In Stake Land the bad guys use vampires like bombs, dropping them from helicopters.
The story unfolds in a near-future overrun by vamps (think fast-running-zombies, but vampires). Enigmatic loner Mister befriends orphaned teen Martin. They head out in Mister’s old Cadillac, searching for the fabled sanctuary of New Eden. Along the way, they run up against a fundamentalist militia using vamps as weapons of mass destruction.
It plays more like a western than horror. After a grisly opening sequence where a vamp drains an infant, the film keeps its baddies off-screen as much as possible. Instead, it relies on scenery to build atmosphere. Deserted strip malls. Desolate two-lane blacktops. Overgrown buildings. Rusted scrapheaps. An urban wilderness.
The production values and supporting performances are better than the film’s all but straight-to-video release would suggest. And the script features moments of genuine inspiration. When Martin hears his family is “already dead,” he accepts it with wisdom seldom seen in horror films. And don’t forget the part where the bad guys drop vampires from helicopters.
But Stake Land isn’t without its problems. The voice-over narration feels unnecessary. And I couldn’t buy co-writer Nick Damici as Mister. His eyes betray the grizzled façade. Warren Oates would have been perfect, were he forty years younger and not dead.
But hey, did I mention the bad guys drop vampires from helicopters?