by Del Harvey
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Writer-director Jim Mickle’s Stake Land is the best vampire movie you’ll see this year. Maybe even the best horror film you’ll see this year. And it’s coming out on DVD and BluRay August 2, 2011, from Dark Sky Films.
America is in the grips of a post-apocalyptic nightmare. A deadly virus has turned many into blood-lusting vampires. Now bands of survivors seek higher ground in colder areas where the warm-blooded parasites prefer not to go. But hunger drives these unfortunate beasts and they will, eventually expand beyond the limits of their comfort zone.
We focus on Connor Paolo (Gossip Girl, Alexander, Mystic River), who stars as Martin, a teenager whose family has been slaughtered. He comes upon a vampire hunter who befriends him, takes him under his wing. His new traveling companion is a stoic killer known simply as Mister (Nick Damici, In the Cut, World Trade Center) who knows better than to trust strangers. Together they trudge across the new wastelands of America in search of the fabled safe haven called New Eden.
Along the way they learn something about what it means to be human in a world gone mad. Martin grows up while Mister learns to let his guard down. Somewhere along the road they stop at a tavern where a pregnant young singer (Danielle Harris, Halloween, Hatchet II) captivates young Martin. The next morning she leaves with them, and suddenly they are a trio, much to Mister’s dismay. At another point they meet up with a traumatized nun called Sister, played by Kelly McGillis (Witness, Top Gun), who becomes a surrogate mother to Martin and an ally to Mister.
But this road is hard traveled, and vampires aren’t the only beasts out in the wilderness. A group of Aryan supremacists takes them captive and Sister sacrifices herself so the others can attempt an escape. This sequence alone shows the delicate balance in humanity required to make a civilization work. The combined hope and despair take its toll on our band of heroes on their journey to their ‘New Eden,’ and the thrill and suspense comes in urging them on as much as the anticipation of whether or not they will actually make it.
Stake Land is one of the great low budget films of the year as well as being as strong an indictment of humankind’s cruelty and folly as past classics like Soylent Green or The Omega Man. It recalls great books such as “I Am Legend.”
Stake Land is beautifully filmed with the same kind of lens work as Winter’s Bone. This film deserves your attention for its message, its take human frailty. Watch it. Discover this new classic vampire film for yourself.
Catch the trailer and learn more about this excellent film here.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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