Director: Jim Mickle
Writer: Nick Damici & Jim Mickle
Cinematographer: Ryan Samul
by Tory Maddox
Jim Mickle is the most exciting horror filmmaker since Rob Zombie, and probably one of the most underrated directors currently working. After Stake Land I quickly vacuumed down his three other films - We Are What We Are, Mulberry Street, and Cold in July, which are all amazing. How I never heard or saw anyone talking about these movies boggles my mind. Stake Land is a great story, phenomenally well shot, and to think it was made for just over half a million dollars is all the more impressive.
At it’s simplest level it's Evil Dead meets The Road. A young boy Martin (Connor Paolo) loses his parents to demonic vampires and takes up with a nomadic, vampire killing expert Mister (in the second of four great collaborations between Nick Damici and Mickle) as they navigate the apocalyptic landscape. Eventually they meet others who’re trying to survive. I always love a horror film that assembles people from all walks of life and has them fight against the foes as a group (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, etc). All so often films like to separate the group and kill off the characters rapidly.. Mickle creates a family. We root for them and their differences and when they do start to die off we actually care.
Yet Stake Land is a well crafted horror film across the board. The photography alone is astounding with absolutely beautiful compositions. The blocking's incredibly creative, which you often miss as the story becomes more engaging. Yet when you catch his choices you’re impressed. He knows how to block a scene. He’s not trying to reinvent the wheel, he’s just trying to utilize the same cinematic quality of any art house picture and integrate it into a genre piece.
The looming question throughout it all is what do people do and where do people go? What meaning is there in such a world? While it’s been tried and done thousands of times, the idea of family, friendship, and love works so well against such a horrifying story. The vampires will eventually die. New, small and larger governments will form. Dissent will continue. Religious extremism will provide solace to some. There are cowboys and soldiers. Good people and bad. When the film ends we understand why Mister did what he did. You can either keep on moving, keep on traveling, never stopping and always fighting, or you can take advantage of love in the rare moments it’s offered. The world remains scary, the horror will keep coming, but at least Martin is no longer alone. It's an amazing film, especially for any fan of The Walking Dead. Can’t wait to see Mickle do another one.
BELOW: A clip that offers a brief taste of Mickle's style
Thoughts on films, old and new
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