Fantastic Fest Review: Stake Land

Last night I screened Stake Land — the best film I've seen thus far at Fantastic Fest. Stake Land premiered last week at the Toronto International Film Festival, and was completely off my radar until it won the audience award in the Midnight Madness category.

Imagine a film which is a combination of Children of Men. 28 Days Later, The Road, and Y: The Last Man.  The movie takes place in the not too far future, in a post apocalyptic world overrun by vampires.

A teenager named Martin (Connor Paolo) is rescued after his family was killed by Vamps and was rescued by a man only known as "Mister" (Nick Damici, who is also the screenwriter) who trains him in the ways of killing vampires. The unlikely duo make their way across America in hopes of getting to Canada, where it is rumored there is a safe haven called "New Eden."

Damici and Mickle fuse the Vampire film with concepts and ideas from the world of Zombie films, brining some much needed excitement to the genre. Imagine a world overrun with zombie-like vampires, animal-like mutations who lack intelligence. They can smell blood from miles away, but can't come out during the daylight (they will burn). Damici fills the landscape with a variety of breeds of Vamps, each which require different type of kills. But the vampires are not the only thing to be afraid of when traveling the open road, as the post apocalyptic world is also populated with cannibals and upstart religious cults.

The movie is directed by Jim Mickle, a grip turned feature director who made his debut with the 2006 film Mulberry Street. I haven't seen his first feature, but Stake Land was made on an incredibly low budget and feels more epic and expansive than some Hollywood films made for 50 times the amount. Some might complain that the series of events is too episodic, but I've heard others compare the chapter-like nature to the Joss Whedon television series Firefly.

/Film Rating: 8 out of 10