STAKE LAND — Press Page: DVD & Blu-Ray
LOS ANGELES TIMES
MPI, $27.98/$29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98
Like a low-budget, noncomic version of "Zombieland," director Jim Mickle's "Stake Land" follows a teenage boy and a surly survivalist as they look for safe haven in an America ravaged by bloodthirsty monsters and human opportunists. There's nothing much new here, but Mickle and co-writer Nick Damici (who also plays the survivalist) bring grubby authenticity to a familiar story, avoiding camp and corniness. They also work in themes about faith and factionalism to rival George Romero at his most pointed. The "Stake Land" DVD and Blu-ray include two commentary tracks and ample behind-the-scenes footage, but the coolest extra is a half-hour of "character prequels," showing what life was like before the zombie/vampire plague hit.
NEW ORLEANS TIMES PICAYUNE (lead review)
On DVD today: Vampire thriller 'Stake Land' tops list of new home-video releases
Its title might recall "Zombieland, " that 2009 horror-comedy about a band of survivors making their way through the zomb-pocalypse. In reality, though, director Jim Mickle's stark, bleak -- and compelling -- vampire film "Stake Land" takes its cues from another post-apocalyptic 2009 film: "The Road, " which was based on Cormac McCarthy's movie about a man and his son trekking through a ruined, post-nuclear American landscape.
In this case, it's an eerie, vampire-infested world through which teen orphan Martin (Connor Paolo, of "Gossip Girl") and seasoned vamire hunter "Mister" (Nick Damici; looks like Mickey Rourke, sounds like Robert Duvall) must travel, on their way to the rumored safe haven known as New Eden. Also like "The Road, " this is a somber, harsh film -- in tone and texture, built as it is on a palate of grays and blues and browns -- but with the occasional splattering of blood-red to jolt audiences out of their seats.
The well-made "Stake Land" doesn't break any new ground as vampire films go, but what it lacks in originality, it makes up for in simmering intensity.
Feature running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes. DVD extras: Commentary tracks, trailer. Blu-ray extras: Commentary tracks, making-of featurette, character prequels, video diaries, Q-and-A.
SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
DVD •As horror movies go, "Stake Land" is remarkably thoughtful. A plague has turned much of the world into rampaging vampires, and America into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. A teen (Connor Paolo, from "Gossip Girl") watches vampires kill his family, and then is adopted by a gruff vampire hunter (Nick Damici) — and together they hit the road, seeking a safe haven in Canada and avoiding a murderous cult leader (Michael Cerveris). The action is compelling, but where director Jim Mickle (who co-wrote with Damici) really excels is in creating a foreboding mood on a shoestring. His dystopian landscapes are more harrowing and authentic than "The Road" managed.
DENTON RECORD CHRONICLE (Texas)
This week, we begin in Pennsylvania: Stake Land (***) Rated R, 98 minutes. Available Tuesday on DVD.
Director Jim Mickle mixes the road-trip genre with vampire horror, creating genuine frights along with intermittent wistful moments. Connor Paolo plays Martin, a teenager left alone when vampires exterminate his parents. He joins the cryptic “Mister” (Nick Damici), as they head north through Pennsylvania to a promised New Eden in Canada, while following a mostly standard horror routine — picking up people (including Kelly McGillis), dropping some off, and losing others not only to the marauding undead but also to a fanatical group of religious fundamentalists who interpret the vampires’ scourge as divinely sent. Well paced and beautifully photographed.
The DVD, also on Blu-ray and in combo packs, includes two separate commentaries, a comprehensive 62-minute “making of” featurette, video diaries, seven additional character-prequel short films and more.
INDEPENDENT MAIL (South Carolina)
It’s a vampire apocalypse in the fun fright fest “Stake Land” (Dark Sky Films, $23.99/DVD, $31.99/Blu-ray SRP, R), which stars Connor Paolo, Kelly McGillis, horror hottie Danielle Harris, Bonnie Dennison and Michael Cerveris as survivors journeying through the ravaged cities of America’s heartland while trying to avoid the bloodsucking beasties and The Brethren, a fundamentalist militia that sees the plague as the Lord’s work. Fans of the horror genre will get a kick out of this fast and frenetic creature feature that showcases some clever writing, better-than-expected acting, gore, guts and gross-outs. Special features include commentary tracks, a making-of documentary, the Toronto International Film Festival premiere and Q&A, a visual FX breakdown and the film’s trailer.
