Starring: Connor Paolo, Nick Damici, Kelly McGillis
Written By: Nick Damici, Jim Mickle
Directed By: Jim Mickle
Stake Land wastes no time displaying the world it is representing, throwing us into a post-apocalyptic setting where the nation is overrun by barbarous blood-sucking undead, and human existence has been considerably depleted. The story follows a group of survivors traveling back roads and small towns, avoiding the plague-ridden large cities. Though, rural areas are by no means completely safe; while the vamps are a worry at night, there's a religious militia known as The Brotherhood that see the apocalypse as a message from God. These extremists patrol the countryside in search of people looking for an escape. Destination for the survivalists is Canada, now known as New Eden.
This isn't some dumbed down, brainless thrill-a-minute action based vampire film; Stake Land is completely well rounded. It has a truly absorbing story and characters that you actually care about. No one in the main group that we follow are there for fodder, and it stings to ponder that something bad is going to happen to any of them. Hell, there's a few moments that hurt when characters we know little about are doomed, because Stake Land is pretty damn honest in its attempt at showing how an vampire epidemic would go down, and it ain't pretty.
The creatures in this movie aren't your sexy, suave vampires capable of seducing your significant other, either. They kill, that's it. They are ferocious beasts, zombie-like and prehistoric in appearance and nature. There's also a few different types of vamps, and while most of them can die by the traditional driving of a stake through the heart, some can only be finished by more painstaking methods.
Nick Damici plays Mister, and this dude is an ideal bad ass to have around in an apocalypse. Mister has the sole purpose of surviving, and helping the others in his company survive, too. He's not going to waste time talking about faith and what once was, because things as such don't improve the group's situation. Damici (who also serves as co-writer on the picture) gives a lot of appeal to his gruff, beer-guzzlin, vamp-tooth collectin', lady-friendly character, and he's gotta be feeling like a total boss right about now.
Connor Paolo portrays Martin, a teenager saved by Mister after losing his family early on in the outbreak. Martin narrates the story, and this addition adds such a realistic human aspect. He's also Mister's right-hand man, going through rigorous training in their travels to be every bit as good of a vampire diminishing ass kicker as his mentor. Paolo brings a lot of emotion to the role, and I felt like I was right next to him during the entire film.
Also along for the road trip to New Eden is Willie (Sean Nelson), a military man who was in overseas when the outbreak began, Sister (Kelly 'Top Gun' McGillis), a nun on the run (heh), and Bell (Danielle Harris – Halloween 4). I've loved Harris since 1988, and was so happy to see her way more up to par with her skills than she was while duking it out with Victor Crowley in Hatchet II. Larry Fessenden (director of The Last Winter) also makes a cameo.
Stake Land has a healthy helping of great make-up FX; the vampires look absolutely brilliant and the blood-sprinklers are running at a near full capacity. But as previously stated, this movie has so much more to fall in love with other than applauding the gore. Jim Mickle has co-written and directed something that shall definitely end up as an indie horror classic.
There's many other things I wish I could speak about, as there is so much imagination and heart in this film. Stake Land has things I have not seen before in another vampire film, or in any other genre film I can think of, for that matter. It accomplishes a lot with a run-time that's just over 95 minutes. And it all looks so big for a tight budget film.
I didn't want it to end.