In a fierce apocalyptic vision of America's bleak future, Martin (Connor Paolo), once a normal teenage boy, faces a vampire epidemic that has swept across what is left of the nation's abandoned towns and cities. When he meets up with Mister (Nick Damici), a rogue vampire hunter, Martin finds a mentor with whom to travel safely north to Canada, the continent's New Eden.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Mister (Nick Damici) is a man of few words but plenty of action as he makes his way north through a post apocalyptic America towards New Eden - used to be called Canada. Armed with wooden stakes, often rubbed with garlic oil ("doesn't hurt") with which to smite any of the vamps (vampire zombies) who come too close, Mister is a taciturn hero in the classic mould.
After saving Martin (Connor Paolo), the son of a couple preparing to flee their home from a vamp attack, Mister takes him along in his beaten up old Chevvy convertible and fights his way towards a land where food and safety await. They hope.
On the way they rescue a nun who they simply call Sister (a grey haired Kelly McGillis) and kill the two men who raped her, but her sister has been vamped and in one of the film's standout scenes, they have to kill her. It's a standout for the fact that it introduces some of the ethical dilemmas that most zombie movies don't deal with; the separation line between humans and ex-humans, the zombies. Sister stays with the men - where is she going to go, asks Martin in the voice over.
They hit big trouble when they are captured by the Brotherhood, a religious cult whose leader, Jebedia (Michael Creveris) is the father of one of the rapists Mister killed.
Director Jim Mickle and writer Damici give horror fans all the juicy, showy, bloody zombie killing stunts they can handle in what is a first rate genre piece with great production values and great dry, dialogue. They also take care to include lots of little touches that add texture, from radio broadcasts to hand scrawled signs that hint at the horrors around them.
Mickle invests in his characters and makes us care for each of them, elevating the film to the best of its genre potential, with as much human drama as zombie horror and Jeff Grace provides an outstanding score, plucking the emotional strings.
The Road on supernatural steroids, the New York Times called it, and that's a pretty good short handle for it.
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STAKE LAND (MA15+)
CAST: Nick Damici, Kelly McGillis, Connor Paolo, Danielle Harris, Michael Cerveris, Bonnie Dennison, Sean Nelson,
PRODUCER: Derrek Curl, Larry Fessenden, Adam Folk, Brent Kunkle
DIRECTOR: Jim Mickle
SCRIPT: Nick Damici, Jim Mickle
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ryan Samul
EDITOR: Jim Mickle
MUSIC: Jeff Grace
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Daniel R. Kersting
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Umbrella
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Melbourne: June 23; Sydney July 21, 2011