Stake Land (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner15/06/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 98 mins

Enjoyable post-apocalyptic horror that plays like a non-comedy version of Zombieland, thanks to strong performances, an engaging script and some assured, pacey direction.

What's it all about?
Directed by Jim Mickle, Stake Land is set in the near future, where the U.S. has been ravaged by a vampire apocalypse. Connor Paolo (Gossip Girl's Eric van der Woodsen) stars as Martin, a teenage boy who becomes the apprentice to a gruff vampire hunter known as The Mister (Nick Damici), after his family are brutally killed in the opening scenes.

As Martin learns the vampire-slaying ropes, the pair cross America in search of a rumoured safe zone known as New Eden, picking up various other survivors (friendly nun Kelly McGillis, ex-marine Sean Nelson and pregnant hottie Danielle Harris) along the way. However, they also encounter evil cult leader Jebedia (Michael Cerveris), a religious fanatic who believes that vampires are God's judgement on mankind and seems positively pro-apocalypse.

The Good
Eric van der Woodsen might not be the obvious choice of Gossip Girl character for a defender against the vampire apocalypse (he's no Chuck Bass, after all), but Connor Paolo is surprisingly good as Martin and his weedy-looking physique gives him a painfully obvious vulnerability that works well. There's also strong support from Damici, Harris and an unrecognisable Kelly McGillis (anyone who saw Top Gun at the cinema will feel very old indeed), while Cerveris is suitably chilling as Jebedia.

Essentially, Stake Land plays exactly like Zombieland, only without the jokes and with vampires instead of zombies (though, to be fair, these vampires have more in common with zombies than they do with, say, Twilight). The script is excellent, delivering the expected vampire-based thrills while finding interesting ways to explore some tried-and-tested post-apocalypse genre ideas, such as the meaning of community or the fact that the surviving humans (and especially the religious fanatics) are often worse than the monsters.

The Great
Mickle keeps the action moving at a decent pace throughout and he orchestrates several memorable scenes, most notably a horrific opening sequence (with cleverly placed sound effects to make you think the action is grislier than it actually is) and a devastating helicopter attack that's shocking on several different levels at once.

Worth seeing?
Impressively directed and sharply written, Stake Land is an enjoyable post-apocalyptic horror that's by turns chilling, shocking, provocative and moving. Highly recommended.

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Stake Land (15)
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Content updated: 23/10/2017 08:57

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