Stake Land... People are talking this one up like its been makin' out with Hester Prynne just before they dropped a big letter "A" on her chest. Is this a new take on the vamp legend? Will it save vampire films from the evil forces of Twilight (ewww... vampires kissing humans; humans kissing werewolves... gross). Yes and no.
If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, Rubin Fleischer must be tickled blood red. The naration by a young, would-be vampire killer has the feeling of a whole different "land" film. You know, Zombieland. I'm not sure that's a bad thing, but I might find it a bit unnecessary. Start off with a high action vampire killer. Force your way past the obvious baby doll in the stead of an actual baby being murdered by said vamp. Push a little further into the experienced vamp killer going cross country alongside young apprecentice vamp slayer. There are some parallels to our beloved Zombieland. There are some marks against it beyond imitation. The bloodsuckers look like Uraki from Lords of the Rings. I'm not necessarily offering that as a strike against it; it's just a fact. Maybe even a little werewolf in there. Back to Stake Land being Zombieland... Everyone's wearing Brazillian Tarp Hats... or at least look-a-like hats.
It's nice to see vampires as animals instead of pretty humans. It's nice to see them uncivilized. It's not quite a disease that you'd catch for which a hospital visit would even be considered. Maybe it plays off of 28 Days Later on that note. Rage plus Animal Vamps plus the film style of Zombieland. Post-apocalypse: isn't everything these days? It's one of the only things that gets to the kids today. Fear of losing their Gameboys. Stake Land is a lonesome driter picture; Vampire Hunter at a Truck Stop (one Mac truck away from Maximum Overdrive). Of course you have to throw in the fear of the religious right. There are always religious zealots. Gotta have a non-vamp enemy; See True Blood if you don't quite get what I'm getting at here. Stake Land comes off party horror movie, part western/John Wayne film, part Romero style, socially critical post-apocalypse piece. Maybe a little Holden Caufield.
One definitive plus in this vampire entry is the focus on the stakers instead of the staked. It's nice to have a story about people every once in awhile. That's why we love Stephen King's horror right? Maybe that's why Stephen King's film adaptations don't always hold a candle to his original drafts. Screenwriters don't get the people like King does. It's about time we got the story of the modern day, true grit story of Van Helsing rather than Drac. Let's not call the screenplay for Stake Land Stephen King-esque, but what I'm willing to say is that it's a story of characters and doesn't bank on laughs to prime the identify-with-the-character pump.
What do you stake a vampire with in Stake Land? Real stakes. Stakes that a real person would make. Not overly squared off, Home Depot, pre-shaved two foot pikes. Real stakes without looking cheeseball. No one's sharpening the edge of little Timmy's polo clubs. Burnt tips. You can tell their built to kill, made with fire and wood, hand sharpened... creative. Truly enjoyed the stake boomerage. It's reminscent of Castlevania, no? It always surprises me that vampires get hunted like deer. One-on-one, on at a time. There's no great vamp round up. Works for zombies, right?
The lead vamp staker bears strong resemblance to Jeff Bridges. Now that would have been something. The Dude stakin' vampires tokin' a bone sipping a White Russian. Better make it a Bloody Mary givent he genre crossover. He was in True Grit too which goes along with Stake Land's cowboy feel.
On a side note: It's always nice to hear "In the Pines" by Leadbelly in the middle of a vamp flick trying to push beyond the cliched mythos. Especially when it's Danielle Harris on the mic.
-Dr. Jimmy Terror
We'll leave you with some Leadbelly. It's a right bit more haunting than Stakeland. Well, maybe not more than those chained up, smoking vamp skeletons. Those were pretty damn good.