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:: Stake Land

Finally this is what horror fans have been waiting for all of 2011. A great horror flick that isn’t a remake or a reboot (or whatever fancy words the companies are using that means ‘it’s all been done before’). Stake Land is a brilliant film that shows there is still creativity out there in the ‘horror world’ and shows that filmmakers don’t need to use special effects in a bid to scare the pants of their audience.

Earth has changed forever but for Martin (Connor Paolol), he has only heard about the vampire invasion on the radio… that is until the night they arrive at his family’s farm and he soon finds himself an orphan. Enter Mister (Nick Damici), a vampire hunter who stops Martin from becoming dinner. Mister then allows Martin to travel with him as they head across the infested U.S. to get to New Eden (Canada). Along they way they befriend a wise nun (Kelly McGillis – The Innkeepers, 1 A Minute), the pregnant, Belle (Danielle Harris) and a Marine named Willie (Sean Nelson). They also make an enemy in Jebedia Loven (Michael Cerveris), a dangerous cult leader that believes the vampires are a gift from God.

Director, Jim Mickle does a fantastic job with Stake Land. He hasn’t got a huge budget to work with but still manages to make the vampires scary enough to warrant fear amongst the audience. And he certainly doesn’t let the lack of budget get in the way of good storytelling. The film keeps character development to a minimum but you certainly don’t mind that, and I would argue with anyone that even without that development that you care for the characters and don’t want anything to happen to them. Even the whole Cult part of the movie seems a bit confusing but then when you realise that Mister and Martin don’t fully understand what is going on it seems more than okay that you, the audience, don’t really know either.

What is refreshing with Stake Land is the fact that when Mickle and Damici wrote the script they were willing to take chances. It seems they are willing to break every ‘Hollywood Horror Law’ possible… and it doesn’t seem to distract from the storyline at all. Even with babies being savagely murdered and characters that Hollywood would deem should live dying, you can’t help but fall in love with a film that seems to be a cross between The Road and John Carpenter’s Vampires. The script even finds time to raise some serious questions about religion without offending anyone.

The big surprise with Stake Land is the fact it is a horror that also contains actors who can act. Damici is brilliant as Mister while this is clearly Connor Paolo’s breakout role… after seeing this you’ll know he has more acting range than you have ever got to see on Gossip Girl. Danielle Harris also announces herself as a young actress with a big future while even the supporting cast don’t seem to have all the issues that most B-Grade horror actors seem to have.

IF you’re in the belief that a horror film needs to have an entertaining plot, good acting while still pushing across some squeamish scenes than this is the film for you. Stake Land is one of the finest vampire films to surface over the past few years… and there isn’t a sparkly one in sight.