Zombieland with vampires? Not exactly. Several years ago, the zombie film Mulberry Street became one of my favorite zombie films of all time! It was directed by Jim Mickle and written by Mickle and Nick Damici (who also stars in the film).
I was psyched when I found out the two have finally returned with another film. And once again, I’m not disappointed. Nick Damici returns as the star—looking a little rougher with his long hair then he did with his cute short cut in Mulberry Street. Stake Land also has the benefit of the one and only Danielle Harris.
On top of that, this gloom and doom horror film has some freaky deaky horrific vampires! The vampires have that Night of the Demons feel to them, so they aren’t your run of the mill sexy, seductive vamps. However, while the gore and makeup is delicious, this isn’t an action film. This is a slow burning, heavy character driven film—with serious religious themes!
When the film begins, you’ll feel like it’s picking up right where Salem’s Lot left off like 4 decades ago. A man (Damici) and a teen boy are traveling across what remains of the U.S., which has been overrun by vampires. In this interesting post apocalyptic tale, those humans who have survived have either established small communities in locked down towns, or gone off to create some psychotic religions of their own. Extracted vampire incisors have become hot commodities for trading and purchasing life’s necessities.
While pretty much bashing religious extremism as destructive cult practices, the film also has a kinder, gentler approach to traditional Catholicism. After a sick opening, including a baby falling victim to the vamps, the pair comes across a nun—being raped by two rednecks! And she’s played awesomely by big old dyke Kelly McGillis, no less!
The man teaches the rapists a violent lesson, and the nun joins the pair. She is essentially the symbol of faith, lack of faith, and loss of faith in a world gone evil. At the other extreme is the bald leader of a cult that wears creepy hoods and is soon the worst nightmare of our traveling trio. This becomes the central conflict of the film as our group of heroes travels across country picking up strays here and there.
This harsh, brutal, bleak film brings some really fresh and freaky additions to the bloodsucker genre. The vamps are afraid of fire. Ages-old vamps need to be killed with a spike through the back of the neck. There’s a frightening scene in a cornfield (but, let’s be honest. If you put a cornfield scene in a movie and it fails to be frightening, then you really suck as a director). And there’s also an absolutely mind-blowing scene involving vampires and dive-bombing. That’s all I’m going to say….
The only bizarre aspect of the film (that kind of ruins it!) comes right near the end with the sudden introduction of a sort of ‘super vampire.’ In a film that seems to be suggesting that false religions are bad and only true faith will be your salvation, the presentation of the super vamp works like some sort of great contradiction—we can only assume the offered theory as to how he became a super vamp is wrong. But we aren’t presented with another explanation as to why he became a super vamp, so you are left with a sense that having faith is a big fricking waste!
Although, in the end we get a definite metaphor for Adam, Eve, and the Garden of Eden, so perhaps the Biblical explanation for creation is the answer to rebuilding humanity after a vampire apocalypse.