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Stake Land II is Another Slice of Post-Apocalyptic Vampire Horror (Review)

Stake Land II is Another Slice of Post-Apocalyptic Vampire Horror (Review)

It’s not uncommon for a fistful of independent horror flicks to make a splash at the festival circuit, find an audience on home video, and generate just enough excitement (and profits) to warrant a sequel, and that’s precisely what we have with Stake Land II.

The first Stake Land debuted in 2010, and it offered a novel enough spin on vampire lore that it managed to stand out in a perpetually crowded horror film marketplace. Director Jim Mickle (Mulberry St.) was able to combine vampire horror, post-apocalyptic settings, simple suspense, and a nice dash of action into an entertaining flick–and with very limited means–and he quickly went on to direct (very good) films like We Are What We Are (2013) and Cold in July (2014).

Mickle is still on board as a producer on Stake Land II, but this time the directorial reins have been passed to Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, who last year gave us a little-seen but appreciably intense suspense thriller called Body. Fortunately for fans of the first Stake Land, there is a firm sense of legitimate continuity to the sequel. The always gruffly enjoyable Nick Damici returns as co-star/screenwriter, as does Connor Paolo, who plays our heroic, long-suffering, vampire-hatin’ hero Martin.

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The plot is basic post-apocalyptic “road movie” material: after settling down with his beloved and fathering a child, Martin’s (relatively) contented life is interrupted by the arrival of a horrific she-vampire that slaughters his family and leaves our hero (once again) desperate and alone, so he heads out from the relative safety of “New Eden” and travels south in the hopes of meeting up with his old vamp-slaying cohort known only as Mister (Damici). Along the way he meets up with both allies and enemies –mostly enemies–and gets into all sorts of unpleasant scrapes. The two heroes are eventually reunited, but will they be able to mount an offense against a seemingly invincible vampiress who has the power to (uh oh) hypnotize other vampires into doing her bidding?

(You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.)

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While Stake Land II is clearly working on a small budget, the filmmakers do all they can to deliver a fast-moving post-apocalyptic “quest” movie full of gory vampire attacks, colorful stock character archetypes, and a slyly surly attitude. Connor Paolo does a fine job as our noble, if kinda one-note, hero, and character actor Nick Damici (Late Phases) displays all sorts of bad-ass anti-heroic coolness. A few of the supporting actors are a little green, but whenever Paolo and Damici share the screen there’s a comfortable sense of cool, simple chemistry between the performers.

Credit as well to the FX designers who do some fine work with latex, blood, and random gory bits. The Stake Land creatures aren’t your typical vampires, but they are freaky-looking and more than ravenous enough to provide ample opposition for our vamp-hating heroes and their various short-lived sidekicks and allies. If all you know of vampires is stuff like Underworld and Twilight, then Stake Land II probably isn’t for you, but if you dug the first flick enough to consider a second chapter a welcome diversion, then odds are you’ll find something to like here.

3 scrappy sequel burritos out of 5

3-burritos3

Image: Dark Sky Films

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