By Merkin Muffley—HorrorHomework Instructor
Vampire films seem more immortal now than ever before. The genre can’t be killed, even with bad films such as Twilight and Dracula 3000 having seen the light of day over the last decade or so.
Luckily, there are some flicks that have come out in recent years which make it easier for film freaks to separate the wheat from the chaff.
One such film is 2010’s Stake Land, directed by sophomore filmmaker Jim Mickle.
Basically the film revolves around Martin (played by Connor Paolo, “Alexander”) an American teenager who is saved by the mysterious veteran vampire hunter Mister (played by film co-writer Nick Damici, “World Trade Center”), in a vampire assault which claims the lives of his whole family before his eyes.
After the attack, we find that a mass vampire epidemic has nearly destroyed North America. Martin and Mister make their ways north to Canada, to a place known as “New Eden”, where vampiric activity is nearly non-existent due to the frigid climate.
In this world, where life is rare yet disposable, our antagonists fight their way to an uncertain sanctuary in the north. Along the way, they collect comrades who share their need to survive.
Why you should watch it
Stake Land is a great movie for many reasons. First of all, it’s free of that teeny bopper vampire pageantry we have all grown to loathe. It was even produced on a relatively small budget of just $4 million, according to imdb.
Stake Land is a coming-of-age film set in a post-apocalyptic world where survival is the fabric of society.
There are no sexy and stylish vampires to woo the characters and audience. The film’s ever-present nocturnal blood suckers resemble zombies more than vampires. The premise doesn’t get too technical on these grounds—a breath of fresh air when compared to other vampire flicks.
To compare, this film resembles a few acclaimed stories; Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead and Mad Max, directed by George Miller.
What themes do these stories have in common with one another, class? And how are they different? What do such stories accomplish when considering the human condition?
As we follow the two characters on their adventure, Mister trains Martin in the arts of killing vampires and staying alive. The two encounter all manner of people who have survived along their way, in small towns in a barren and cold landscape.
Despite the dimly lit setting and the dun-colored patrons therein, the story is rich with religious and economic undertones.
At one point, we find that many survivors have taken to religion as their cornerstone for existence, meaning that all non-believers are just as killable as vampires. The towns which Martin and Mister make their way through come equipped with trade, entertainment, prostitutes, assholes and booze—all the facets of a functional society! It’s like a Western, on those grounds.
What this story does is comment on the human condition in a very unique way.
As Martin learns to assimilate into this new way of life, he grows and matures. The survival skills he learns open the door to an old but very important concept in human history: filial piety—reverence for those who can teach.
This film was not made with the “blockbuster” philosophy of film production, thankfully. It has something to say and show the audience. It doesn’t have to prove anything. It’s just bad ass.
For extra credit, what does the class think of this film?