I was struck by something while watching Stake Land on Comcast On Demand a few days ago. In short, it was that finally a film maker has pulled off the diffuclt genre mish mash known as the horror western. So often, films that try to combine the two simply succeed at not pulling off either genre very well (looking at you The Burrowers). Not so with Stake Land, directed by Jim Mickle, and written by Nick Damici and Jim Mickle.
The world is over run by vampires, in classic I Am Legend fashion, though somehow no one has done that story really well yet in film, despite the numerous attempts (looking at you The Last Man on Earth, The Omega Man, and I Am Legend). I hate to spoil this gem, so the long and the short of it is, a teenaged boy named Martin played by Connor Paolo, goes on a journey across America to fight the undead, with a man known only as Mister, played by the writer of the film, Nick Damici.
The universe we are thrown into is chilling. This is where this films hits you hardest, when you see an America transformed, filled with cars in the middle of the road, dead bodies by the roadside, or inside of a house. The people have changed too, and not just the ones that have turned into vampires. In the resulting aftermath of the vampire invasion, religious cults have popped up, and there are even rumors of cannibals. Unfortunately, we never see these cannibals, unless I was confused, which is possible. The lack of cannibal action is more than made up for by some crazy cult called The Brotherhood, and you see some weird things in this new America, with a significantly smaller population.
The score is good, though it gets dangerously close to that of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and there is even a shot in the film, that looked like it was taken directly from The Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford. If ever there was a film to hopefully unintentionally rip off, can’t think of a better one than TAOJJBTCRB.
The acting is great all around, but the stand out performance is clearly Nick Damici as Mister. This man kicks ass on his days off, he is a one man ass kicking machine, and one of the most bad ass vampire hunters I’ve seen on screen since Anthony Hopkins in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula.
Perhaps, the saddest thing for me to think about, is that this film will be overshadowed by that awful looking, big budgeted summer movie, Priest. Now, not trying to say you have to see one or the other, by jove, see both if you want! However, will say that of the two, can all but guarantee Stake Land is the better film. Not only that, Stake Land is a great film on its own merits. These type of films are what makes it all worth it. Slogging through hours of complete, steaming bullshit; this is the gold found in the sand. Go see this film immediately if you are a fan of vampires, and westerns. Or, if you simply want to be scared by vampires again.