Horror Recommendation: Stakeland (2010)

Posted: by Findlay

Stakeland (2010); Directed by Jim Mickle

In One Sentence: A boy and his mentor survive their way across backroad America after a vampiric infestation hits the world.

Why You Should Watch: One of the best vampire films in the past 7 years seems to have completely passed everyone by (granted since Mickle’s recent Cold in July is making its way into critics Best of the Year lists, this wont remain unappreciated much longer.).

The story focuses on Martin, a young boy, travelling with his mentor Mister, who saves him from a horrendous vampire attack on his family. I should at this point tell you that Mister is the coolest vampire hunter since Blade. Vampirism has completely ravaged America and survivors struggle their way through nests of vampires, cannibals and religious cults to try make it to Canada which has been hailed as the “New Eden” to rebuild civilization.

One of the films strongest points is how it deals with vampires. These vamps aren’t pompous, velvet-wearing dandies talking about “prophecies” etc, these vamps are a plague. An infestation. A disease to be wiped out and feared. Cunning, hungry and sloppy. It’s so brilliantly handled that it almost feels like a zombie film but much more adept. The film also has a great thing where it gives you something hopeful then totally fucking rips it away from you, (which it does a few times), but by the end you get used to it, JUST LIKE THE CHARACTERS. It’s very affecting and wether it’s the relationship between Martin and Mister, or the inclusion of survivors, it shows that Mickle and co-writer and main star Nick Damici invested a lot of time in trying to make the script as human as possible. Martin narrates over the story but it doesn’t feel like its forcing any exposition or being cheesy, but it actually feels poetic at times.

Another thing that needs to be addressed is Mickle’s directing. With a keen eye for desolation and backwoods beauty, the film is very pretty but has a subtly cold colour palette which just further bolsters the message to “be aware”. Something the sombre, rural soundtrack rounds off. There are also a few very nice little touches in the film that aren’t intrinsic to the plot but flesh the world out beautifully, such as vampire teeth being used as a currency.

There are a few downsides to the film though, mainly an encounter that happens right at the end which feels shoehorned in and absolutely REEKS of studio interference. There are also a few coincidences and religious metaphors that feel odd and uneven, but these wont even slightly detract your enjoyment of this film.

Entertaining, original, and totally fucking ace. This film will find its feet and cult status eventually, and you’ll see why.

Favourite Line: “You wanna live boy, you listen to me. You scream, I’ll break your neck. They’re dead! There’s nothing to be done about it but kill that thing. Can you shoot? You shoot me I’ll fuckin’ kill you!”

– Findlay –