Main cast: Nick Damici (Mister), Connor Paolo (Martin), Sean Nelson (Willie), Kelly McGillis (Sister), Danielle Harris (Belle), and Michael Cerveris (Jebedia Loven)
Director: Jim Mickle
To call Stake Land a vampire movie would be a misrepresentation of what it actually is. Think The Walking Dead: this movie is all about survival in an apocalyptic scenario where it happens to be vampires, not zombies, that are on the prowl.
Basically, we have Martin, a teenage boy whose family is savagely killed one night by a vampire. He survives only because he happens to be out of the house at that time. A mysterious loner simply called Mister shows up to butcher the vampire, and he takes Martin along with him. As he trains Martin to kill vampires in a bad-ass manner just like he does, these two make their way north to New Eden, said to be a far better place that the currently desolate wastelands of America.
Along the way, they pick up some companions: Sister, a nun they saved from being raped by some scumbags; Belle, a pregnant young woman who wishes to reach New Eden before her baby arrives; Willie, a Marine who has a run-in with the cult called the Brotherhood. Indeed, of the two men who tried to rape Sister, one of them happens to be the son of the cult leader, Jebedia. It isn’t long before these bunch get into trouble with his cultists. Yes, the greatest threat in this movie comes from fellow humans rather than vampires.
Stake Land is an unexpectedly intriguing flick. I had no idea what to expect when I began watching, but this one turns out to be a pretty good post-apocalyptic movie. Sure, it’s not that original, and the characters are basically one-dimensional stereotypes that are staples of movies of this sort, but everything comes together nicely. The “some religious people of the South can be really deranged” tone can be a bit too melodramatic at times, but they do contribute to the gripping atmosphere where the biggest predators in the wastelands are other humans. Sure, those scenes of loss, wasteful deaths, and other tragedies are familiar stuff, but they do work in tugging at my heart strings.
Where this movie falters considerably is during its late introduction of a villain that is straight out of Underworld. This villain causes the movie to abruptly switch gears from a low-key movie about human base instincts into some over the top horror survival movie, ruining what has been a pretty solid low-key but emotionally moving movie so far.
Still, this one is worth a look. It’s low on scares, I find, but it delivers a dose of post-apocalyptic pathos that hits the right spots.