Film Review: Stake Land

Stake Land is a post-apocalyptic road movie, which works a little like a cross between The Road and Zombieland. It is relentlessly bleak, which can be a bit of a chore as the film progresses.

Martin was a regular teenage boy living with his family. When vampires slaughter them, like millions of others, the teenager is rescued by Mister. Martin travels with Mister, fighting back against any vampires that attack them. Mister trains Martin in combat, as they head towards the safe haven of New Eden…

Stake Land ultimately feels a bit unsatisfying. There are some tense moments and gory action sequences, but little else to sustain the film. The combination of horror and drama can work to great effect, but in Stake Land it just feels staid. There is no humour in the film, which is a shame as the mood could have done with lightening for at least some interludes. It is the comedy in Zombieland that makes it such an enjoyable watch. Eschewing this option, Stake Land is unlikely to become a film that will be revisited again and again.

The narrative is fairly run-of-the-mill, offering no surprises to those familiar with post-apocalyptic movies. The voiceover works well, but the bleakness overshadows any promise of something different. There is a lack of imagination in both the story and the characters. New characters who enter during the course of the film are never developed; presumably it is all about the journey rather than the players.

Stake Land‘s art direction is good. The de-saturation of colour is seemingly synonymous with post-apocalyptic bleakness. The soundtrack also works well, and is very effective in conveying the bleak tone. Some of the montage sequences, which feature Martin being trained, are reminiscent of The Karate Kid. It is unclear whether this is an unintentional homage or not from director Jim Mickle.

Performances are fine but unremarkable in Stake Land. Connor Paolo is appropriately cast as teenager Martin. Nick Damici is suitably sombre as Mister, while Kelly McGillis is adequate as Sister. As Jebedia Loven, Michael Cerveris is a one-dimensional villain. This is perhaps down to a lacking script, rather than the individual performance, however.

With its vile, repugnant antagonists, Stake Land’s vampires are the antithesis to the sparkly kind featured in Twilight. Sadly, Stake Land lacks the buoyancy or drive to make it a truly memorable film. Not at all a painful watch, but not a inspired one either.

Film Review: Priest

Adapted from a graphic novel, Priest is a mildly entertaining action flick. Nevertheless, the film suffers from the same pitfalls as many of its contemporaries.

In a world where humans faced a constant battle against vampires, a band of priests were charged with protecting the population against the undead. Having defeated their nemesis, the group are disbanded. When a group of vampires attack Priest’s family and kidnap his niece, he disobeys the Church and goes in search of young Lucy…

Priest offers very little to differentiate it from numerous films in the same vein. Moreover, the flaws are all too familiar. There is a lack of character development; it is difficult to respond to the one-dimensional protagonist, and even more so to the villain with no depth or motivation. The dialogue is awful at times, which does not help to generate the necessary tension. The little attempts to add a modicum of humour fall entirely flat.

Scott Charles Stewart’s film is an amalgamation of various genres. Priest points to Gothic horror with its vampires and religious overtones, although it is not at all frightening. The dystopian vision of the future is pure science fiction, while the narrative and even the landscape are suggestive of a Western. Despite the presence of the supernatural, the plot of Priest is incredibly similar to John Ford’s The Searchers.

Perhaps the best part of the movie is the animated sequence at the beginning. Giving a brief history of the battle between human and vampire, the segment has a delightfully rustic quality in its style. It is reminiscent of a similar sequence at the beginning of Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. References to numerous other films are also palpable. The city scenes are unmistakably influenced by Blade Runner, while the isolated and uninhabited landscape is evocative of more recent fare such as The Book of Eli and The Road.

The highly stylised look of Priest gives the film an artificiality that is presumably the desired affect. Some of the underground sequences are so dark it is difficult to decipher what is happening. Special effects are fine, but unremarkable. The use of 3D seems wasteful; it adds nothing to the film.

Paul Bettany’s Priest is more Blade than Dracula‘s Van Helsing. A near-silent type, the character is more concerned with action than emotion. Cam Gigandet has suffered in some dud roles recently, but his delivery here is especially pained. Lily Collins has little to do as damsel-in-distress Lucy.

Priest‘s main failure is the feeling of déjà vu it generates. From the plot to the look to the flaws, it is all too familiar. The suggestion of a sequel at the end of the film is lamentable.