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Stake Land


Bite into this zombie-vampire hybrid.

Rod Lott July 25th, 2011

Like the hit "Zombieland" played straight, "Stake Land" follows a grizzled, seen-it-all hunter and his young protégé across a postapocalyptic America riddled with the undead.

stakeland

In this film by director/co-writer Jim Mickle ("Mulberry Street"), the monsters are a mix of zombies and vampires. The characters call them "vamps," but if not for the fangs, you wouldn't think "bloodsuckers" at all.

You may, however, think "horses," because I swear the sounds of their attack-mode hiss contains an equestrian whinny.

Co-writer Nick Damici ("World Trade Center") plays Mister, the surrogate father to farm boy Martin (Connor Paolo, TV's "Gossip Girl") after his parents get slaughtered in the opening. Mister takes Martin under his unwashed wing and teaches him the ins and outs of plunging sharp, wooden implements and instruments. Along the way in their journey toward New Eden, they save a nun (Kelly McGillis, looking nothing like her "Top Gun" days) from rapists, and help a pregnant country singer (Danielle Harris, "Hatchet II") to whom Martin takes a shine.

Almost as different amid the vampire genre as "Daybreakers" or "Let the Right One In," "Stake Land" maintains a grim, somber tone, even as it goes through the very gory motions. Mickle includes a "Christian crazies" subplot that makes the second half slog a bit, but overall, this isn't your ordinary bite of horror. Hooray!

Be sure to get the Blu-ray for seven shorts, each providing a prequel glimpse of various characters. With the exception of an "Origins" piece from the video-camera POV of a grade schooler, they're more like tone poems than actual narratives. Helmed by a who's who of indie horror talents, none is required viewing beforehand, but as an afterward method of exploring the "Stake Land" world, the shorts are cool. —Rod Lott

 
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