Saturday, October 18, 2014

Stake Land

Stake Land (2010) ***1/2

Just finished watching this very good indie vampire saga. I've had some good luck this thon with late night cable surfing. Van Wilder and Pumpkinhead 2 weren't grabbing my interest, and then I came across this one just starting.

The only thing I really don't like about this movie is its title. It brings to mind Zombieland, but that one at least deserved a campy title. There's no camp here, which is a large part of the charm, as is its genre bending plot: a post-apocalyptic vampire road flick with a strong dose of anti-religious social commentary.

The world has been overrun by vampires, and a loner vamp hunter takes up the challenge of escorting an orphaned 15 year old boy through the Appalachian mountains toward Canada, which has been renamed New Eden and promises sanctuary. Along the way, they stop in various human settlements, pick up a few fellow travelers, and kill a bunch of vamps and religious zealots. It's a bit like the screen writers read Cormac McCarthy's The Road and thought: "What a great book. Know what would really make this better though? Vampires."

However, that description, while fun, doesn't really capture what's interesting about the movie. It's the style and cinematography that startle--it's way better looking than any 4am no-name cable retread has a right to be. And the plot is driven by a sort of Terrance Malick sensibility, which is both kind of cool and a bit annoying at times. If you don't know Malick, he's probably worth checking out, though none of his movies ever really grab me. But he's known for a slow, poetic style that often seems out of place for the subject: for instance his Vietnam war movie in which you have soldiers walking through wispy fields in slow mo, with philosophic voice-over narration and sunlight wafting through tree branches. Well, there's a lot of all that in this vampire movie. I like a bit of strangeness, especially when done without irony as here, so I liked it. But at times, it did begin to feel like they forgot they were making a vampire movie.

Incidentally, one of the travelers they pick up along the way is a nun they save from getting raped by the religious crazies. She seemed familiar during the movie, but I couldn't place the actress. Then I saw in the closing credits that it was Kelly McGillis. Man, did she disappear from the spotlight.


Catfreeek said...

I reviewed this back in 2011, gave it the exact same rating as you did and said this in my review, "This film kicked some ass, not as campy as Zombieland, not quite as somber as The Road."
Not put as eloquently as you did but the same gist. So glad to see someone else watched it and liked it as well. Great review, you are tearing it up this year!

AC said...

how satisfying when your random channel surfing yields a goodie! Kelly McGillis was in the innkeepers too.

Landshark said...

Ha, catfreek, yeah this is definitely in a weird middle ground between those two.

Mr. AC said...

I've been steering away from this for fear that it was just Zombieland with vampires. Glad to know that's not the case.

Crystal Math said...

I like the comparison to The Road, which was a fantastic book and good film. I dug this movie just like I dig any zombie survivalist films.