I’m dipping back into a review from my old Video/Cassette blog to kick off the Echosynthetic Horror-A-Thon October Extravaganza. It’s a fantastic film that deserves every big of recognition I can give to it, even if it means a very small number of you have seen the review before (and believe me, the list of people I had following back then was indeed small). If you happened to miss out on Stake Land when it first came out, you’re welcome. This is one of the best vampire films ever made (sorry Vampire Step-Dad…this is your queue to stop reading).
There are all kinds of vampire films. Some are good, some are bad, some are silly, some are dramatic, while others are serious. It’s a sub-genre of horror that has been well travelled over the years. In fact, Dracula alone has over 170 variations in film format. Hundreds of movies are at your disposal if you want to watch a movie about things that go bump in the night, so why choose Stake Land? Because it’s awesome, that’s why.
In Stake Land there has been a sort of pandemic that has spread vampirism around the world. A young boy is rescued as his family is slaughtered by one of these vampires by a man known only as Mister. Mister is easily one of the coolest vampire killers in the long history of vampire killing. He takes the young boy under his wing and teaches him the ways of survival against the vampires while traveling through the heartland of America. They move from fortified settlement to fortified settlement in search of a safe area until they are confronted with a group called The Brotherhood. They are a cult-like collective that see the plague of vampirism as the work of God. As the story unfolds you find out that they’re far more sinister than they seem (and they’re already pretty sinister).
The post-apocalyptic setting is refreshing and not something often seen in vampire films. What’s also appreciated is the focus on characters instead of the creatures. These are people you care about and you want to see them succeed. By the time you reach the climax of the film you are fully invested. Each tragedy is felt and each obstacle overcome is met with the feeling of accomplishment, even though you’re sitting at home, safe and sound. Finally, the overall look and feel of the film is oppressive. You get the feeling of a world that’s moved on from the civilization it once was…a dirty world without much in the way of hope. That’s what makes Mister and his drive to fight and push on such a standout character.
This movie really has it all. It’s got some genuine scares, gruesome vampire slaying, likeable characters, and a protagonist that is a certifiable man’s man. If you’re looking for a trip down a path that’s well tread but with new ideas, Stake Land is a super satisfying film. It’s an indie movie with a lot of heart, a lot of talent behind it, and is one of my favorites of the past decade.