20 June 2011

Stake Land review

I saw a surprisingly good vampire movie last night, purely by accident so I went in having no idea what to expect and had not even heard about the movie before - probably the best thing, seeing as movies today are ruined by 3 minute trailers that show everything of importance and sometimes even give away the twist (Stepford Wives remake trailer is a classic example of this stupidity - see it and you won't have to see the movie).

Anyway the best way to describe Stake Land is probably saying "The Road"+Vampires. If you liked the Road, and you like vampires, you will probably like this movie. In a way they could almost be companion movies as they are very similar in tone and pacing and the constant danger. In the Road you have a father and a son trying to get by in a post apocalyptic setting where everyone is a potential rapist cannibal. In Stake Land you have an orphaned teenager that is taken care of and mentored by a vampire killer in a post apocalyptic setting and where the danger to your health does not limit itself to vampires but throws in religious fanatics and rumors of cannibalism as well.

Now, there have been numerous vampire movies released in the past few years. Ranging from disappointing ones such as I am legend (good movie until the baddies show up), decent ones such as Daybreakers and pretty good ones such as 30 days of Night. I do not bring up Let me in since it's not an action oriented violent movie like the others and does not really fit to compare with Stake Land. However Stake Land feels a bit more fresh and different from all of those movies, it does not speak about the reason of the vampire outbreak, you get small hints about a large scale global conflict prior to the vampire outbreak through newspapers lying around.

The main characters, the teenage orphan boy Martin and the man taking care of him who is just called "Mister" throughout the movie, and pretty much all the other characters you get to see or know does not drop 15 pages of crude exposition. You won't have any cliché moments of people gathering around the campfire and swapping the story of their life. We meet one character that just thinly fills in a few things.

Neither is mister a dedicated vampire killer like Blade, he kills vampires out of necessity and teaches Martin what he knows so that the kid will have  a chance of surviving in this hostile environment. There are no whacky characters like in Zombieland. There are no scenes of them seeking out vampire lairs on purpose and killing hordes of undead just for the sake of it.  This movie is completely focused on survival and heading north towards a place called New Eden which is supposedly located somewhere in Canada. I won’t spoil too much more. The movie is quite minimalistic in storytelling, but has superb atmosphere and is very believable. Characters are good, they won't blow your mind, but there are no annoying "teenagers to be killed"-type characters as you will see in shitty horror movies.

The ending and the decisions some characters are ambiguous and leave it up to you to make your own idea of what happened. For once , there was a thread on imdb.com talking about a movie ending that had lot of interesting and intelligent ideas. I'm a person who like open endings (and hate those Hollywood happy endings more often than not since they tend to be ridiculously unrealistic - just see the ending of 2012 for a extreme example).
The running time was good, not too long not too short. Didn't feel as if they threw in scenes to fill the movie running time. The world looked pretty good as well - not as dead as in the Road , but somber enough. The vampires I thought looked great, screw that silly crap of a TV show True Blood and all the tween vampire flicks with glittering vampires. These vampires looked possibly more grotesque than the ones shown in 30 Days of Night. The blood and gore was sufficient, and not over the top. It was bloody where it needed to be. The acting was good as well, Martin who makes a "POV" narration might give the impression of being overly dramatic for the first couple of minutes, but I think it gets better as the movie progresses.
The music eminded me a lot of the music in Assassination of Jesse James (fantastic movie btw), a toned down piano - it never goes into bombastic Michael Bay territory.

Rated as a regular movie, I give this 7/10

As a vampire movie this is a 8/10 with a recomendation for vampire fans. I'm pretty happy I stumbled upon this movie by accident.

Trailer can be seen below - but beware - it will spoil a few good scenes


  1. I just loved "the road", this movie looks also promising I will keep the movie in mind!

    Thanks for the review!

  2. ill watch it. i love post-apoc and vampires is all good too.

  3. Seconded. I loved the road, even if it was crushingly depressing.

  4. Good honest review, will look out for it..... "Ranging from disappointing ones such as I am legend (good movie until the baddies show up")...now that's spot on.

  5. Saw this reviewed today in Judge Dredd Megazine (hadn't heard of it before then either) I will rent it and subject the woman to it too... :) lol

  6. Ill have to second Anatolis review. Saw this a couple of weeks ago and is definantly worth a watch if you're into these types of films.

  7. Thanks for the feedback guys. I have a few war movies and a couple of vampire movies that will be reviewed during the summer months.

    Still holding back (have not forgotten about it) on the Flames of War newbie guide part 2 as I focus on painting up my last unit of 15mm soldiers. I also started writing on my Polish 1939 campaign for FoW:Blitzkrieg so there will be updates about that as well fairly soon :-)


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