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‘Stake Land II’ (review)

Produced by Larry Fessenden,
Greg Newman, Peter Phok
Written by Nick Damici
Directed by Dan Berk, Robert Olsen
Starring Connor Paolo, Nick Damici,
Laura Abramsen, A.C. Peterson,
Steven Williams,Bonnie Dennison

 

Stake Land II, as it’s called in the opening credits, or The Stakelander according to the end credits, is a sequel to 2010’s sleeper Stake Land, which was directed by Jim Mickle and written by – and starring – Nick Damici.

The original was one of my favorite horror films of its year; a scary, involving and at times surprisingly emotional and poignant movie about a vampire apocalypse, and the struggle of the remaining humans to fight the fanged beasts and survive.

The protagonists were a teenaged boy named Martin who loses his family to vampires and the man who takes him under his wing, Mister. Mister is a tight-lipped, stoic vampire hunter who trains Martin to fight the enemy.

The sequel picks up a few years later. Martin again experiences tragedy in the opening scenes and is driven to find Mister to help him destroy the female vampire leader known as “The Mother”.

The film is structurally similar to the first film and that’s just fine. The vampire action is once again scary and exciting, the acting is at the very least solid and often excellent, the makeup and gore effects are superb (especially for a low budget) and the writing is once again sturdy.

The direction is missing the snap that original director Mickle provided; still, co-directors Dan Berk and Robert Olsen do a creditable job of keeping things moving and interests perked.

They’ve also captured, along with the production designer, costume designer, cinematographer, et al, the same tone as the first film, and that’s a very good thing. This world truly feels threatening, the vampires are menacing, and the characters feel real.

There are elements when the film feels derivative, both of the first film and others, such as The Road Warrior (to be fair, it’s tough to make a post-apocalyptic film without appropriating something from that classic).

But there are also some unique moments here, as when Mister must fend off a vampire horde while crucified!  It’s a nifty scene, as is one near the climax wherein a very unexpected kiss occurs.

Also, as with the first film, there are some poignant moments (such as that kiss) that help separate this from other brutal horror movies.

Stake Land II probably won’t set the world on fire, but it’s a worthy successor to the first cult flick.  By all means, if you haven’t seen Stake Land, do watch that film first.  And then, with slightly tempered expectations, give the second film a shot.

Stake Land II is now available on Digital HD, and
arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on February 14th.

 

 

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