Stake Land (2010)

Post-Apocalyptic films are all the rage these days. Every single preview before 'The Hobbit' was some sort of big budget post modern Earth drama where some A-List celebrity dealt with some shit going on on Earth future. But it's not just the big studios that are all about the coming apocalypse, small indie films have jumped on the band wagon as well. Most of these smaller films suck, mainly because they look like shit - with budgetary constraints hamstringing the production. 'Stake Land' is that rare film that, regardless of the budget, looks wonderful. It's also a film that's tremendously acted and written and one of the best films that I've seen in a very long time.

Connor Paolo (Gossip Girl) is Martin, a teenage boy who along with his family is just trying to survive in a world over run with zombie-like Vampires, no government and religious cults, hell bent on converting society. After his dog escapes, Martin runs into Mister (Nick Damaci) who saves him when he returns home to fins a bloodsucker has worked it's way through his family. Mister and Martin work their way through rural Pennsylvania avoiding the vampires and a cult calling themselves The Brotherhood. The rescue of a nun (Kelly McGillis) about to be raped, leads Mister and Martin right into the clutches of Jebediah Loven, leader of The Brotherhood.

Narrowly escaping, they leave the nun behind and seek refuge in one of the many safe towns on the way to the Canadian border. Along the way to the Canadian border they group grows by two with the addition of an ex-Marine (I know you are never an "ex-Marine", so save your time) and a pregnant country singer (Danielle Harris). They manage to and find another town, this one as ice cream and more country music. The nun rejoins them and happiness ensues...for about 35 seconds. The brotherhood drops a few vampires from a helicopter right in the middle of a celebration and all hell breaks loose again.

'Stake Land' moves from just a very good film to a great film in it's last act. Characters who we've gotten to know get ripped away just as fast as they came. It's heart breaking to watch. Yet, it still manages to end on a positive note, albeit a hollow one.

Written by Daminci and Jim Mickle (Mulbury Street) and directed by Mickle, the film is a prime example of how to take 4 million dollars and make it look like 20 million. There are some wonderful performances, especially from Daminci. It's always a welcome sign when Danielle Harris shows up in a film and unlike in this years 'The Innkeepers' McGillis doesn't seem like she's there for a "Hey, it's the chick from Top Gun" moment.

In a world where 'Twilight' has poisoned the vampire genre (and has now bled into other sub-genres i.e. 'Warm Bodies'), it was refreshing to see a film dealing with Vampires and young adults that still had balls. Essentially a mash up of elements from many other post-apocalyptic works, 'Stake Land' is able to draw on these influences and create something spectacular. If you haven't gotten the chance to see it yet, it's streaming on Netflix as we speak. Dial it up if you want a well written, well acted, ballsy vampire film.

****1/2 out of  *****

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