Tuesday, April 12, 2011

RUFF CROWD EXCLUSIVE - I Thought It Was “Steak Land”

By Stella Cole, Top Critic
Hollywood, California

If you haven’t heard of IFC Films’ new vampire drama, Stake Land, don’t be surprised – it’s gearing up for a relatively quiet limited release on April 22nd. But when the screener arrived at my door, I just couldn’t resist diving in – even if just to see what all the viral buzz was about. I’ll admit I was initially skeptical – at first glance, the monster makeup is largely reminiscent of the bloated brows and exaggerated overbites of Buffy-era vamps (and nothing like the Gucci-wearing sparkle hunks we’ve grown accustomed to recently). But I’d just had my walk, and the ‘rents were already on board, so I snuggled up on the couch, and was pleasantly surprised by a fairly sophisticated horror film.

The first thing to note is that the plot is nearly identical to that of Zombieland, but with a shockingly dark and haunting tone. In the wake of a “plague” that has the vast majority of Americans rising from their graves and drinking the blood of the living, an orphaned teen boy has to make his was across a devastated countryside in search of a rumored safe-haven. A hardened but savvy drifter, known only has Mister, takes the teen under his wing, and together, they hit the ol’ dusty trail, collecting fangs as they go. Eventually their posse grows to include an aging nun, a short-lived marine, and a pregnant gal pal that desperately wants to make it to safety before her babe is born. But perhaps even scarier than the slew of ravenous vamps they encounter along the way was the tribe of religious zealots convinced that the plague had been sent my God to cleanse the world of the wicked. While a lurching bloodsucker is easy enough to burn, shoot, or stake, these warriors of Christ were determined to make their journey a living hell, every step of the way.

The interesting use of music and a haunting narration by the main character really set this movie apart from all of its horror brethren. Even though the character of Mister left much to be desired (his acting was painfully wooden, so no surprise later when we see that he was also the film’s writer), you find yourself genuinely rooting for the boy and hoping for his safe passage. The gore was respectable – more black bile than gooey red stuff, and it’s not bogged down with silly one-liners or kissing. In retrospect, it was far closer to The Road than to Zombieland. And that ain’t a bad thing.

Summary: Stake Land is not your average fang-bang.

Wags: 3/5

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