Sleep When They’re Dead: Stake Land

Sleep When They’re Dead: Stake Land

Static Mass Rating: 3/5

Release date: October 17th, 2011
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 98 minutes

Director: Jim Mickle
Writers: Jim Mickle and Nick Damici
Composer: Jeff Grace

Cast: Connor Paolo, Nick Damici, Danielle Harris, Kelly McGillis, Michael Cerveris, Bonnie Dennison

Official Movie Site

Ever since Robert Pattinson and Co blessed (or should that be cursed) the big screen in 2008, the world of cinema has been plagued with an array of Twilight inspired vampire and werewolf films. If you haven’t already gathered, I hate Twilight. If I wanted to see people covered in glitter, shimmering in the sunlight I’d watch a Ke$ha music video.

Vampires just aren’t the same as they used to be; they’ve changed for the worst. They don’t rip the throats out of their victims, knock on windows asking to come in or devour partygoers at the titty-twister. Luckily for me Jim Mickle’s second feature film, Stake Land, could be my saviour.

Stake Land

Set in a post-apocalyptic future, vampire-zombie hybrids have taken over America. The country collapsed after being sucked into a black hole, due to economic and political disasters. The vampire epidemic spread like wild fire leaving death and destruction in its tracks. Cities are tombs and survivors cling together, fearing nightfall. Martin (Connor Paolo) was a normal teenager before a vampire savagely murdered his family. Mister (Nick Damici), a tough rogue vampire hunter, rescued him before he felt the fangs in his flesh.

Whilst Martin learns the ropes as a vampire hunter, they embark on a mission north to New Eden (supposedly a vampire free zone) in Canada. Travelling through self-governed lock-down towns along the way, they encounter fellow travellers including a nun (Kelly McGillis) left questioning her faith when her followers become infected and Belle (Danielle Harris) a vulnerable heavily pregnant bar maid. But there is an enemy more deadly than the vampires in religious extremists- The Brethren; a fundamentalist militia lead by Jebedia Loven (Michael Cerveris) who believes the epidemic was the work of the lord.

Stake Land

As with his previous film, Mulberry Street (2006), Mickle captures a dark and terrifying vision of the world coming to an end. Working with a micro-budget, the film doesn’t use CGI to empathise the breakdown of civilisation and the destruction of humanity. This is far from a negative. CGI often cheapens the feel of a film and distances the story from the audience. Instead we are treated to the picturesque landscapes of the American countryside where the majority of the film takes place. Mickle has a good sense of composing shots taking a rusted bridge or a desolate building and making it look artful.

With a script written by both Mickle and Damici, Stake Land isn’t filled with wordy dialogue mentioning the breakdown of civilisation. It’s filled more with people doing than actually talking, which makes a change in modern apocalyptic films. This works to some level and the use of Martin’s voiceover narration help keeps the story moving.

Stake Land

It does have some underlining themes, which I found quite sentimental. The relationship between Mister and Martin for me felt like Mister craved a family and wanted someone to look up to him, so he could be seen as a father figure. Cerveris character, Jebedia relates to today’s extremist views of people such as the Phelps family. The Brethren sacrifice the remaining sinners of the world to the vampires as a message to god as they believe they are completing his work. In relation to reality, their extremist views bring down a civilisation trying to work together through the hard times.

The film leaves you with unanswered questions. How did the epidemic happen? But in actual fact it doesn’t have to explain and I think this was Mickle’s intention. In reality if the apocalypse was upon us would we want to waste time trying to figure out the cause or would we simply run for cover?


  • Commentary One – Cast and Crew (98:00)
  • Commentary two- Production (98:00)
  • The Making of Stake Land
  • VFX Featurette
  • Character Back- Story Webisodes

The vampires are everything they should be – evil, blood-fuelled members of the living dead. These vampires are killed the normal way – sunlight (no shimmering), staked through the heart. They reminded me of the vampires in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series in terms of how they looked. The film also introduces different sub-species and variations of vampires, which have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Stake Land

If you take the big budget and laughs out of Zombieland (2009), kept the bleakness and vulnerable feeling of The Road (2009) and added a hint of Mad Max (1979) you have Stake Land. It mixes a simple vampire story and road movie without leaving the impression it’s a retread, which we are subjected to more frequently these days.

Stake Land
isn’t the best indie vampire film ever made but it’s also not the worst. It’s bleak and depressing at times and doesn’t particularly bring anything new or groundbreaking to the genre, but it does keep you entertained for the duration.

So as I lay down to go to sleep the sickening thought of Edward Cullen is out of my mind. For now.

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