind may just be a tad bit worse. I won’t give too much away; instead I’ll focus on why I love this film.
First off, this is an independent? The overall look and feel of this particular gem has a Hollywood quality to it, but appearances can be deceiving: there are actual characters in this thing, and you feel for them. While I haven’t seen The Road, I’ve heard a lot of comparisons between Stake Land and The Road. This is a post-apocalyptic road movie with brilliantly realized set pieces showing how people have banded together to maintain some semblance of civilization, and I bought it hook line and nker. I really felt this is how people could behave in the event of-not just a vampire apocalypse-but any kind of civilization breakdown.
You could even forget this is a vampire movie, especially if your warped view of blood-suckers involves them twinkling in the sun, which these vampires do not. Blood-suckers ade, living in a post-apocalyptic world where society has broken down is a scary notion indeed…one I hope does not happen in my or my daughter’s lifetime. This movie is so pure in its portrayal of a bleak and desolate world I was more terrified of civilization lost than the vampires, which were bestial and scary creatures, not sparkly brooding teens.
Societal breakdown spawns monsters. People who might not otherwise do evil succumb to dark impulses only thought to be buried, brought to surface when the rules no longer apply. You get a lot of that in this movie and then some, but there is light at the end of this tunnel in the form of “Mister”. This guy would be a lone wolf type if not for the boy whose life he saved when his family was attacked by a particularly nasty vamp. Together the two head north, killing vampires, and rescuing people. Mister is the kind of guy you want to run into, not because he’s a bad ass, but because he’s good, though his tough exterior doesn’t show it. In fact, he’s not portrayed as a bad ass, just a hard ass that now lives in a world full of animal evil. He’s not an action hero slaughtering vamps and dropping cheesy, pain inducing one-liners, he’s just a no nonsense kind of guy on a quest to get to New Eden (Canada), kill some vamps, as he calls them, and maybe save a life or two along the way.
We’ve all seen these kind of movies before, they might be a dime a dozen, but this one stands out because of the ncerity of the characters, how they view the bleak vampire infested world, and how the tuation is represented. And the actors do a bang-up job bringing these characters to life.
Oh, and one more thing: there’s Danielle Harris, with her sexy one raised eyebrow. She definitely fits nice and easy into the cast, though she has few lines in the film. In fact, there isn’t a whole lot of dialogue to begin with, just people trying to survive in a world overrun by animalistic vamps intent on sucking the human population dry.
This movie is not perfect by any means, but I won’t go into its flaws. You can pick them out when you watch or re-watch it. I will say the few faults it does have are ealy overlooked. The movie is a gem.
Bleak, gray, depresng, with hope somewhere beneath the surface, Stake Land is a damn good movie that deserves more respect than its getting and deserves to be seen. If you haven’t checked it out do so. It’s a movie about survival in a fucked-up world that happens to be littered with primal creatures that were once human. Sure, it’s been done before, but I haven’t enjoyed it quite like I did with Stake Land.
Take that Tucker and Dale vs Evil (another enjoyable flick).