Directed by: Jim Mickle
Distributed by: Dark Sky Films
Written by Nick McCann
Vampires are as classic of a movie monster as they come. So much so that they’ve been around in cinema for a fraction of the time as most vamp characters say they’ve been alive. Whether the gothic castles of Universal and Hammer, the rock and roll new blood of “The Lost Boys” or quip-centric target practice for Buffy, many have added their own spice to these silver screen bloodsuckers.
“Stake Land” brings to the table a nationwide outbreak of vampires, akin to most zombie apocalypses. While certainly bringing the usual tropes like scavenging and bartering with settlements, the film opts for a more bleak tone that takes you through this ravaged landscape. Much of the storytelling is presented visually, displaced citizens trying their hardest to rebuild a broken American spirit. A beating heart churns in this journey that’s big on immersion and light on exposition.
When it is time to stake some vamps, it is stark punctuation to all the sorrow. Some great make-up designs and gore aid some decent action scenes. CGI blood does stick out in some areas, however. Additional post effects are otherwise well implemented, adding character to many locations and increasing the scope. The cinematography also manages to evoke an autumn Western atmosphere, with all its nice scenery among some “Mad Max” akin wreckage.
Its characters are also nicely realized. Nick Damici is fully committed to his role, stoic, and built like a brick outhouse to match the feral aggression in the wasteland. Connor Paolo also does a solid job, with his young looks and dreary monologues setting a unique perspective for world-building. Danielle Harris and Kelly McGillis bring a warmness that serves as a light among a looming darkness. Through them and others, everyone shows a layered look at a struggling land that’s a tough but rewarding path to unity.
A committed tone, bleak visuals, and plenty of vampire violence help “Stake Land” plant its flag with distinction among the apocalypse genre. Not often are vampires taken out of their usual small confined narratives. It is great to see a movie realize that nicely while keeping many of the traditions. For this spooky season, get drawn in by the allure of traveling a living hell.
“Stake Land” Trailer