@thesubstream - Midnight Madness Review - STAKE LAND

People's Choice winner and tough-guy featurer.

An interesting mash-up that's half melancholic this-is-the-end-of-an-era western and half apocalyptic monster fable, director Jim Mickle's Stake Land is proof enough that genre conventions may well be endlessly remixable. Think The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford meets The Road plus a bunch of brainless starving vampires and you're close enough to Mickle's low-budget, high-concept take on the (still, somehow) hot vampire thing.

Martin (Connor Paolo) is getting ready to bug out of civilization with his parents, gassing up the car and packing food and clothes when they're attacked by one of the aforementioned beasts. These aren't sparkly romance vampires, they're deformed, starving monsters, and Martin is only saved by the intervention of Mister (Nick Damici). Mister is the strong, silent type - a vampire hunter revered by the few pockets of humanity that eke out an existence during the day and batten down at night.

Martin and Mister are on the move, heading north toward "New Eden", about which rumours abound. They pick up stragglers on the way, including a nun (Kelly McGillis) that they save from an attack by members of "the Brotherhood", a gang of religious zealots that view the vampires as God's wrath and encourage their spread by dropping starving vampires out of helicopters onto human settlements.

Damici as Mister is all lantern-jawed masculinity, an all-business dispatcher of monsters. He leads his crew through the backwoods of latter-day wooded rural America, past tattered flags and sunken churches, hiding from Vampires and lunatics. He's clever and remorselessly violent, a horror movie (budget) Clint Eastwood. Martin narrates the film in a dreamy, distracted, Levi's-jeans ad tone, which helps give the film a deeply weird, not unpleasant kind of '70s-cinema feeling. Stake Land's not exactly avant-garde, not experimental, but for a genre work-out featuring a bunch of blood and screams it's positively fascinating.

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