In my pursuit of new and unusual speculative fiction I came across Jim Mickle’s 2010 Stake Land: an imaginative, if not spellbinding, presentation of post-apocalyptic America.
In a genre predominated by Zombie apocalypses, Stake Land provides a refreshing deviation into the realm of Vamps. The story follows Martin, an innocent young boy who, after witnessing the grizzly slaughter of his parents and baby sibling, is taken under the wing of Mister: a vamp-slaying, Mickey Rourke-looking badass of unknown origin, whose prime directive seems to be killing things with utmost composure. Mister, having appeared fortuitously at Martins family home – and displaying an uncharacteristic level of compassion, that never again resurfaces – spirits him across the country, teaching him the laws of the ‘land’ and the finesse of his art.
The unlikely pair traverse the U.S. with the ultimate goal of reaching Canada: the New Eden, a supposedly vamp-free zone (and we all know how that works out ref. Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later). On this journey they face numerous challenges, of which the easy to kill, buffy-esque vamps seem to pose the least; more dangerous perhaps are the Brotherhood: a new-world religious sect who, calling this “God’s judgement,” provide the vamps with human sacrifices in order to save themselves. This development is one of the few aspects of the movie that seems somewhat original. The population of America now lives in corrugated iron compounds reminiscent of Waterworld in which people trade for supplies with Vampire Teeth; the nomadic pair, however, avoid these for the most part and stick to the good ol’ countryside.
Other cliches fulwilled by steakland include the improbable romance with a lone-female-survivor, the death of their only black companion, and the unlikely teacher-student dynamic.
All in all Stake Land was an enjoyable watch, though somewhat unoriginal; the characters are sufficiently fleshed out and the plot is surprisingly entertaining, leaving only the action to somewhat disappoint. I give Stake Land a 7/10.