Stake Land (US, 2010)

Not just what it says in the title

Not just what it says in the title

Imdb reports that this film cost $650k to make, if that’s the case then it is an incredible achievement because it looks as good as any post-Apocalyptic movie road movie I’ve seen. Co-written by director Jim Mickle and star Nick Damici, the emphasis is less on the genre elements of a world threatened by vampires, who act like zombies, than the melancholy associated with post-civilisation life. There are plenty of genre elements and I’m guessing they couldn’t get a good distributor as the box office was dreadful. The film offers more than enough of gore and grue to appeal to its core audience.

Damici plays Mister, the paternal vampire killer who shepherds Martin, and various others who join them, north to the (maybe) mythical New Eden. Amongst the others is Kelly McGillis’ Sister (she is a nun), who retains her star charisma of her eighties heyday. It was startling to see a (albeit former) Hollywood female star with grey hair! She looked great.

Mister might have been simply an over-bearing ‘silent, macho’ type but this is leavened by a beautiful moment when, after they join a community trying to hold ‘things together’, he picks up a toddler to dance with. In a post-Apocalyptic world, you want men of violence on your side! The film is also Martin’s ‘coming of age’ story, which is also handled with tenderness and care.

True to genre tradition, there is no explanation regarding the plague that’s brought about the apocalypse but it is striking the truly terrifying villains of the film are Christians. Or more specifically, those nut jobs who welcome the Apocalypse as evidence of God’s dissatisfaction with the world. These neo-Nazi racists drop vampires from helicopters to infect ‘non believer’ communities. It’s comforting to think that such looney types exist only in America but that’s not true. In the UK, this weekend, a UKIP (a nationalist party) councillor said that the floods in southern England were caused by the legalisation of gay marriage…

Only once in the film, the climactic battle against the chief bad guy, did I think the genre elements got the better of the realist portrayal of how things might be. That’s quite an achievement and I’d rank this film above The Road as one of the best post-Apocalyptic films around.

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