By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
At first glance, Stakeland might look like a movie about Nebraskans who can’t spell, but what you need to be thinking is Zombieland… and our cultural phenomenon de jour before the robots take over– vampires.
A la its namesake, Stakeland follows a young man and his ass-kicking mentor across a post-apocalyptic wasteland filled with bloodthirsty creatures as they form a makeshift family with other refugees and struggle to survive, except this film is much lighter on the laughs.
Except for the nun rape. That was supposed to be funny, right?
For such a small production budget (less than 10 million, reportedly, and independently produced!) this movie looks really, really good. The director, Jim Mickle, has a good eye for setting and the film is very nicely shot by indy film vet Ryan Samul. They create a believable, interesting end of days world along the lines of The Road, and the basic idea of adapting the classic zombie engine to the rules of vampire fighting is a pretty awesome one. Also, at one point vampires are dropped from helicopters.
And that nun- yep, Kelly McGillis.
The vampires themselves kind suck, though (see what I did there?). They’re basically zombies with extra-long incisors, which is good for the action but looks kinda dumb, particularly when coupled with shaky-cam movements and canned growls.
Also like a lot of zombie movies, the screenwriter felt like he needed to work some social commentary in there, but he had no idea what. So, he figured he’d throw in a bit of everything. We’re given a little Bible Belt Christianity, authoritarianism, and Iraq war messages among other “themes”, all delivered via symbolism your fifth grade teacher would have to resist the urge to slap you for.
For example, our heroes save that nun from being raped by yokels who told her “they were Christian.” What are we supposed to take away from that and why is she running around the hinterlands in a nun’s habit in the first place?
Drink a final beer if you hoped for more originality than just the premise. From the title sequence, which steals its calisthenics from The Karate Kid, to the cult baddies, who could have been from anything starring Paul Bettany the last few years, everything is derivative. This especially applies to the characterization, which looks like it was lifted from the dumpster behind Stereotypes ‘R’ Us.
I.E. where Joel Schumaker goes for dinner
This movie wanted to be good, it just didn’t know how. If you’re in the mood for some good post-apocalyptic action, though, it’s worth a watch.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time you see a pointed stick
Take a Drink: for every dead vampire
Drink a Shot: for every obvious political or religious allegory