When I browse through my Netflix each and every night, the first thing that draws me in to any particular flick is the poster art. Often, the way the picture is represented says much about the way the movie will pan out, at least visually. The second thing that I look at is, of course, the description of the film. It may be short and sometimes inaccurate, but it’s all we get to go on when it comes to a movie that we may never have heard of. The description for Stake Land, according to Netflix, was that it was a movie about a post-apocalyptic world filled with zombies and vampires. Needless to say, it didn’t sound too impressive. But I decided to give it a try anyways and, in the end, I was not in the least disappointed that I did.
Stake Land is one of those horror films that takes itself seriously. The movie drops the viewer straight into a huge mess with no explanation. The world has become overrun with vampires (I’m not sure where the zombies in the description were supposed to be…), although we never find out what happened or why. All we know is that there is a man called “Mister” and a teenaged boy he’s sort of adopted and they travel from one stronghold of humanity to the next, killing vampires and trying to survive along the way. In the course of their journey they meet up with more than one other survivor and, naturally, lose more than one friend along the way.
Stake Land makes no attempt to be some deeply engrossing story with lots of explanation or plot set-up. It’s a man and his protégé trying to survive, little more. The strength of the movie is that it is dark and brooding and the post-apocalyptic world they’re journeying through is harsh and unforgiving. Not since Night of the Living Dead has a movie environment felt so bleak and yet so realistic despite its fantastical premise. With most films of the genre I find myself watching and thinking “How do these people survive? I could totally do much better than them.” With Stake Land, I would never, ever want to be trapped in that world. Even the weakest of the vampires are mean and dangerous and the pair of hunters, despite their skills, have a hard time keeping alive. Stake Land’s America is a bad place where nearly everyone ends up dead in some horrible way.
The general story line is simple enough, following Mister and the kid as they make their way toward a place called “New Eden.” Supposedly in New Eden there are no vampires to worry about. But the final destination of their journey is just a place. The real story is the journey itself. The best way I can think to describe it is The Road with horrible mindless vampires thrown in.
If you’re a fan of well-made and well-thought-out horror, give Stake Land a watch. Best be warned, though - it’s not a happy film. This is not the typical film that kills off the cast one at a time leaving you shrugging because you happened to like one character or another. Those that live and die are realistic and when they end, it’s messed up and sometimes quite disturbing. In my opinion, Stake Land is the best vampire flick I’ve seen in over a decade and one of the best post-apocalyptic films I’ve seen in my life.