Fright Fest 2018: Stake Land (2010)
Starring: Nick Damici, Connor Paolo, Michael Cerveris, Sean Nelson, Kelly McGillis, and Danielle Harris
Written By: Nick Damici & Jim Mickle
Directed By: Jim Mickle
Synopsis: After a plague turns America into a realm of vampires, a hunter (Nick Damici) of the depraved creatures travels cross-country with an orphan (Connor Paolo) he rescued, searching for a safe haven.
So, I thought for Fright Fest we were taking a look at vampire movies? I watched this film for the first time specifically for this review. I had heard amazing things about this movie, most of which I completely agree with. However, in my opinion, this IS NOT a vampire movie. This is a zombie apocalypse film. Yes, the creatures have fangs and are called vamps. Yes, this is a gruesome, tear you limb from limb kind of take on one of the most famous horror creatures that we know of. However, to me this isn’t about vampires. The creatures barely resemble anything like what we know. This could be good for some, but for me, it didn’t work.
That being said, I am looking at this film as a post-apocalyptic creature feature that really works. The cinematography is phenomenal. The two leads are decent, I enjoyed Damici thoroughly as Mister, a grizzled survivalist. Paolo delivers a truly sympathetic performance and we are engaged with his character right from the get-go.
Stake Land has a lot going for it. I enjoy dystopian environments and I love the idea of having a vampire flick set in the same stage as The Walking Dead but unfortunately to me, if feels like Damici and Mickle might have been trying to capitalize on the success of the AMC TV show a little too much.
It felt too familiar, there were only two times that I felt any sense of dread at all during the film. Once towards the end of the film when **SPOILER** Danielle Harris’s character gets taken. That is as much of a spoiler as I will give for this film because I am going to recommend this.
The film’s opening is utterly amazing and the only time that I felt like I was watching a vampire film. It is the beginning so I won’t feel bad at all for spoiling it but we watch Paolo’s character Martin become an orphan. He loses his mother, father, baby sibling, and the family dog within the first five minutes. It is a taught, and tense scene that sunk its fangs into me and left me chilled to the bone. The bit with the baby struck a chord with me and I knew that I was going to be taken on a dark ride. Luckily for me, I like boundary pushing. This, pushes a boundary. It’s not something that is “so disturbing” but it is fair to say that the first five minutes of this one will tell you if you want to watch the movie.
From this point forward, the film lags. It takes its time between set pieces and it feels like the writers just didn’t know which way they exactly wanted to go with the story.
There are kernels of greatness throughout this entire film that I would have loved to see more of. Each town we visit is interesting. The roads they travel are interesting. I just feel like there should have been more, whether it be more creature violence, or more human on human drama. The writers set the stage for some heavy human drama that I think if we focused more on that, the film would shine bright despite it ashen color palate.
The effects are pretty good. The film has a gritty look to it that is appealing. The crew definitely knows their way around their equipment and can deliver a beautiful finished product. Like I said a few times before in this review, there is SO much going for it but ultimately the film falls flat a bit for me.
In the end, I enjoyed the movie. Stake Land is definitely worth looking into if you enjoy The Walking Dead, or dystopian projects in general. I enjoy this kind of thing so I can safely say that this is a film that at some point I will revisit. There is a sequel that I am interested in seeing, in all honesty it looks like it is giving more of what I was expecting. However, I was expecting a lot from this so I will be going at the sequel very cautiously.
In the end, Stake Land has some amazing visuals, great characters, and an aesthetic that I truly did enjoy. It’s only downfall is that I found myself bored. When I wanted the film to go this direction, it went the other. I do recommend checking it out, maybe if it comes back onto netflix or another streaming service.
Rating: 2 out of 5
My name is Joshua Macmillan, I am an author of horror and dark fiction. My first publication is a short story within the 13:Night Terrors anthology published by Limitless Publishing! I am currently working on my first novel and plan to have as many short stories published as possible while I work on the novel! I look forward to hearing from you guys! You can find me on Facebook and Twitter, as well as email @ firstname.lastname@example.org
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I love any vampire movie that portrays vamps as the gruesome blood sucking monsters. It’s why I loved this movie. The second one was ok.
October 13, 2018 at 5:35 pm
Agreed! I actually loved Stake Land, i thought it was an underrated gem that kinda flew under the radar. The sequel was okay, but dang that first movie was awesome.
October 14, 2018 at 1:20 pm