Sunday, February 17, 2013

Stake Land (2010)

JohnnyToeToes highly recommends this Vampire - Zombie Thriller!

As I settled in for a film one cold night in Nashville, USA, I was a bit fearful. Stake Land is a B titled film from 2010, and I had heard both good and bad reviews but still decided to give it a whirl. The fact I was not expecting much might be why I was pleasantly surprised and why I recommend it.

Stake Land has a fairly simple plot and is narrated by Martin (Connor Paolo), a young lad whose parents are slaughtered by zombie-like vampires that now have inexplicably begun to roam the Earth looking for fresh meat. Martin is saved by a man who is called, rather simply Mister (Nick Damici who also co wrote the script). Mister rescues Martin and the two begin to travel north looking for a safe haven called New Eden in a gigantic, weapon enriched car. Soon, they meet 'Sister' played by Kelly McGillis, a young pregnant singer 'Belle' played by Danielle Harris, and "Willie"a former soldier played by Sean Nelson. As the five head for New Eden, they meet up with the leader of a cult group Jebedia Loven (Michael Cerveris). It seems this group is worse than the zombie-vamps as they rape and pillage what is left of the post-apocalypse society. Now, the five have to not only contend with the zombie-vamps but with this crowd of thugs and miscreants too. 

Stake Land may be a B titled film and I had never heard of the two lead stars or the director. In fact the only people I knew of where Kelly McGillis (Top Gun, Witness), Danielle Harris (Halloween 4, The Last Boy Scout) and Sean Nelson (Fresh, American Buffalo and TV's Law & Order). Don't let that dissuade you. 

I really enjoyed Stake Land. It is an effective film that is well directed by Jim Mickle (Mulberry Street, Pride and Glory), who keeps the pacing up and a underlying feeling of constant dread as it would be in that situation. I felt like I was watching a spinoff from the AMC series The Walking Dead. The characters are interesting and cared about what happened to them. It is not perfect but it is grisly and a fun piece of film making. It does not need to oversell its material and the film is constructed to be rather quiet when the action is not on screen. 

The cinematography by Ryan Samul is simply terrific; bleak and cold all the way though which really helps the story. You get the feeling there is no hope and the ending is perfect (the kind of ending I wanted with Killer Joe). Mickle and Damici don't have to explain everything and the ending leaves us with some questions as to what happens and a possible sequel (Killer Joe left us with nothing to go on). The acting by the cast is excellent and it was great to Kelly McGillis back in films. It has been far too long without seeing her act. Stake Land is nothing original and it knows it, but what it knows, it does well - a great late night horror film. So tuck in and lock your doors. Stake Land- *** out of 4.


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