Vampires never get old. Unless they're sparkly and romantic. Thankfully, in the new indie thriller Stake Land, the vampires are bloody, nasty and pissed off - just like they should be. Even better, the movie is surprisingly good, if not particularly original.
Stake Land is directed by Jim Mickle, who debuted on the horror scene with 2007's halfway decent Mulberry St., a Horrorfest entry. The movie is about a man (Nick Damici) and a teenage boy (Connor Paolo) who are making their way north through a devastated American countryside where vampires and religious zealots reign supreme.
Stake Land takes a very somber, dreamlike approach to vampires, as much concerned about establishing the moody atmosphere as it does throwing blood-thirsty creatures at the protagonists. The movie offers a fine balance between character-driven sequences and action scenes, a rarity for horror films.
Mickle and co-write Damici also develop strong, likable characters. Damici's unnamed character is brutal and violent, yet caring and relatable. Paolo ("Gossip Girl") also does a fine job, his character well written. Mickle and Damici cap off the movie on a high note, too.
As far as the vampire goodness goes, Stake Land is about average - and that's a good thing. The vampires are creepy and gory and there are more than enough of them to fill out the film. The presence of other bad guys - religious freaks who believe the vampires are a gift from God - is a nice touch.
Despite its positives, Stake Land doesn't offer a lot that hasn't been seen before. Its emphasis on moody drama rather than action excitement doesn't lend itself to repeat viewings, and overall it doesn't stand out significantly from the four thousand other vampire movies in existence. It is a good movie - just not a very unique one.
Of course, that won't stop horror fans, nor should it.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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