Stake Land (Jim Mickle 2010): USA

Reviewed by Charles Starr. Viewed at Santa Barbara Film Festival 2011

Stake Land, directed by Jim Mickle, is a far cry from most of today and yesterday’s vampire movies. The film’s main character “Mister” is a vampire hunter in post-apocolyptic America. The country has been ravages by vampires who have been making their way from the southern US towards the Canadian border, destroying everything and everyone in their path. When Mister comes across teenage Martin and witnesses vampires consuming his family and what would have been him next, Mister saves him and becomes his mentor. He teaches him how to kill vampires and travels from state to state trying to protect people suffering a fate such as Martin’s and recreating a sense of family with those they meet along the way.

The film is shot so that every scene comes across as being a little darker and drearier than it would appear in reality, a logical effect for such a film. The film contains a remarkable amount of depth in the characters, something that came as a surprise to me for this genre. There are many characters Mister and Martin encounter in their travels, some of them joining them in their endeavor to save others from the vampires. Because of their complexity, the viewer becomes attached to these characters.

Lastly, I also appreciated how so many vampire movies of the past and present are quite romanticized. Vampires have historically been depicted as being regal, seductive, and charismatic creatures. In this movie, the vampires are far from it. They are more like a zombie-vampire hybrids. They look like monsters that have just crawled out from the grave, not a suave gentleman leaving a ball which, to me, seems a much more appropriate look for something or someone who is about to suck the life out of you.

In summary, “Stake Land” is a rethinking of the vampire genre that works. I would recommend it specifically to true vampire and zombie fan, but also to anyone who enjoys an action/thriller flick with a plot and strong character development.

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