Movie Review: Stake Land

“Stake Land” on IMDB

Horror, 98 Minutes, 2010

[This is the eighth review for this edition of  my semi-regular “my-wife-and-kids-are-visiting-relatives-so-I’m-watching-loads-of-crappy-movies” film festival.]

Really liked this.  Mixes a bunch of stuff that generally interests me: post-apocalyptic setting, vampires, religious extremists and road movies.  “Vampires” is also pretty loose here – these are vampires, but brainless, staggering very zombie-like vampires.  You almost wonder if “Zombieland” didn’t come out first and cause a hasty rewrite.

You’d also be forgiven if, after watching the first few minutes, you started to dismiss it as a more serious “Zombieland” clone: after all an experienced monster killer takes a young man prone to narration under his wing and helps him to survive a monster-filled road trip.  Stick with it however and the movie quickly finds its own voice and pacing.  This is never “horror-comedy”: it’s a drama and stays true to that throughout.

Some people may find it slow –  and it is; even plodding in places.  But like “The Road”, which this movie resembles in many ways, the pace highlights the bleakness of the situation and contrasts the moments of frenetic action.  Even the action scenes are generally subdued – something that may have been forced due to budget concerns but works well.  There are no massive gun battles, no explosions or complex, choreographed fights.  In fact the few times it does brush against more “hollywood” stylings is when the movie works the least.

The acting was a bit weak, but not distractingly so – and it only became a real problem when the film played with the idea of turning characters into “action heroes” rather than just plain folks.  I did feel that the cast was perhaps a bit larger than it needed to be – the sheer number of people who end up tagging-along becomes unwieldy and we have trouble connecting with them.  It’s almost like they had certain stereotypes that they wanted to present and just kept writing new characters to do so.

The ending feels a little forced and without focus but – and as always this earns the movie big points – there’s no twist ending!  If anything the movie just kind of fades nicely away.  My few nitpicks aside this is a very strong film with some though-provoking moments and is well worth an evening’s time.

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