Art can approach horror films in many different ways. Sometimes it’s the chilling music or overtures, other times the beauty is found in the fragility of the characters themselves. If you are a horror fan then you have found unique and clever ways for finding beauty in the most gruesome or creepy of details. To me, that is what makes horror activists special. We have the ability to recognize greatness in characters or scenarios others find unwatchable.
Stake Land is a vampire film that blends art and horror in a tasteful and brilliant manner. The movie revolves around Martin (Connor Paolo) and the vampire hunter named Mister (Nick Damici). Mister is to Martin as Knight is to Squire and their relationship allows both of them to survive in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by zombie vampires. Of course, other characters interact with the two stars and the viewers become attached to each one of them in a special way. This movie is beautifully stark and plays off geography and music more than actual scares. The score is meant to pull on the heartstrings, not to make a person cringe, while the setting (mostly the backwoods and Adirondacks) is a direct comment on America’s current apocalyptic nature. I am not sure how many of you have been to the Adirondacks in winter, but it pretty much looks like an apocalyptic setting already.
Still with all of the cold and dead, it is possible to recognize the beauty of the film, which is exactly what the director (Jim Mickle) seemingly wanted. This film isn’t about jumping out of your seat, it is about losing people you love and everyone else around you. It is about coming together in order to survive while also navigating a world that has dread at every corner. Like any good post-apocalyptic movie there is a political commentary on the state of our nation right now and also on human nature in general. If the world ended, zombies would eventually be the least of your problems. It is the cults, the cannibals, and rapists that would take over the world.
Overall, Stake Land is more about artistry than horror. There are occasional plot slips and the movie at times seems rushed. Still, its nuanced scares and sad moments create a lasting film that will stay with you for a long time. Horror island is receiving vampires that are the catalysts of change. These vampires aren’t meant to necessarily kill all the other creatures, but rather to stimulate chaos and bring out the worst in others. If there is anything that Stake Land taught us, it is that horror is contagious and humans have the ability to be the most horrifying creatures of all.
If you liked Stake Land, you might also like Let the Right One In or 28 Days Later.