Lovingly mounted rural vampire horror from ace producer Larry Fessenden’s Glass Eye Pix label, Jim Mickle’s “Stake Land” (written by Nick Damici) is the kind of taut, modestly scaled, minimally budgeted work that ideally brings out the best in genre filmmakers. It’s a post-Apocalyptic punch in a time filled with the walking dead, both on screen and behind the camera: on “The Road” ahead, with the undead. Among the filmmakers’ useful juxtapositions is between zombies and fundamentalists: blunt metaphor bleeds sly suggestiveness. The road to New Eden after the fall of all government, populated by “The Brotherhood,” is paved with stakecraft rather than statecraft. (Twenty-eight zombie movies later…) And when your lead is named “Martin” (Connor Paolo)? It’s a wink that manages not to blind: homage of the dead (whether a cinephilic filmmaker loves Rohmer or Romero, they can’t help themselves). What’s at stake? Society. Belief. Humanity. And some terrifically assured production values (the moody camerawork is by Ryan Samul). With Kelly McGillis, Michael Cerveris, Nick Damici, Danielle Harris, Bonnie Dennison. 98m. (Ray Pride)
“Stake Land” opens Friday at the Music Box.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.