Baddie – Racist Vampires!
Lesson – Teamwork makes the dreamwork.
Ah yes, the crackle of leaves beneath your feet, the brisk Autumnal air, the barest whisper of – oh wait, I live in Texas now. It’s still hot, and everything is still green. Still! My Octoberween spirit can not be crushed, and as we plod headfirst into Rooster Illusion’s favorite holiday, I can announce with great joy that this month, SciFriday will be reviewing only vampire movies. Also, this week is my two year anniversary writing for the site! We’ve come a long way, readers, and keep your eyeballs tuned for several new exciting changes over the next couple of months!
Stake Land has been on my radar for some time now – namely because when the trailer originally dropped it went a little viral as it depicted the decapitation of a small child. I never had a super good reason to actually sit down and watch it until just now, but Vampires for Octoberween, especially given my recaps of The Strain, now seemed like a good time.
Stake Land is post-apocalyptic, to an extent, only, y’know, vampires. The time setting is not quite present-day, but not super old timey either. I think it’s intended to transcend and make the threat of apocalypse a little more imminent. The film is immediately graphic and brutal. The vamp design is immediate and really neat. Partially undead looking, more zombie than other movie vamps, depicting degrees of decay coupled with standard vampire myth. The juxtaposition between warm alive things and cold dead things is stark and distinct, starting with the colors in the opening scene and continuing from there. In the first ten minutes I can tell there’s a fantastic dichotomy of old-American tradition and older-Vampire myth set in this post-apocalyptic wasteland. It’s dramatic and beautiful.
I am actually super glad I sat down and watched this movie. It’s quite good, really all around. Stake Land was written and directed by Jim Mickle, who also wrote and directed the American version of We Are What We Are (look for a double review of that and the original version in the next few months) which was also a stellar movie, visually, and otherwise. I’m really excited to check out his other films, because he’s a really good horror story teller.
At first blush, Stake Land is a bit of an extremist allegory, but don’t mistake the heavy handed KKK references purely as a warning against religious zealots. I personally think that it’s a bit more than that, because at the heart of this gory extreme movie there’s a nice ensemble cast, solid dialogue and hardly any cheese. The predicaments are intense and fiercely executed, the occasional moment of joy is real and, really, amidst everything else, it’s a great story. Additionally, because of the way that everything kind of goes to hell at the end (sorry, sort of spoilers I guess), it kind of makes you feel like maybe the symbolism was more literal than you thought. I mean, the religion angle is pretty in your face, so, honestly, I’m not really sure where I actually land on the allegory front. On one hand, a viewer could extrapolate a lot of morals about blindly following religions and sheeple Christianity, but one can also enjoy this movie as a vampire movie featuring the added peskiness of the KKK (The Brotherhood).
In the end, I’m really happy to start Octoberween off with a bang – Stake Land is a great vampire horror. It breathes some fresh life onto not just the vampire genres, but a few genres (zombie movies, that’s you). Highly recommended.