SFIFF – Stake Land

Post-apocalyptic vampire zombies. The only way a movie about post-apocalyptic vampire zombies could be better is if they were Nazis. The monsters in Jim Mickle’s Stake Land are not former members of the Third Reich, but we won’t hold that against him since the movie is pretty freaking awesome. What’s best is that despite the overtly dramatic elements to the film, Mickle had the good sense not to rush anything along, but to let everything slowly stew.

Mickle wrote the story with Nick Damici who ended up starring in the film as a mysterious man we only know as Mister.  Mister saves the narrator of the film, a boy named Martin (played by Gossip Girl’s Connor Paolo), when Martin’s family is attacked and killed by the rabid vampires that have taken over the world.  The two form a father and son-like bond, and road trip it north to a rumored placed called New Eden where there are supplies: medicine, food, shelter and protection.  Since this surgance of the undead blood drinkers, understandably, world economies and governments fail as death takes much of the world’s population.  This leads to the rise of men claiming to be prophets that wield power of those wanting protection, and are dangerous to those wanting to stay outside of the system.  This includes Mister and Martin, who have numerous, and violent run-ins with religious zealots.

Mister and Martin end up collecting a group of misfits, a pregnant teenager, played by the Halloween Scream Queen Danielle Harris, an ex-marine, and a nun played by Kelly McGillis.  There’s an otherworldly feel to the the film.  Martin’s listless narration (a device I would have preferred to have skipped), has a melancholy tone to it, there’s no hope, or desperation.  Just a resigned acceptance to sleeping with one eye open the rest of your life.  Mickle, who spent much of the past few years publicizing his last film Mulberry Street, shows a pleasing understanding of the horror genre that, for the most part, keeps Stake Land above the cheap tricks of lesser films.  There’s a fair amount of social commentary.  One of the worst examples include religious zealots even airdrop vampires into urban, and refugee areas to maintain a level of chaos necessary for there plans.  However, there is so much focus on story that this will pass by nearly unnoticed to those who aren’t interested.  Stake Land is a whole lot of fun for those with even a passing interest in zombies.  This is not for those who like the sort of vampires that date.

★★★☆

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