Stake Land Brings Fresh Blood to the Vampire Genre
by Mat Weir
Ok, I know what you’re thinking, “The vampire genre is good & buried, especially after they started to sparkle.” And you’re right. Vampires have been played and reworked so many times it’s hard to believe they are really even entertainment anymore. However, writers Nick Damici & Jim Mickle (also the director) pump fresh blood back into the myth’s dried veins with Stake Land.
In the not-too-distant future, mankind is not taken down by the dreaded zombie apocalypse, but rather one that turns people into vampires. When young Martin’s family is slaughtered by a pack of the blood suckers, a mysterious hunter named Mister takes the kid under his wings. The two head off in search of “New Eden,” one of the last places of hope for mankind, rescuing a nun from an attempted rape along the way. Mister kills the attacker, only to discover the would-be rapist is the son of the leader to a group of religious fanatics called The Brotherhood, who believe the vampire plague is a punishment from God for man’s sin. With the Brotherhood on their tail and vampires on the hunt, our group of misfit heroes must out smart & fight their predators anyway they can.
Sounds basic, right? Take your average zombie flick, substitute blood-suckers for flesh-eaters, and BOOM! Stake Land, right? True, but like any other great film in the genre, this film is much less about the monsters and instead focuses on the character development; even if it is a little transparent.
From the beginning of the movie it’s clear to see Martin’s journey is one of adulthood. He’s adopted by a strange figure, conspicuously named “Mister,” who teaches him how to be a man, avoiding the perils of life and fighting the unavoidable. Damici and Mickle portray the religious fanatics in such disgusting light, it’s impossible to see them just as a scourge for Martin to avoid, but one the audience should avoid in real life as well.
What I’m trying to say is that Stake Land unapologetically wears its heart on its sleeve, and that’s ok. In fact, it’s easy to argue that’s exactly what this genre should be. Of course, make-up, special effects, tons of blood and lots of boobs helps any horror/cult film, but character development has to be there if the genre is to be taken seriously. Damici and Mickle deliver a human side to the apocalypse and leave me curious about what they have in store for a second course.