"Be sure to get the Blu-ray for seven shorts, each providing a prequel glimpse of various characters. With the exception of an "Origins" piece from the video-camera POV of a grade schooler, they're more like tone poems than actual narratives. Helmed by a who's who of indie horror talents, none is required viewing beforehand, but as an afterward method of exploring the "Stake Land" world, the shorts are cool."
EDGE PUBLICATIONS (syndicated in all markets: Boston, Philadelphia, Providence, LA, Chicago, New York, etc)
"Technically, it is one of the most beautiful films of the year. Filmed by Ryan Samul, the widescreen cinematography is breathtaking and the direction by Jim Mickle is not only thrilling, but also affecting. There is poignancy to "Stake Land" that makes it stand apart from any recent horror films I’ve seen, and the gorgeous music by composer Jeff Grace catapults it into greatness."
INDIEWIRE (weekly DVD round up)
Why Rent: If you like your vampire flicks extra-dark and gory, then be sure to catch this indie horror that drew raves when it premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Set in a post-apocalyptic America where rabid vampires rule the land, “Stake Land” opens with a teenager witnessing his family being slaughtered and only gets more twisted from there. Under the care of a vampire hunter, the boy sets out to rid the land of the bloodsuckers. Don’t watch this one alone.
Extras: An audio commentary with the cast and crew; theatrical trailer; a making-of featurette; the director’s pre-production diary;
GO2 MOBILE ENTERTAINMENT (direct cell phone/PDA notification to over 227,000 Go2 subscribers)
It's okay to be skeptical about yet another vampire movie. After all, the cool vampires are all on TV these days. But give Stake Land a chance. It's a small, creepy, post-apocalyptic flick that delivers on both thrills and chills, while managing to feel true. Connor Paolo is Martin, an average teen who is just trying to survive in the post-vampire world. Nick Damici is Mister, the vampire-killer determined to get him to Canada, while Kelly McGillis, is a nun in a world where faith has turned into something else entirely. The single-disc DVD edition includes two commentary tracks from the writer/director and several of the lead actors. Buy the double-DVD set or the Blu-ray, and you'll get some video diaries, a "Making Of" featurette, and best of all, seven short films, each of which introduces the characters before the feature begins.
AOL MOVIEFONE (lead review)
"This is a vampire film with a heart and a soul: Despite its straight-ahead vampire killing action, there's plenty of time for characterization and the development of subthemes; director Jim Mickle and writer Nick Damici work in thoughtful conversations and ideas about loneliness, teamwork, freedom and family. In fact, the film revolves around a nuclear family of sorts: the survivalist (Damici), who takes the young man (Connor Paolo) under his wing and becomes his surrogate father, teaching him the ways of the world, the motherly nun (Kelly McGillis) and the pregnant girl (Danielle Harris). It's a stylish, moody, trippy coming-of-age story with a stake in your hand."
Even just looking at the box art, you can kind of tell what you’ll be in for, and indeed, the movie itself will not let you down in several key points. There will, as the man once said, be blood. There will also be gunplay and violence and fistfights in a shattered world full of horror. It’s like The Road, if The Road had been, you know, entertaining, as opposed to a complete downer. If you liked Daybreakers, then I can just about guarantee you’ll like Stake Land, which is a lot like a lower budget but higher energy version of same. In fact, it brings to mind all the best parts of John Carpenter’s Vampires, even though this was itself a sad sorry sight against the original novel. But either way, nothing here will sparkle, and no one will get angsty, so that puts Stake Land in the top tier of vampire movies as far as I’m concerned.
MONSTERS AND CRITICS
" What happens is that the film is revealed to be a gritty, stake striking powerhouse that makes much of its small budget....Stake Land surprises and delights (as much as an “end of the world” film can) in an age of PG-13 dumbing down and sequels (ironically, I’d go see Stake Land 2… such a hypocrite! Well, unless they screw it up). I greatly enjoyed “Mister” and how the production used their budget to the best of their ability. Bravo."
POP CULTURE BEAST
"It is one of the best acted horror films I've seen in years. The cast is flawless. Each and everyone of them shines, even in the briefest of scenes."
