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  Stake Land Once Bitten
Year: 2010
Director: Jim Mickle
Stars: Nick Damici, Connor Paolo, Michael Cerveris, Sean Nelson, Kelly McGillis, Danielle Harris, Bonnie Dennison, Chance Kelly, Adam Scarimbolo, Marianne Hagan, Eilis Cahill, Traci Hovel, Stuart Rudin, Lou Sumrall, Gregory Jones, Brian Spears, Tim House
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Martin (Connor Paolo) lives in a world that has gone to hell, and he would have been one of the victims if it had not been for one fateful meeting on the night his parents died. The land had been gripped by a plague of vampirism, fuelled by rabidly fundamentalist Christians who had seen an opportunity of bringing about the apocalypse they had always wanted, and Martin's countryside home was not immune to the approach of the legions of undead. He had seen his parents killed by one of the vampires, but someone had been there to prevent that happening to him...

Stake Land was one of those movies where the comparisons to other films came thick and fast as you were watching it, yet crucially remained its own entity. You could observe director Jim Mickle and actor Nick Damici's script as being indebted to anything from The Road to Mad Max to Zombieland, and there were certainly echoes of many a post-armageddon epic here, but as this took itself incredibly seriously there was a distinctive mood that capitalised on the low resources to offer a convincingly blasted landscape. Maybe not so much blasted as desolate thanks to the trappings that came along with it.

Damici was our fearless vampire killer who makes his mission to not only destroy the initially zombie-esque bloodsuckers (by severing their spines, usually, an interesting addition to the myth) but to save the potential victims as well, hence he rescues Martin and takes him on the trail of the North, as Canada is known as New Eden now and represents salvation for the hapless Americans who don't fancy getting offed by the plague of monsters. This being a road movie, there is a variety of communities they encounter as they travel, from the small peaceloving societies to the more sinister Christians who have made it their duty to spread vampirism.

It's a fresh take on the real villains, and an intriguing corruption of the traditional view that faith in God will stave off the vampires as here no cross will help you for if the Christians are right, it is He who has visited this disaster on the globe. If they are not, then even more arresting is the notion of certain sections of humanity so keen on the idea of the apocalypse and the subsequent hoped for salvation and accompanying punishment for those sinners and non-believers that they are willing to move things along by their own actions. This scathing take on blind religious fanaticism erupts in some powerful scenes.

Such as the sequence where a peace-loving community has their party gatecrashed by mad Christians flying overhead in helicopters and dropping ravenous vampires on the revellers, a truly nasty representation of how some people just can't stand to see others enjoying themselves. Meanwhile our two heroes pick their way through the debris and gather their own tiny tribe, including a nun (Kelly McGillis) who they save from rape, and a pregnant woman who wants her child brought up without all this hassle, played by Danielle Harris, a notable scream queen since her childhood days. Stake Land was not afraid to be as grave as it possibly could be, so while it conjured up impressive setpieces you couldn't call it tremendously enjoyable to watch, but as a Larry Fessenden production it carried his mark of novel twists on the horror genre, and making the most of that small budget. Music by Jeff Grace.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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