In 2010 Jim Mickle directed Stake Land, a brilliantly different take on the vampire film. Starring Nick Damici and Connor Paolo, Stake Land, rather than featuring the usual zombies, blended the apocalypse with vampires and fanatical cults. The result was a sombre and bloody tale of the human condition, and was wrought with heartache and pathos. Now seven years later, Mickle is on-board as producer for the sequel: Stake Land II (also known as Stakelander).
Stake Land II picks up the story several years after the events of the first film. Martin is now living happily in New Eden with Peggy (whom he met at the end of Stake Land) and their young daughter. That happiness doesn’t last long though as a newly revitalised brotherhood, led by The Mother (Kristina Hughes), attacks the community, murdering both Peggy and the little girl. Struck with intense anger and crippling grief, Martin sets out to work his bloody vengeance on The Mother, but first he needs to find his old mentor, Mister.
Stake Land had Mister and Martin travelling across the country in search of the rumoured safe zone, New Eden. This meant that the story moved along at a nice pace, the constant changing of scenery mixed things up and kept the viewer fully engaged. It was a true road movie and coming-of-age tale. In Stake Land II the journey is much shorter. Martin sets out on the hunt for Mister and finds him pretty quickly. The duo then retreat to a new community and it is here that the rest of the story plays out. This brings any momentum to a stand-still and, when coupled with the same slow and meditative story, things grind to an attention-losing halt.
There’s some clumsy story points that fail to land; for example, a character called Juda betrays them. Not really that shocking given the name and the connotations it conjures. A Roman-style gladiatorial battle that appears ripped straight out of Turbo Kid feels odd and out of place, and is forgotten about almost instantly. Then there’s the under-developed villain.
In Stake Land, The Brotherhood’s presence, as well as the vamps, was felt through-out. There was a constant threat and air of danger. Maybe it was because the cast were out in the wild, but now, when confined to a fortified village, the threat just doesn’t feel as frightening. This community does give us some interesting supporting players, Bat (A.C. Peterson) and Doc Earl (Steven Williams), old hunting buddies of Mister, and a great cameo from producer Larry Fessenden.
Overall Stake Land II, isn’t terrible. It’s familiar enough to keep fans happy – it’s always nice catching up with old friends – but it just feels a little disappointing. Some parts fall flat and the tension is missing. The spark is still there, it’s just dimmer.
Stake Land II is available to own on digital download and DVD now.