Stake Land Movie Review
After his family is killed, teen Martin (Paolo) is taken under the wing of Mister (Damici), a gruff hunter who mercilessly stalks vampire/zombies. As they cross middle America in search of a rumoured safe zone called New Eden, they meet a friendly nun (McGillis), an ex-marine (Nelson) and a hot pregnant teen (Harris). They also run afoul of an extremist religious cult led by the vicious Jebedia (Cerveris), who believes the vampires are God's judgement on society.
And he starts hunting the hunters.
It's the same essential plot as Zombieland, as the characters travel from one devastated town to another in search of some sign of humanity. That the largest society they encounter consists of gun-toting fanatics is a cruel joke. But this movie isn't trying to make us laugh. And the vampires' relentless craving for human blood has rendered them as crazed addicts, mutely staggering across the landscape like the infected undead in 28 Days Later.
Filmmakers Mickle and Damici keep us on our toes all the way through, opting for a serious approach that gives the film some gravitas, especially as the story touches on big issues like religious fanaticism and the nature of civilisation. While the script is relatively superficial and over-reliant on Martin's narration, it deepens the characters as it goes along, which makes the later scenes surprisingly moving.
The anecdotal narrative is packed with outrageous set pieces that push things in intriguing directions, such as the quarantined small-town party that's horrifically interrupted by helicopters. Or the young female vampire in an abandoned house who's eerily seductive. The cast engages our sympathies early on (McGillis is especially good), which makes everything that happens thoroughly involving. Although Paolo seems closer to 20 than "just a boy". And the fact that he finds a sexy love interest in the middle of all of this squalor is a bit ridiculous. Then a vampire Santa appears to get us back in the mood.