Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

From where Iím looking at it, right here from my little corner of the planet Earth, ĎStake Landí is a damn near perfect combination of horror, action, heart, sadness and storytelling. Damn near perfect.

You know the story. Something has gone wrong with the world, governments have fallen and society has completely collapsed. Apocalyptic filmmakers do not have a lot of faith in the human race once governmental controls have been stripped away. Young Martin (Connor Paolo) will narrate our story, informing us that the plague has swept over the world, vampires own the night and the humans struggle to survive amidst these terrible circumstances. The only positive thing is that these arenít the smooth, intelligent, glamouring type of vampires with these creatures being more along the lines of feral vampire zombies, which means if you keep your wits about you they can be beaten.

We know this because we happen to be in the presence of supreme vampire slayer number one, a badass amongst baddasses, going by the ominous name of just Mister (Nick Damici). Mister, who is a quiet, brooding, mean, ornery individual has saved Martinís life and has subsequently taken the young man under his wing to show him the ways of the slayer. ĎNurturingí would not be a word we would use while observing Misterís tutelage style of his young charge. The scuttlebutt is that somewhere up north there is a place that the vampire menace cannot reach, a place known as New Eden, and this is the destination of the Slayer and his pupil.

But it wonít be easy. Not surprisingly, people have gone nuts such as when our duo stumbles upon a nun (Kelly McGillis) being gang raped by a couple of never-do-wells. Mister doesnít like these types either. In fact, he probably hates them more because

unlike the vampire zombies, they have a choice in what they do. We also noticed that actress Kelly McGillis had an eerie resemblance to the late actor James Coburn in this movie. Then thereís the issue of the Brotherhood led by one Jebediah Loven (Michael Cervaris). The Brotherhood is the new defacto religious power of whatever the United States has become, and they believe that the vampire menace has been sent by The Lord to cleanse our sins. Hey, thatís what these nutjobs think. Thus with Mister killing these creatures, they are not happy with him. At all.

Regardless, our crew will swell to the rank of five with our nun, the ex-Marine (Sean Nelson) and the pregnant folk singer (Danielle Harris) rounding things out, as they all set out to make it to New Eden while avoiding the vampires and the Brotherhood. Will our heroes survive this dangerous trek? A trip that features vampires dropping from the skies above? Iím not one to spoil anything but this isnít the movie Iíd watch if one was looking for their happy place.

Admittedly, director Jim Mickleís ĎStake Landí is undeniably, unapologetically grim, but itís not depressingly grim which is probably one of the many reasons I enjoyed it so much. The situations that our characters are placed into is not a good one, the surroundings are cold and depressing and unforgiving, some really bad things are going to happen to a lot of people who seemed like they were very niceÖ but for whatever reason ĎStake Landí never descended into all out hopeless despair. Life goes on, people will go on and there are always challenges but it will go on. Itís fascinating to ponder on how Mickle and star / co-writer Nick Damici were able to effectively pull this off.

Not a lot of time is spent on the exposition of what happened to cause this calamity, but again in a clever touch the audience is spoon fed enough information through a stray word here or a piece of discarded newspaper there to get enough information without the film having to resort to overlays or some character feeling the need to recite something that everybody else in this reality already knows.

It is a vampire movie so thereís a healthy amount of violence and gore to deal with, even though the vampire zombies, theoretically speaking, werenít the true villains of this set. No, while the vampires were plenty bad news, with some being far more troublesome than others, they know not what they do. As per usual, man is the problem. People seem to need some kind of control, at least in an apocalyptic film, and some kind of governing body needs to be in existence to tell the populace what they need to do, and in a bad situation the person with the biggest mouth and biggest gun often will find the largest following. History has proven this to an extent and this movie exploits that for all its worth.

If I had a problem with this movie, it would be one little part near the end which takes ĎStake Landí briefly out of this stark reality that it took all this time to build and thrust the movie into the mode of a standard thriller, complete with some cliff hanging style roller coaster action sequences. Crowd pleasing perhaps, but a little incongruent with what we had seen to that point.

Still, ĎStake Landí is a fine achievement. Good performances, difficult subject matter, a horror movie with the sensibilities of a well crafted drama. Rare and appreciated.

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