From Dark Sky Films, directors Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, with a script by star Nick Damici comes the SyFy co-produced sequel The Stakelander, aka Stake Land 2. Starring Damici, Connor Paolo, Laura Abramsen, A.C. Peterson, Steven Williams, Bonnie Dennison and Kristina Hughes, the film is available to watch on SyFy now but is still awaiting a home release.
When his home of New Eden is destroyed by a revitalized Brotherhood and its new Vamp leader, Martin finds himself alone in the badlands of America with only the distant memory of his mentor and legendary vampire hunter, Mister, to guide him. Roaming the wilderness of a steadily decaying country, Martin goes in search of the one man who can help him get revenge. Once reunited, Mister and Martin prepare to battle a now-ravenous Brotherhood and its monstrous overlord. But it’ll take more than the two of them to take down this terrifying new threat, and with more than just their lives now at risk, the stakes are higher than ever before.
The first Stake Land came outta nowhere six years ago and shocked horror fans around the world with its brutal and uncompromising post-apocalyptic take on the vampire genre. Before The Strain was blowing up our TV’s, Stake Land had already made vampires scary again. Now we have a sequel, which was filmed secretly in Saskatchewan, released on SyFy and billed as a SyFy original. Now – what that means unfortunately is that when you watch Stake Land 2 (or The Stakelander as it was originally billed), the F-Bombs are edited out quietly. This isn’t super distracting, but it does harm the experience slightly. Also, at a short run-time of only 80 minutes, it feels like Stake Land is cutting out some transitional sequences, so I’m curious if there will be an unrated edition when it receives a home release. I think that would be the ideal viewing, but for now, we get what we get and it’s still a bloody damn good time.
Connor Paolo, aka The Boy, from Stake Land is back as Martin, he’s got a beard, he’s got a bow and arrow and he’s smacking vampires in the face with a hammer until they die – he’s on fire. Paolo has truly showcased himself as a tremendously worthy leading man in The Stakelander and I would love to see him in more major films. His character has appeared to have started his own life and family in Canada, until a new deadly vampire called ‘The Mother’ and her bloodthirsty minions ruin that shit and he’s now on a mission to find his former mentor ‘Mister’ (Nick Damici) so he can get his vengeance.
The vampires are getting angrier and more desperate for blood in this sequel so they’re venturing out into sunlight to try and get some bites in. It’s kind of odd to see a smoking monster shambling towards someone as it sizzles to death, but it really gives these creatures another frightening angle which we haven’t seen yet on film. They don’t die instantly when the sun hits them, instead their skin blackens as it burns and they aren’t nearly as strong as they are during nights. The make-up effects were quite well done and I’m a sucker for great practical gags, which Stake Land 2 has in droves. Again – would love to see if an unrated cut would amp up the gore, because as nasty as it can get in The Stakelander, the level of violence doesn’t seem to be on the same scale as the original.
What really hooked me into The Stakelander, were the performances. My god Damici and Paolo are so good..so intense. There’s a scene near the end of the film where the two express their affection towards one another and I almost lost it – their onscreen chemistry is spectacular and I don’t know if we will get a third Stake Land at this point but I’m really, really hoping it’s a possibility… I also loved the filming locations in Saskatchewan. Right from the get-go I was mesmerised by the flat, desolate landscapes of the Canadian prairies – the badlands. I live in Southern Alberta, which has a similar feel to it so I’m familiar with these views as I see them every day. There was just something so relate-able and familiar to the forests, fields and roads that Martin travels in The Stakelander and they were all so beautiful that I feel like I’ve also walked the same areas – minus all the death and destruction mind you.
The music is perfect, the acting is top-notch for a low budget film (the acting is actually better than most of the horror films and just movies in general that I’ve seen this year) and the story is simple but genuinely moving. I felt for these characters, I was worried when Mister was kidnapped and strapped to a cross in order to be fed to vampires — I didn’t want these people to die. The Stakelander can feel very hopeless at times, as no one is off the table when it comes to being killed – including children. The content may not be as hard to stomach as it was in the first film, but make no mistake there are very uncomfortable and disturbing moments here including a mother vampire feeding her little monster baby out in the woods.
The Stakelander is The Road meets 28 Days Later, shattering your expectations of how a vampire not only looks but acts. These creatures are almost demonic in appearance, charred and feral beasts who charge head-on into battle for a chance to tear you to pieces. Damici wrote a really stellar sequel to a film that didn’t need expanding upon, but I’m glad he did because in the process he also opened up Stake Land into a potential horror franchise which I didn’t know I needed, but now I do.
Bonus points for featuring Saskatchewan’s own Leo Fafard aka Wolf Cop himself in a brief but memorable role as one of the cult members thinking he can go toe to toe with Mister. I love Fafard and it was wonderful seeing him in The Stakelander, even if it was just for a few moments. I guess that’s a minor spoiler, but you get the picture. Don’t miss this movie, it is really worth watching despite the limitations of the SyFy network and I would assume it is only a matter of time until we get the unrated glorious Stake Land 2 in true form – the full bloody meal deal.