On Saturday night I got a chance to see the much talked about Stake Land and I had a grand old time. Twas a midnight showing and thanks to my crafty job at tricking my body into thinking it was earlier than it was, I stayed up and didn't yawn once. But we're not here to discuss my superb skills at staying up late--we are here to talk about Stake Land, and how you should go see it immediately.
Stake Land is the 2nd directorial feature of Jim Mickle, whom many of you may be familiar with for directing Mulberry Street. The film puts its own spin on the apocalypse by using vampires and injecting some good old fashioned chaos and characterization into our situation. We follow Martin, a young boy who gets swooped up under a rough and tough vampire hunter's wing after his family gets massacred by a vampire. He is known only as Mister, and sees it as his duty to train Martin as his apprentice. The two set off in search of the much talked about "New Eden" and along the way encounter crazy religious cults, new friends and plenty of vampires.
While the plot may sound like your typical, gang trying to survive in fill-in-the-blank apocalypse, Stake Land is surprisingly original and refreshing in just about every single area. Sure it may remind you here and there of Zombieland or even The Road--but Stake Land has enough WOW moments to really ground your thoughts. Once the credits roll and you start to replay the film's events in your head you realize that Stake Land is simply Stake Land and nothing else---and that is important.
The best thing about Stake Land is how unbelievably polished and great it looks despite its smaller budget. Made for under a million, Stake Land boasts some of the greatest looking vampires and dead vampires that I have ever seen. While a few of the live vampires at times look a little orc-ish and CGI happy--the real star is the aftermath of the vampires. You'll see some really, really fantastic FX work here that will blow your mind. Rotting and gutted vamps hanging from trees, burnt to a crisp vamps in grotesque positions. Vamps tied to ladders awaiting the final judgement of the sun. Truly, spectacular.
Stake Land also has one of the more notable opening scenes that will make you both smile and cry at the horror. Hint: a baby is involved. In fact, when all is said and done in the grand scheme of Stake Land, you will definitely find yourself going WOW more than you are saying YIKES. Ya dig?
Sure it has it down points: The uber religious and scary Jedidiah comes off as a bit cartoonish--especially at the end, and feels worlds away from the tone established so far. The film also runs a bit too long in my opinion and I couldn't help but feel that with at least 15 minutes shaved off we would be in fine condition.
Still, as with most apocalyptic horror films these days--it's all about the people. Mickle himself at the screening explained how one of the most repeated nods in the film goes to 9/11. The film itself is meant to show how we as humans are able to come together in times of tragedy and hopelessness. The bonds formed between our main characters seem to remind us that one day IF the world comes to an end--there may still be hope after all.
I totally have a crush on this kid. Call me.
Stake Land gets huge points in my book for being insanely original. You won't find standard jump scares or cheap shots here--instead you'll come across scenes that will simply make you excited that it's happening. You'll ask yourself how it is possible that no one thought of that before. This is what I enjoyed most about Stake Land, it wasn't predictable and it kept us on a continuous level of admiration--which I find to happen less and less to me these days. These days it's all about the dissection, the, "Well, they SHOULD have done this" and "I didn't like the THIS". Here though, I found myself appreciating what was done more than anything.
One scene in particular will have you filled with such confusion and horror that you'll be playing it over in your head for days. It's a remarkably well done scene that will surely be spotlighted a 100 times over. I don't want to spoil it.....oooh but I really want to talk about it!
Alright well I'll just say it, and if you'd rather not know you may skip this paragraph now. The scene in question comes during a moment of rapture. Our characters have stumbled into a government aided lock down area and a jolly good moment of dancing ensues. Suddenly without warning, a helicopter appears overhead and something comes crashing down on the table. We don't know what it is and the camera whips around frantically emphasizing the chaos. Then we hear more deep thuds and crashes and we see glimpses and hear the growls of vampires. It is clear in that moment that the evil "brotherhood" has seen it fit to cause as much destruction and chaos as they can. They are dropping vampires from the helicopter right on top of the town and all of its good intentions, causing mass hysteria. Crazy right? It's the best scene in the entire film.
Alright back to normal! Overall, Stake Land is a surprise. It's not perfect but it's definitely a film that will make you appreciate the fine art of making films without a super mega budget. Its characters will stay with you and more than a few scenes will make your eyes pop out of your head. Stake Land helps keep vampires on the scary list of movie monsters and it does it all without sacrificing a thing. So if and when Stake Land rolls in near you, do yourself a favor and check this one out. I hope you won't regret it, but something tells me you won't.