Wednesday’s What You Should Watch – Stake Land
*This is a day early because I missed last week and have a Stanley Cup Playoff prediction post coming tomorrow night.
Apocalyptic thrillers usually fall into one of two categories, the “road” movie or the “hideout” movie. Great example of the “hideout” movie would be “Night of the Living Dead” and “Dawn of the Dead.” The “road” movie involves well, “The Road” and other films in which characters try and reach some sort of destination. “The Road” was essentially a zombie film, with dangerous cults filling in for the zombies. To imagine “Stake Land“, think “The Road” which vampires. There’s actually a lot of similarities. There’s a man, and a boy. The man’s name is “Mister”, that’s as close as we get to a name and although the boy with him isn’t his son, he’s essentially taken the role of father/protector.
And yes, the movie has vampires. In the opening scene, we’re treated to an incredibly NASTY attack on a family, which really surprised me in that it sort of involved an unwritten (kind of) rule about horror movie kills. Let’s just say this moment tells you that this movie is for real (as real as you could get anyway in a movie about vampires) and it won’t hold back in terms of killing anyone.
The boy and Mister set out for a location called “New Eden”, which is fitting considering the dangerous religious fanatics they encounter along the way. Since vampires themselves are usually just scary, and not so much evil, the movie uses the religious group to add some psychology to the savagery, much like “The Road” made it scary because the cults were cannibals and you didn’t want to be eaten by other human beings.
Like “The Road” much of the film is set in dark tones, there is a lot of darkness, grays, browns, no real signs of anything living, very little vegetation. It’s a cold “literally” world that involves some small towns/pockets of survivors, but there is fairly little dialogue, characters aren’t expanded upon that well. I guess that’s the one flaw of this film. We like horror movies because they put characters in danger, but if you don’t really care about/get to know them, then it’s a wasted exercise. I enjoyed the film, but some moments would have been heightened simply had I known more about certain people.
However, I will say that the ending is satisfying and carries with it some not so subtle religious undertones, which is interesting because of the way the film handles religion earlier. There is actually a really poignant moment during the final showdown, which I had to watch twice to make sure that I had seen what I thought I’d seen. While “Stake Land” isn’t perfect or prophetic, it’s a more than competent genre exercise. It’s only drawback is that it has come after so many others, that it seems like it’s simply retreading old territory. If you can get past the fact, and if you’re in the mood for a movie like this, then it’s pretty darn good.