by James Toal
What can you do to stand out in the current climate of Zombie over-saturation? Because let’s face it, people, Zombies have been used so many times that they have lost the fear and the edge they once had. I mean look at The Walking Dead, they focus on how scary people can actually be when they aren’t bound to social norms. Rather that than a bunch of corpses shambling there way over to nibble you. What was the answer to this in 2010? Stakeland. A film where we got an interesting take on vampires, more feral, and seemed made a decent change from Zombie films that stacked the shelves. Now in 2017, we have the sequel; StakeLand 2. How does this hold-up? Let’s take a look.
The film focuses on Martin, the boy from the first film, as his family is murdered by a leader of these vamps nicknamed the “She-Vamp”. Martin goes out to try and find his former mentor “Mister” and try to get revenge for his deceased wife and child.
The first thing that you may notice about this film is some of the naming choices for these characters. I can let “Mister” off the hook as it was what Martin called him in the first film as he didn’t know his real name, so narratively speaking it makes sense. What is a little harder to understand is the naming choice for the villain being “She-Vamp”. Yes. She is female. She is also a Vampire. But so are a lot of Vampire’s in this film that look female, I get that it’s the apocalypse and you have bigger troubles on your hands to worry about naming things. But c’mon, a little creativity couldn’t have hurt. It’s worse for a feral girl that they find later on in the film and then decide to give her a name. Take a guess what she’s called. Janice? Beth? Liara?…. Lady. Really? Can’t even be bothered to name one of the side characters? Now some of you may be thinking “Lady from Lady and The Tramp had that name, what’s the issue?” Well, the fact that this woman isn’t a fucking dog.
Sadly the film does have other issues that can’t really be ignored. The pacing feels really rushed as they try to get from scene to scene without stopping to take in the environment. The family gets murdered within the first five minutes so we don’t really get any depth into their personalities, Martin travels from place to place to find mister, and when they do it’s just more getting captured, they rescue each other, they meet new people. Again, all of this happens without really taking a moment to breathe. This doesn’t help either when the main characters seem so bland and emotionless. Martin and Mister just seem bored to be there, which is a major contrast to the side characters.
As we progress through the film we meet Lady (ugh), and Mister’s old friends, these characters seem way more likeable and interesting to stick around. Maybe because they are the only few people to smile in this whole thing. They actually have good chemistry with one another, and as it turns out, they’re lovers. I know this is StakeLand 2, but hell. I’d be interested in seeing these guys POV of events, rather than these two bored bastards.
That being said though, in the rare moments that the film decides to catch a breath and embrace the apocalyptic environment, it’s actually rather beautiful and well done. Director of Photography Matt Mitchell captures the contrast to the vast vibrant and peaceful view of nature, whilst also the dark and gritty patches that humanity has decided to call home. It’s one of my favourite aspects of the film, so I have to commend it for presenting Nature vs Civilisation rather well in his framing and use of colour.
This doesn’t protect the rest of the film from its other flaws though, one of the major ones being the Vamps. No matter what they call these monsters, it still just feels like a Zombie film in disguise. The Vamps themselves look okay as the makeup is well done. But aside from the fizzling in the sunlight and staking them in the heart, (Or just cutting their head off), they’re just zombies. Which is a shame as the first film did a good job of differentiating them from the oversaturated zombie films out there. The vamps in the original were scary and more of a threat, whereas these ones? Not even worth comparing.
I will give credit where credit is due though, the overall theme trying to find meaning this devasted world is quite well hit towards the end of the film. Making you question yourself if everything you fought to protect just ends up disappearing, what do you do? It’s a shame that this couldn’t have been well executed throughout the film, rather than slide it in the end. It’s not a great sequel, while the cinematography looks great, the substance leaves you wanting more, and not in a good way.
Dir: Dan Berk, Robert Olsen
Scr: Nick Damici
Prd: Larry Fessenden, Greg Newman, Peter Phok
Cast: Connor Paolo, Nick Damici, Laura Abramsen
D.O.P: Matt Mitchell
Music: Redding Hunter
Run time: 81 Mins