Monday, August 1, 2011

Stake Land (2010)

Fear 2/5
Gore 3/5
Entertainment 2/5
Creepiness 2/5

Stake Land is a film that has been on my radar for quite some time now. It generated high praise when it first started playing festivals last year and it was later picked up by Glass Eye Pix for distribution. In addition to IFC's announcement that it would be featured as a part of it's midnight series, many critics have hailed it as a return to a more serious take on the bloodsucker story along with being one of the most gripping post apocalyptic films ever made. Needless to say, my soaking hot pants of anticipation became even more soiled. Did it deliver? Read on.

Our story starts with a monologue about the current state of the world, painted very vaguely by our narrator. Upon conclusion, we bare witness to a traumatic experience as we see a young man watch the vicious slaughter of his family at the hands of our blood sucking centerpieces. Arriving on the scene is a rough and tumble man who quickly makes work of them. It's obvious that he knows a thing or to about how to get rid of these pesky things. After saving the boy, he takes him under his wing, teaching him all that he knows about them and the 'rules' he lives by. But no rules are ever really explained. All that we know is that a stake breaking the chest plate is the way to go. The boy affectionately takes to him, referring to him as Mister and they form a bond close to that of father and son.

Out on the open road, we learn that the pair are headed to Canada, a place dubbed as the 'New Eden.' Apparently, it's free from vampires and another source of concern, rogue religious cults that are out for their own gain. The downfall of civilization and how the vampires and cults came to be is never fully explained. Along the way, they pick up a nun (Kelly McGillis), a pregnant woman (Danielle Harris) and a black man left to die in a roadside restroom. We follow them on their harrowing trek to the Great White North as they contend with the aforementioned obstacles.

I'm not going to sugar coat anything so I'm going to just come out and say it: this film is painfully boring. None of the characters are interesting in the least bit and they are so thinly painted that it's hard to invest yourself fully. For a post apocalyptic type of film, that is a death sentence. Add in multiple monologues about life, death, and perseverance that sound like fortune cookie inserts and a irritatingly repetitive soundtrack, and you have one of my most disappointing film watching experiences of this year. I can't express enough how maddening the soundtrack is. In any film, a soundtrack should be used to heighten emotional effect. It was exhaustively used in 10 min. intervals throughout the film to make EVERY scene seem as important as the one that preceded it. I don't think I've ever been so irritated by a film's soundtrack.

Sure it was nice to see vampires be a real threat for once (the creature designs were excellent) and not some brooding teen or euro trash douche bag. But this film fails at the two basic principles of filmmaking: tell a good story and make characters that matter. I won't even go into the ending that gave me angry fits and ended the film on a limp note. I think you get the idea. This film was incredibly disappointing.

Cortez the Killer


The Film Connoisseur said...

Damn, and I had such high hopes for this one! I almost rented it today, still curious for it though!

MarkusWelby1 said...

Bummer, I was actually looking forward to this. I think I'll still give it a watch, but now my expectations are definitely lowered.

Planet of Terror said...

@TFC and Markus, I am definitely in the minority on this one. But I stand by my feelings. This film did absolutely nothing for me. Your mileage may vary.

Emily said...

It's funny how sometimes, you and I take COMPLETELY different sides on movies! I adored this one. Normally, forced narration bugs me but I thought it was used fine here. I didn't mind not knowing the history of the virus and such because it just wasn't about that for me. Granted, I'm a huge post-apocalyptic apologist and I really dug Mulberry STreet, so I was certainly poised to enjoy Stake Land. Still, I DID!

TangerineDream9 said...

I had a similar reaction Planet of terror, i'll even go further and say the creatures were boring also.

the jaded viewer said...

Hmmm I liked it. I thought the characters were likeable (though not developed) and for a low budget they gave us a solid post apocalypse.

Sure its boring at times and I totally felt the cult was a little goofy but it's a nice take on the vampire subgenre.