Thursday, October 6, 2016

Stake Land

The world has been taken over by mindless, savage vampires. Most of the world is deserted during the day and claimed by vampires at night. Martin's parents were killed, so he joined Mister, a vampire hunter, on his journey to New Eden, a rumored place of peace and prosperity. Along the way, they gain and lose group members and found family. They go through periods of peace and periods of violence from foes human and inhuman, but they go on with their journey through it all.

I had heard a lot of good things about this film. It lives up to all of them and more. Stake Land is kind of like The Walking dead with vampires instead of zombies, way more realistic, and minus all the soap opera drama. Martin is a teenager in this horrific world. He still has growing up to do with very little guidance when the vampire scourge takes precedence over his own personal dramas. Lacking experience, he still makes mistakes that could cost his group their lives. He learns over time and is developing into someone who will choose correctly in high pressure situations and works to do good in the world. Mister may be gruff and seemingly emotionless, but he cares for the people he cares for. His skills are unparalleled and he can get out of the most hopeless of situations. Paying shepherd to his flock, he leads his group as best he can, but accepts when someone is lost to them.

Groups in this world are extremely variable. Anyone could die at any time or be kidnapped by crazy people or be eaten by vampires. While they are together, they have relish in their temporary happiness. This aspect truly sets it apart from other post-apocalyptic stories, which oftentimes show the horrible, depressing aspects of this life and none of the happy moments. People can't live with crushing sadness every day. There will always be at least moments of happiness and hope. This is captured in their moments of found family and the town they find where they get enjoy a party with the most people they've seen since the apocalypse. It also serves to contrast with the darker, death filled parts of the rest of the film.

The villains in Stake Land are numerous and not always the monster. Vampires are the first and foremost enemy. They don't think and act completely on instinct and bloodlust. Occasionally, they can try to fool people into briefly thinking they aren't a danger, but that's about the extent of their strategy. Typical rules apply to them: wooden stakes, sunlight, beheadings, destroying the brain stem, and fire leads to vampire death. The human villains take the form of the Brotherhood, a fundamentalist militia that sees the vampires as the work of god. Their superior power to most of the small groups out there is used to collect sex slaves, bolster their numbers, and turn people into vampire food or vampires for opposing them. The main villain at the end is a deadly combination of both: a member of the Brotherhood that willingly became a vampire and as a result was able to retain his intelligence. He chases Mister and his group for revenge in a deadly game of cat and mouse.

Stake Land has everything I like in a horror film: strong capable heroes, horrific villains both human and inhuman, touching emotions, and harsh realities. So many horror films and shows feel too safe because certain kinds of people are untouchable because they may be a main character or a child or a pregnant woman. None of these people are safe in this world and it truly feels like anyone can die with the wrong decision. I found no flaws with this film. I loved the experience from beginning to end. One thing that pushed it to amazing for me was the soundtrack. The classical score enhanced emotions and added to each scene it was used in. I would love to see a sequel that was done in the same vein. One is in development, but we'll see if it lives up to the original.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

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