(2010) director Jim Mickle
An earnest low-budget Indie post-apocalyptic thriller, Stake Land is no great shakes, but is some pretty decent ones. It’s a vampire movie that’s more akin to a George A. Romero zombie flick than a vampire film. While some films play for laughs, some play for scares, some play for social commentary, Stake Land plays for a believability of humanist characters, focusing on the protagonists’ relationships rather than on gore or shocks.
From the beginning, a teenage boy named Martin is rescued from an attack by these zombie-vampires upon his family. He is the only survivor and winds up teaming up with and learning from a man he calls “Mister” (actor/co-writer Nick Damici). They are vampire killers, collecting fangs as they go, searching across America, moving northward, to a place less crawling with creeps. There are worse creeps than the vampires, a cruel band called The Brotherhood, a quasi-religious faction of vampire killers and thugs show that humans are still as bad as any other villain.
Of course, when the leader of the Brotherhood becomes a vampire himself…
As I said, the film is no great shakes, but has a subtle charm, emanating from the characters. One of the film’s biggest shocks is Kelly McGillis, for whom my mental images are comprised mainly of her from Witness (1985) or Top Gun (1986). Sure, that was 25 years ago and, sure, she’s in her mid-fifties now, but wow, I wouldn’t have recognized her. She’s an attractive middle-aged woman, a faux-Grandmother figure to the boy, and another of the film’s qualities, a role for someone of this age, not another half-naked 20-something. It’s part of the agelessness of cinema, a Dorian Gray-like fixture of beauty kept pristine for eternity, while, in this case, in the real world, we all age something fierce.