In this film by
director/co-writer Jim Mickle ("Mulberry Street"), the monsters are a
mix of zombies and vampires. The characters call them "vamps," but if
not for the fangs, you wouldn't think "bloodsuckers" at all.

You may, however, think "horses," because I swear the sounds of their attack-mode hiss contains an equestrian whinny.

Co-writer Nick Damici ("World Trade Center") plays Mister, the surrogate
father to farm boy Martin (Connor Paolo, TV's "Gossip Girl") after his
parents get slaughtered in the opening. Mister takes Martin under his
unwashed wing and teaches him the ins and outs of plunging sharp, wooden
implements and instruments. Along the way in their journey toward New
Eden, they save a nun (Kelly McGillis, looking nothing like her "Top
Gun" days) from rapists, and help a pregnant country singer (Danielle
Harris, "Hatchet II") to whom Martin takes a shine.

Almost as different amid the vampire genre as "Daybreakers" or "Let the
Right One In," "Stake Land" maintains a grim, somber tone, even as it goes
through the very gory motions. Mickle includes a "Christian crazies"
subplot that makes the second half slog a bit, but overall, this isn't
your ordinary bite of horror. Hooray!

Be sure to get the Blu-ray for seven shorts, each providing a prequel
glimpse of various characters. With the exception of an "Origins" piece
from the video-camera POV of a grade schooler, they're more like tone
poems than actual narratives. Helmed by a who's who of indie horror
talents, none is required viewing beforehand, but as an afterward method
of exploring the "Stake Land" world, the shorts are cool.
—Rod Lott


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