31 Days of Horror: Stake Land (2010) – REVIEW

Dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories are not something we’re short of these days, both on-screen and in real life. They can be a bit hit and miss, but occasionally, an under-rated gem creeps onto the scene. Stake Land is one such tale. I’d had very low expectations as I had never heard of it or many of the people in it. But, just like high expectations can be a film’s undoing, low expectations can set you up for a wonderful surprise. Low and behold, that’s exactly what happened here.

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At the heart of things, we have Mister (Nick Damici), a vampire hunter and his apprentice (Connor Paolo). Together, they must make their way to New Eden in order to seek sanctuary in a world overrun by vampires.

Stake Land is perfect for fans of another big apocalyptic franchise

If you like The Walking Dead, this film will be right up your street. Stake Land shares many similarities with the TV show. However, it has legs enough of its own that it’s not just a blatant rip-off with vampires. There’s plenty of action and a good dose of up-close vampire kills, plus all the brutality you’d expect at the end of the world.

However, Stake Land also has a feel of the wild west about it too. Mister is like a famous gunslinger moving from town to town with his protegé Martin, and the overall aesthetic of the film means it could just as easily be a modern-day western instead of a horror film if you swapped out the vampires for officers of the law. This did the film a huge favour as I love that genre, and have enjoyed previous efforts to blend it with horror.

As for the duo that are the focus of the film, I was a big fan of the pairing. Granted, it’s nothing new – the hard man taking a kid under his wing because he does have a heart after all. But there’s a reason these partnerships turn up again and again in pop culture – they work. Watching Martin and Mister here, all I wanted was for them to succeed in their mission to reach New Eden. They had both lost everything, and all they had in this new world was each other and this common goal. The odds were massively stacked against them, which inevitably caused me to root for them even more.

Having a kid in the mix softened the edges slightly

The inclusion of Martin’s character was a fantastic move. It created a great dynamic between our two leads, and also brought a coming-of-age perspective to the apocalypse. Teenage years are tough at the best of times, and I don’t imagine throwing a small thing like an apocalypse into the mix makes things any easier. There were little touches throughout the film that served as a reminder that Martin was still a kid. They humanised both him and Mister, and added emotional depth to a film that could just as easily been ignored. Couple this with the score that was in control of the pacing and atmosphere, and Stake Land actually had quite a sizeable heart.

If I had to pick a noticeable fault it would be that the dialogue was a little clunky in places. On a few occasions, it just felt like the words didn’t flow as freely as they could’ve done. However, on the whole, one complaint isn’t too bad – especially when you consider I didn’t hold high hopes coming into the film.

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It would be fair to say I really enjoyed Stake Land

The film ticked a lot of my boxes. It’s an apocalyptic tale with a difference, and it was nice to see this sub-genre reimagined in some small way. I loved the western vibe, and the two main characters took that even further travelling from town to town like a couple of gunslingers on the hunt for the American Dream. There was a good dose of action and it didn’t shy away from showing what I really wanted to see, but it also was surprisingly touching, which just gave the film an extra layer. I’d heartily recommend it!

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