Movie Review: Stakeland (2010)
“The Most Dangerous Thing Is To Be Alive”
Director: Jim Mickle
Cast: Connor Paolo, Nick Damici, Kelly McGillis
Synopsis: A man and teenage boy travel across a land overrun by a vicious religious cult and vampires in search of a refuge which they’re not even sure exists.
Even though its subject matter would obviously appeal to them, Stake Land isn’t the sort of film that would entertain your average horror fan; it’s as much a character study of humans under extreme stress as it is a straightforward horror movie.
The story follows a young lad (Connor Paulo – Alexander) saved from sharing a certain death with his parents at the hands of a feral vampire by a grizzled stranger he calls Mister (Nick Damici – Cold in July). The vampires in this film bear more resemblance to Danny Boyle’s super-quick zombies than the movie vampires we’re used to – even Nosferatu looks sophisticated compared to these creatures. They’re not too bright, but they’re very fast and possess near-superhuman strength, which makes them dangerous adversaries. Anyway, the man and boy head for New Eden, a safe refuge that they’re not even sure actually exists. By night they barricade themselves against the ravenous vampires that roam the land, and as they travel by day they must avoid the violently brutal religious cult that also terrorises the land and considers the vampires to be God’s angels sent to cleanse the earth.
While there are plenty of moments of horror in Stakeland, it aims for a more realistic depiction of what kind of world the place would be if the population were devastated by a vampire virus. We see only the aftermath of this virus, so it’s infused with a strongly melancholic tone which vies with a relentless and oppressive sense of foreboding. You know the people you meet on this journey are going to come to a bad end sooner or later – either before or after the credits roll – and that life will hold little pleasure for them in the future. Their sense of depression and loss is tangible, the constant tension exhausting, and the film puts this across impeccably.
Religion’s double-edged sword is brought into clear perspective with the presence of not only its formal, institutionalised form as portrayed by Kelly McGillis (The Innkeepers), but by the tattooed, habit-wearing religious terrorists who shoot any unfortunates who stumble across their path. We’re left in no doubt that this brutal, oppressive religious regime will quickly extinguish conventional religion as humans revert to their basic nature, and become only one step above the vampires they fear.
(Reviewed 1st November 2011)