Stake Land – USA, 2010

Stake land

‘The most dangerous thing is to be alive’

Stake Land is a 2010 American vampire horror film in the zombie apocalypse vein directed by Jim Mickle (We Are What We AreMulberry Street) from a screenplay co-written with lead actor Nick Damici (CondemnedLate PhasesDark Was the Night).

The plot revolves around an orphaned young man being taken under the wing of a vampire hunter known as “Mister”, and the battle for survival in their quest for a safe have

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A young boy (Connor Paolo) is about to learn how cruel the world  can become. Martin was a normal teenager before the country collapsed in an  empty pit of disaster and a vampire epidemic swept across the nation’s abandoned  towns and cities. It is up to Mister (Nick Damici), a death-dealing, rogue vampire hunter, to get Martin to safety.

Armed with a trunk full of wooden stakes and a desperate will to stay alive, Mister and Martin make their way through locked down towns, recruiting fellow travelers  along the way. Among them are a devout nun (Kelly McGillis) and a pregnant teen (Danielle Harris, Halloween, Halloween II)…

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Reviews:

“A vampire post-apocalypse road movie with blood, brains and heart — and not just in the literal, splattered-on-the-screen sense. It’s a good little genre piece, edgy rather than slick, and well worth a look.” Kim Newman, Empire Magazine 

“Despite its undeniable ambition and good intentions, Stake Land is just too derivative to distinguish itself from its peers. The tone is unremittingly somber and earnest, but sadly fails to wash due to weak performances and the lack of an interesting story. Events unfurl at a snail’s pace, without enough depth of characterization to make the audience care about the situations.” David Graham, Eye For Film

“Jeff Grace’s melancholy music underscores the atmosphere of bleak dystopian despair, leavened by flashes of humour and hope. Sparing tedious explanation and backstory, Mickle and D’Amici achieve a disturbing horror, an emotional depth and a political resonance never strained for. Instead, thanks to the actors’ performances, they grow organically out of the grim situations and sparse dialogue.” Nigel Floyd, Time Out London

Stake Land Blu

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“Mickle combines George Romero’s social commentary and Terence Malick’s spacey poetics, yet the expressive rendering of rural locations is distinctive and the vision of societal breakdown fully imagined […] In fact Mickle’s observation of a devastated working-class America is so sharp that the horror elements, though effectively handled, come to feel like an afterthought.” Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader

“As with director Jim Mickle’s previous Mulberry Street (2006), there’s a crude interest in the devolution of American society—but we’re a long way from George Romero’s satiric shopping-mall shut-ins when the main grist for the mill is a violent, evangelical cult called the Brotherhood, just as awful as the vamps. The whole movie aches from tired blood.” Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York

Choice dialogue:

Mister: “Which asshole’s President now?”

Cast and characters:

  • Nick Damici as Mister, hunter of the zombie-like vampires who takes Martin under his wing while traveling north.
  • Connor Paolo as Martin, in his early to mid-teens when he first meets Mister.
  • Danielle Harris as Belle, a young woman who is pregnant when she starts traveling with Mister and Martin. According to Damici, Belle was originally written as an older character and something of a love interest for Mister. After interviewing Harris, Damici thought she seemed more like his character’s “grandkid”, and that they could rewrite the script accordingly.
  • Kelly McGillis as Sister, a nun saved from two rapists by Mister and Martin who then begins traveling with them. Stake Land was the first feature film for McGillis after a ten-year hiatus from acting.
  • Michael Cerveris as Jebedia Loven, a cult leader who claims the vamps are sent to do his and the Lord’s work.
  • Sean Nelson as Willie, a former Marine picked up on the road.
  • Bonnie Dennison as Peggy, slightly older than Martin, she is found living alone in a roadside diner.
  • Chance Kelly as Officer Harley
  • Marianne Hagan as Dr. Foley
  • Larry Fessenden as the roadhouse bartender. Fessenden also produced the film.
  • Gregory Jones as Martin’s father
  • Traci Hovel as Martin’s mother

Filming locations:

Pennsylvania, upstate New York, and the Catskills Mountains, USA

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