Hi, everyone! Sorry for the lack of an update yesterday, but I assure you we were slaving away behind the scenes here to have a ton of new content for you. So check our reviews section for a whopping TEN new reviews, including my thoughts on Limitless, one of my favorite movies of the year so far. Also, we launch a new contest today for Stake Land, the critically acclaimed vampire thriller. My review will be up in the next day or two, but trust me when I tell you that you WILL want a copy of this film, whether you win it or buy it. It is THAT good!
"In an era of tortured, romantic Twilight vampires, it's nice to see a movie like Stake Land make its bloodsuckers into snarling, nasty beasts. It's absolutely worth checking out and suggests that Mickle is a director to watch..."
"Stake Land is worthy of praise, and unmistakably better than most big studio horror releases in recent memory..."
CINEMA HEAD CHEESE
"If you’re in for something new that's representative of what this genre should be, Stake Land is a must see."
"Whilst the other characters we meet do not have enough time to develop fully, they all play an essential part in the story, and although some scenes could have been far more powerful if the audience were affected by their plight, the suspense was enough to keep me on my edge of the seat throughout."
"The cast does a wonderful job with the material, with genre favorite Danielle Harris playing the role of a young pregnant girl who ends up with the ragtag group and Nick Damici, who made a serious splash with the After Dark Horrorfest title Mulberry Street, as the vampire hunter imparting his knowledge upon Martin, played by Connor Paolo. Over the course of the story, characters come and go – often times illustrating just how fragile life is in this wasteland, and Mickle is not afraid of killing off central characters for the purposes of story or still-living character development."
AMAZON (please note that we service key Amazon reviewers to post positive editorial reviews for DVD customers)
"Mickle and Damici once again deliver a script full of substance, character development, and meaningful social commentary lacking in so many horror films today."
“STAKE LAND,” releases on Blu-ray and DVD on August 2. It is a must-see zombie movie, during a time when the zombie genre has blossomed above and beyond what you would have thought possible a few years ago. This movie is smart, put together by a couple of serious filmmakers who happen to love horror in all its forms: the creative duo of director Jim Mickle and co-writer and actor Nick Damici. They’ve taken things to a new level since their debut, “MULBERRY STREET,” another zombie movie, set in New York’s Lower East Side.
For “Stake Land,” the action moves to the hinterlands, after the collapse of America, in an apocalyptic wasteland reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s “THE ROAD.” The idea of the movie originated with a series of webisodes, created by Damici, about a guy teaching a kid how to kill vampires. Given a chance to develop, the promising videos took shape into a movie. Mister, played by Damici, is the mentor to the kid, Martin, played by Conor Paolo. When they’re not killing vamps, the two are on a quest to find what they hope is safety, New Eden. Along the way, they team up with a few others but danger is always just a few steps away. When it’s not vamps, it might be members of The Brotherhood to worry about.
In the end, “Stake Land” is a story about survival much in the style of “THE WALKING DEAD,” which is saying a lot considering that is the gold standard these days for this sort of thing. The movie has its share of blood letting and all out violence but it also provides that necessary texture and structure for a really scary horror movie. There are nicely done long passages through abandoned farms and cornfields, thoughtful interactions between characters and overall well-paced storytelling. The zombies are a little different, a cross between vampires and zombies, a little more animated than zombies, who growl like dogs. While there’s nothing really new here, the vibe to this movie is fresh. It’s a zombie movie where zombies can go straight to hell, but a girl can still meet a boy and hope for a kiss.
Stake Land Blu-ray Review: It Goes for the Throat
In the film industry, all it takes is one hit. Zombieland -- a film that I really did not enjoy whatsoever -- not only opened the door for movies like Stake Land to be made, but removed it from the hinges completely, allowing for movies like, well, Stake Land to be made. Following my initial disappointment over the fact that I hadn’t been givenSkate Land like I had hoped, I settled down to check out Stake Land. The story here involves a teenage boy (Connor Paolo) named Martin (a nod to a certain George A. Romero film, perhaps?) teaming up with a guy he calls “Mister” (Nick Damici, who has a strange Harvey Keitel/Kim Coates/Fred Ward look goin’ on) after the country world is besieged by a plague of vampires -- bloodsuckers who no doubt had enough of the who Twilight franchise.
