Stake Land (2001)
So we all know that vampire movies are a dime a dozen these days. There’s the super cheesy trash that is ‘Twilight’ and all the rip offs that it has spawned. There’s endless television shows like ‘True Blood’ and ‘Vampire Diaries.’ There are endless versions of ‘Dracula’ and modern adaptations like ‘Daybreakers.’ So when a new one comes forward, it is tough to get all that excited. However, something about ‘Stake Land’ caught my eye immediately, and my keen eye did not let me down.
The film follows Martin (Connor Paolo), a teenage boy who is caught in a world which has fallen into the clutches of a vampire epidemic that has crippled the USA, it’s government and all forms of a normal life. Martin’s family are butchered, and he ends up under the wing of a rough, hard-nosed, rogue vampire hunter named Mister (played wonderfully by Nick Damici). Mister decides to help take Martin north to Canada, which is believed to be a safe haven, perhaps the only one in North America.
Along the way the group expands, adding a variety of great characters, which are all played very well by a host of actors, including Kelly McGillis and Danielle Harris (a love interest for young Martin). This is one of the biggest strengths of the film. The characters are all well developed somehow, despite limited screen time. Certain films just have a knack for immediately connecting you with it’s characters, whether it be through one key scene or just fantastic writing and subtleties. Stake Land is one of those films.
In terms of the action, the film manages to pour it on, while on an indie style budget. It is gritty, violent (but not so much as to lose the realism), and harsh. The film pulls no punches whatsoever. Nobody is safe, happy moments very rarely last and are usually followed with death and destruction. The surprises are also plenty, and there are some moments which are wonderfully original and put a spin on something that has been done many times.
The vampires themselves are more on the modern, raw, violent, ‘infected’ side rather than the classical style. The primary lead villain has a little bit of a ‘Dracula’ heir about him however, and he is one of the more brutal and unflinching villains I’ve seen in a while. You will hate this guy by the time things come to a close.
The star of the show in my opinion, is definitely Nick Damici’s ‘Mister’ who manages to portray the emotionless, mean, straight down to business good guy as well as anyone. The film turns into a cross between a vampire movie, and ‘The Road’ with the relationship between Mister and Martin being a fantastic sight to watch. There is a subtle sense of fatherhood there, combined with a distinct hard nosed approach.
Overall, if you’re looking for a great vampire movie, or just a great movie of any kind, give Stake Land a try. Just don’t expect a fun filled affair. Be ready for a gritty, unflinching thriller and one of the best vampire movies of the past decade.
Check out the trailer here: