October 30, 2011

Horror-A-Day: Stake Land

I think this Halloween season has brought the most horror watching I have had ever. Of course, I have never tried to watch at least one horror a day before. I am definitely doing this again. Today is the first day of my weekend marathon and so far I have had three first time viewings and they have all, thankfully, been positive experiences. The latest one has proven to be a pretty awesome one. It is something different, yet awfully familiar. It is a bit of a gene mash up that works in the best possible way.

It is kind of funny. The way this movie is comprised of familiar elements from other movies has led people to criticize it for ripping other movies off or taking itself too seriously or not being original, or any other inane comments. It really is funny. The thing is, not every movie is going to be completely original. Think about the movies you have seen over the past week, month, year, whatever, and think about how many of them were completely original. Probably not that many, right? However, I am sure there are a lot that you liked, or even thought were really good or great. Same here.

The movie in question is Stake Land. This movie is engrossing, interesting, refreshing, and brings elements from the vampire genre as well as zombies and the post apocalyptic tale. As I watched movies like The Road, Zombieland, John Carpenter's Vampires, and even I Am Legend came to mind. Never in a bad or derivative fashion. I just thought of how elements of those movies were brought together in a movie that still manages to be itself.

The setting is a future where a vampiric virus ran rampant causing the downfall of society, wars, and fragmentation of society. While that sounds like it could be pretty epic,the story is actually much smaller and more personal. It is a man, known only as Mister (Nick Damici), and a boy, Martin (Conor Paolo), whose parents were killed by a vampire. They are on the road, surviving as they can as they make their way north.

We follow them as they fight vampires, violent religious sects, and come across depressed towns with dwindling populations. It is an interesting tale, watching the relationship between Mister and Martin develop and watch as their group grows with the additions of the pregnant Belle (Danielle Harris) and Willie.

There is not a big story to tell, it is like dropping in on their lives for a leg of their journey. It is an interesting one, but it is not like you are going to get a traditional beginning, middle, end story. It is not a jovial film. Much like The Road it takes a serious look at what it could/would be like.

Stake Land was co-written and directed by Jim Mickle and he is really proving to be a creative guy with vision and the ability to pull it off. His last film was part of the second After Dark Horror Fest and was one of the stronger entries, Mulberry Street. This time around he has a bigger scope and budget and did not duplicate where he already was, instead forging some new ground. He is joined by creative partner, Nick Damici who co-wrote the screenplay and also stars (same on Mulberry Street). He does a good job as the stoic, cold, tough guy with a good heart. Without having to demonstrate a wide range, he managers to make you care about him.

When it comes right down to it, Stake Land is a pretty awesome movie that takes familiar elements and molds them into something new. It is a refreshing genre outing that is not self-referential, jokey, or self-deprecating. This is a movie that takes itself seriously, but not overly so. It is a serious film.

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