With his own family dead, Martin learns a new method of male bonding as “Mister,” a seasoned vampire killer who endorses the word “fuck” with almost every sentence, teaches him the ropes of dispatching the nefarious critters who roam the land whenever night falls. Throughout their onscreen adventure, the boys meet up with a nun (Kelly McGillis -- yes, she’s still acting, kids), a pregnant girl (Danielle Harris, who will no doubt be crowned Horror Queen someday), an ex-soldier (Sean Nelson), an entire legion of nosferatu, and even some deadly religious nuts (let’s face it: you can’t get away from them no matter what happens). Roaming across the land, our varied combination of heroes and heroines drift from one small town to the next -- interacting with what’s left of the human race in fortified settlements (wherein they trade vampire fangs for goods).
Basically, that’s about it: a couple of dudes wander about, killing vampires and discovering that the living can be just as dangerous. Thankfully, the tone of this apocalyptic vampire thriller is nowhere near as light-hearted as its flesh-eating undead counterpart -- the movie does its best, despite its obvious budgetary restraints, and Stake Land really goes for the throat (damn, sorry) by keeping things deadly serious (doh, sorry again) as well as very dramatic. And it’s because of that fact that the film emerges as being somewhat enjoyable. It’s still far from perfect, though, and if you try to look at this as a highly original work of art for some reason, you’ll find a line at the beginning of the film to be particularly profound -- especially if you jokingly hear it as a word of advice to wannabe filmmakers: “One day you’ll learn not to dream at all.” Still, it could have been much worse: they might have tried to make it into a comedy, right?
Dark Sky Films releases this halfway decent horror flick on Blu-ray in an above-average 1080p transfer, which presents the movie in a widescreen 2.40:1 ratio. While a good portion of the movie takes place in the dark (it is a vampire film, after all), the image here is commendable, with lively colors (other than blood red), some excellent detail, and pretty darn good black levels (which really matter in this instance). The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless English soundtrack brings out the best in the movie’s decidedly-somber musical score, as well as its plentiful amount of sound effects (including a Wilhelm Scream!) and dialogue (a great deal of which is mumbled by its actors). A PCM 2.0 English soundtrack and English (SDH) subtitles are also included. As a side note, I’d like to point out to whoever typed the subtitles in here that you should have used the word “patience” in the beginning, and not “patients.” Big difference, people.
In terms of special features, Stake Land starts out with two audio commentaries. The first is a fun-loving group effort with writer/director Jim Mickle, writer/actor Nick Damici, actor Connor Paolo, producer/actor Larry Fessenden, and producer Brent Kunkle. The second is more of a crew-oriented affair, once again led by Mickle, but this time joined by producers Peter Phok and Adam Folk, director of photography Ryan Samul, composer Jeff Grace, and sound designer Graham Reznick. If you’re more of the “Gee, how’d they do that?” type, the second audio commentary is for you. A behind-the-scenes documentary entitled “Going For The Throat: The Making Of Stake Land” (oh, God, did I really use the same tacky joke they did?) goes on for well over an hour, while a number of Production Video Diaries and Character Prequels are probably best left for the movie’s devoted fan base. A Trailer for the movie and a couple of previews for other Dark Sky releases are also housed on the disc.
In short: with a near-infinite number of shitty vampire movies being made every year,Stake Land has the good fortune of being one you’ll at least remember -- although whether it be for better or for worse is up to you and your own personal standards.
JUST PRESS PLAY
"Stake Land isn’t about flashy style or big names, it’s a simple road trip horror film that looks fantastic, clips along at a great pace, and produces some fantastic action pieces. If you want to renew your hope in the horror genre that Hollywood continues to pollute with utter garbage, then Mickle’sStake Land is a beacon of independent horror that should not be overlooked."
MONSTERS AND CRITICS
"This movie takes stabs at the life we know. It does not shy away from taking away certain expectations the audience might have. It is not a safe movie, and you won’t feel safe watching it. But it is expertly done, exquisitely crafted in every way. It is one of those rare gems that puts the ‘class’ in classic."
A fusion of 28 Days Later viscera and Terrence Malick-style poeticism, the vampire apocalypse filmStake Land (Dark Sky) isn’t as vital as its influences, but it works as a thoughtful, skeptical take on the righteousness of Christian rapture stories like Left Behind. Writer-director Jim Mickle sends two men on an odyssey through a ravaged landscape where the real danger comes as much from a fundamentalist cult as it does from monsters that bite.