Director: Jim Mickle
Studio: Dark Sky Films
If your position is that the last thing the world needs is more vampire fiction, few would argue. But before you drive a stake into the low-budget Stake Land, know first that this surprisingly good little shop of horrors shares more DNA with post-apocalyptic survivor stories like Zombieland, The Road and The Walking Dead than the sparkly young vampires in The Twilight Saga or the sexed-up Southern decadence on display in True Blood.
Stake Land depicts an America that has fallen into ruin after a vampiric plague has swept the nation. Pockets of human survivors remain, but they have mostly turned on each other in a desperate bid for survival. Among them is a young man named Martin (Connor Paolo) who travels with his hardened mentor, a vampire hunter known as Mister (Nick Damici). Mister gives Martin some staking tips and the two encounter a scourge of undead monsters while traveling to a purported safe haven in Canada known as New Eden. Along the way to what they think is the Promised Land, the duo picks up nun-on-the-run Sister (Kelly McGillis) and a young pregnant woman named Belle (Danielle Harris). As if the woods weren't already crawling with enough danger, the ragtag group must also contend with the Brotherhood—a fundamentalist Christian militia that believes the plague is part of the Lord's divine plan.
There isn't anything remarkably original in this gritty, gory post-catastrophe thriller, but director Jim Mickle still gives Stake Land an unmistakable visual style and proves that there is still some blood left to drain from the vamp genre—even if this entry plays more like a zombie picture. If you think about it, vampires are basically zombies—they are undead corpses that move about and try to bite people—and the ones on display here are the mindless monsters of nightmares, not Dracula.
Stake Land won the Midnight Madness Award at the Toronto International Film Festival and, although you surely missed it in theaters, is an adrenalized twist on the vampire genre that is worth sinking your teeth into on disc.
Best extras: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain two cast and crew commentaries, "Going for the Throat: The Making of Stake Land," seven short-film character prequels, video diaries and a Q&A from the Toronto International Film Festival.