Stake Land Review

Stake Land is a 2010 post-apocalyptic horror film directed by Jim Mickle, starring Nick Damici, Connor Paolo, Michael Cerveris, Sean Nelson, Kelly McGillis, and Danielle Harris.  In a world of vampires, an expert vampire hunter and his young protégé travel toward sanctuary.


Positives:

  • Good acting
  • Good characters
  • Good action
  • Good special effects
  • Decent score
  • Great world building

Negatives:

  • Script is riddled with problems
  • Story isn’t compelling

Plot:  The plot revolves around an orphaned young man being taken under the wing of a vampire hunter known only as “Mister”, and the battle for survival in their quest for a safe haven. The story is pretty nonexistent.  There’s no obvious goal, no real destination for our heroes to be heading.  Perhaps we’re just watching these characters survive.  It would be nice for there to actually be something outside just survival.  It’s not compelling but entertaining. (3 out of 5)

Characters:  There are some likable characters that you’ll come to like and admire. The main characters are Mister, a vampire hunter, Martin, a teenager Mister saves, Belle, a young woman who’s pregnant, Sister, a nun, and Willie, a former Marine. Mister and Martin don’t really feel like they’re on the same page.  Mister is the best character.  The guy is awesome.  Sure, he kicks all kinds of booty but he shows compassion for the other characters despite his distant personality.  The group actually has a lot of chemistry and the best part of the movie is how these characters deal with the world they’re in. Aside from the vampire menace, there is Jebediah Loven, the cult leader.  He’s an entertaining villain but serves nothing but a troupe.  New characters are introduced but are never really fleshed out but provide enough depth to keep the world interesting. (4 out of 5)

Cast: The casting and performances aren’t bad, and the actors give enough depth to the characters to make them believable.  Nick Damici is fantastic as Mister.  He’s got this Mickey Rourke thing going for the character.  Connor Paolo is decent but he’s literally given nothing to do really.  As much as the movie tries to focus on both Damici and Paolo, it’s about Damici.  Danielle Harris, Kelly McGillis, and Sean Nelson provide a well rounded supporting cast.  Michael Cerveris is actually pretty decent as the main antagonist, Jebediah Loven.  Other performances include Bonnie Dennison, Chance Kelly, Marianne Hagan, Larry Fessenden, Gregory Jones, and Traci Hovel. (3 out of 5)

Visuals: The makeup and prosthetic design work for the vampires, seemingly taking inspiration from vampires of old as well as presenting a bit of the new.  The blood and gore is handled pretty well, and there is a lot of it.  The camera angles are decent enough to make the scenes feel dynamic and the action is done well enough to keep it entertaining. The costume designs and set pieces look good enough to be believable.  (3 out of 5)

Score:  There’s nothing I love more than hearing good music to set up the mood of a film.  Though the movie won’t be remembered for its music, Jeff Grace does a pretty decent job with its distribution and execution.  (3 out of 5)

Writing:  Jim Mickle actually does a great job with the presentation of the film.  There is a lot of conveniences written into the script and a helluva lot troupes.  Are they necessary for this film.  No.  I’m a sucker for diversity when it comes to vampires and their characteristics don’t seem too bad.  For those who are fans of television shows like The Walking Dead or Z Nation, the setting feels pretty plausible with the breakdown and reconstruction of society; various factions of human survivors (military, militia, religious nuts, etc.).  Also, the world establishes that the “infected” aren’t the only threat the survivors have to deal with.

The scene with Mister abandoned to the vamps is a strange scene as it changes their behavior.  They act intelligent and fire keeps them at bay. The vampires should’ve been explained better. Also, when Martin somehow back tracks to the car, Mister is still there instead of heading back to the Brotherhood to rescue Martin and Sister or simply leaving.  One of the worst things about the writing is how poor the dialogue is between Mister and Martin.  How does the movie follow two characters, and for all the talking in the film, the two main characters don’t share much.  Did not like the fact that the story starts killing off the main characters in what can be considered a poor manner. There was literally no reason to kill the characters off they way it happened. (2 out of 5)


The Verdict:  In the end, Stake Land is a good vampire flick that puts a new spin on vampires.  Yeah, it has its share of problems and it’s mostly hanging on the writing.  However, the film does have good action, characterization, world building, acting, and use of special effects.  Stake Land gets 3 out of 5.

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