Director: Jim Mickle
Caat: Nick Damici, Conno Paolo, Kelly McGillis, Michael Cerveris, Danielle Harris, Sean Nelson
There are almost as many vampires as zombies in multiplexes these days, but Stake Land is a little different from the rest of the undead hordes. The title may remind you of Zombieland - or you may expect Paul Simon to turn up with a guitar halfway through - but Stake Land's tone couldn't be more different. Director Jim Mickle's all-fangs-and-no-frills approach gives Stake Land an effective low-budget edge.
We kick off with a bloody encounter in a barn for young boy Martin (Paolo). It's all cheap TV-level make-up and coloured contact lenses, but before you can shout Buffy the Vampire Slayer, up pops a middle-aged bloke with a shovel. He's called Mister (Damici) and he's a bad-ass vampire killer. To prove how manly he is, he has a moustache and some sunglasses that make him look a bit like Ringo Starr. (Note: Ringo Starr: Vampire Hunter would also be pretty bad-ass.)
And so Ringo and Martin travel the post-apocalyptic wasteland of America, driving across deserted plains looking serious, as people do when it's the end of the world. Every now and then some plinky piano music plays over the top, giving events a mellow feel that's closer to The Road than Daybreakers. And that helps Stake Land stick out from the crowd.
Teaming up with a shocked nun (McGillis, a.k.a. her off Top Gun), a pregnant girl (Harris) and a war veteran (Nelson), the ragtag group of survivors trundle quietly along woodland roads, occasionally stopping to behead a few monsters or lob a couple of sharpened boomerangs; Mickle and Damici's co-written script is happier soaking up the atmosphere surrounding a group of extremists, The Brethren, than blowing things up. And rightly so, not least because it gives chief religious nut Jebediah (Cerveris) time to ham up his role as the deranged villain.
As you'd expect, people don't do much talking in Stake Land. There's a lot of visual and physical storytelling, although the dialogue that there is works quite well: "Go with God," farewells the nun in a quivering voice. "Lock the door," comes Mister's blunt retort. There are some unfortunate mumbled voiceovers that don't quite work ("They named the town Stridington. The name said it all...") but Martin's restrained bond with Mister is engaging enough to stop things becoming mawkish.
Mickle does the action well, with quick close-ups and sharp editing, but lacks the adrenaline of someone like Neil Marshall. The result is a film that meanders on the way to a slightly underwhelming climax. Still, there are enough decent jumps across the 98 minutes to keep things unsettling. It owes a lot to other undead movies, but Stake Land holds its own in a genre that's fast becoming over-crowded.
Stake Land lacks the frllls, but has just enough thrills to make it a solid low-budget horror. Here's hoping they make Ringo Starr: Vampire Hunter next.
What did you think?
- conno paolo
- danielle harris
- jim mickle
- kelly mcgillis
- michael cerveris
- neil marshall
- nick damici
- sean nelson
- stake land
- the road