An horrific vampire plague seems to have swept across the USA and possibly beyond. Young Martin (Connor Paolo, who also narrates the film) has recently teamed up with no-nonsense vampire-killer Mister (Nick Damici), after Martin’s parents met an ugly end. They journey across what Mister refers to as ‘Stake Land’ hoping to reach a safe zone called ‘New Eden’. Along the way, they come across small pockets of human survivors, encountering the likes of pregnant Belle (Danielle Harris), and a nun (an unrecognisable- to me- Kelly McGillis), two strays they pick up. They also run afoul of a band of religious extremists named The Brotherhood, who think they rule the land, and who might be even more dangerous than the vampires.
Directed and co-written by Jim Mickle, I can’t decide if this flick is “The Road” with vampires or “Zombieland” without zombies or the comedy. I’m certain that it is, however, one of the better vampire movies of recent decades, and far superior to Mickle’s tedious debut “Mulberry Street” (co-written by this film’s co-writer and star Nick Damici). At this rate, his next film is going to be the “Citizen Kane” of horror films or something.
It’s not as good as “The Road” or “Zombieland”, but if you wished the former were more overtly horror, this is the film for you and it’s a respectable and damn bleak genre entry. I do think, though, that the only reason why these creatures are vampires and not zombies is to differentiate it from “Zombieland”, ‘coz they sure look and act like zombies otherwise. It’s pretty shameless really, and annoying to be honest.
Mumbly narration (absolutely awful work by the otherwise decent Paolo) and fairly familiar plot/character trajectory are the only other drawbacks here in an otherwise lively and well-paced film that is plenty gory and nasty too for those into that kinda thing (Aren’t we all?). It certainly gets things off and running pretty quickly, and although focussing on its small band of characters, it hardly slows down enough to get boring.
Nick Damici (who looks a lot like the great B-villain William Smith) is OK as the grizzled Mister, and the scenery is especially terrific. There’s some truly gorgeous lighting in this, unexpected in a film of likely meagre funds. Speaking of gorgeous, it’s always a pleasure to see the lovely and underrated Danielle Harris on screen too. She deserves so much better than the career she’s ended up with if you ask me. Why is she not a star? At the very least give her her own damn TV show or something.
Yes, this is just a B-version of “The Road” with more overt horror and gore, but that’s perfectly fine with me considering “The Road” was a really good film to be inspired by. I liked this, I just wish the vampires were actually vampires, not zombie-vampire hybrids. I’m funny like that, but it irritated me in an otherwise strong film.
Although not especially original, this is a memorable film in a subgenre full of forgettable entries. At least the vampires don’t sparkle in this one. I think we can at least be thankful for that. A solid B-movie.