Still courtesy of TIFF.
Against the deluge of sucky vampire-based entertainments being churned out with alarming regularity nowadays, director Jim Mickle injects his vampire road flick Stake Land with some modestly novel touches. First, these vamps aren’t cast in the moulds of debonair romantic, angsty teen, or even angstier, PVC-clad post-goth we’re used to seeing presented on-screen. Instead, Mickle makes his vampires behave more like zombies: savage, rabid, and especially dangerous in numbers. This, of course, allows Stake Land to capitalize equally on the unwavering popular interest in both vampires and zombies.
Set in an America that has been overrun by an epidemic of vampirism, Stake Land teams a shy farm kid named Martin (Connor Paolo) with a grizzled vampire hunter known only as Mister (Nick Damici). Together, the two roll northward to the fabled utopia untouched by the vampire plague. Along the way to their secure destination—known as (oh man, wait for it) “New Eden”—the two find themselves caught between attacks from the vampires at night, and a paramilitary religious sect called The Brotherhood.
Peppering some Western genre elements in as well—because obviously when the world goes to shit, we’re all going to revert to Wild West systems of justice, morality, and whiskey bartering—Stake Land gnaws off far more than it can chew. There are plenty of cheap thrills and arterial spray, but the film is like a self-serious Zombieland, right down to the sombre voiceover that’s plan laughable (and not in any sort of cheeky, intentional way). Stake Land is Near Dark meets The Road through the thematic lens of Book of Eli, but doesn’t raise the stakes (no pun intended) set by any of these influences.
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