What the Hell, Dark Sky Films? Stake Land is one of my favorite vampire movies of all time and probably one of the best titles in the subgenre to be released in the last ten years. It’s developed somewhat of a cult movie status, which is why I’m surprised to see it dumped on SyFy without any sort of big push. I mean, I didn’t even know it was coming out until it randomly showed up in my Twitter feed AND there’s not even a poster for it! Luckily, I did catch it and I DVR’ed it so I could watch it when I got home from work last night. It was such an incredibly feeling to see Connor Paolo and Nick Damici on screen together again, reprising their roles as Martin and Mister. The duo appearing next to a camp fire and looking solemn meant that Stake Land 2 is a direct sequel to the 2010 feature and not one of those quasi-sequels where the only relation was that the two movies exist within the same universe. I was down for this, totally down, but as with the previous film – we start with a tremendous punch to the gut.
It turns out that Martin and Peggy (Bonnie Dennison) made it to New Eden after talking about it in the previous movie. They settled there with other survivors of the vampire apocalypse, they got married and they even had a daughter named Belle after Danielle Harris’ character. Unfortunately, the vampire worshiping cult, The Brotherwood, and a powerful female vampire (Kristina Hughes) who can reproduce vampire children weren’t far behind them and lay siege to New Eden one night. His family dead, his new home destroyed, Martin travels back into the badlands of America to find his mentor and legendary vampire hunter, Mister, in hopes of being guided in his quest for revenge. After several missteps, several traps and several new friends (A.C. Peterson, Steven Williams and Laura Abramsen), the duo is finally reunited and get ready for a battle of revenge and the battle to save another settled town who are next on the hit list. Now, the stakes are much higher than before.
Now, I think it’s important that I point out Stake Land 2 captures the essence and feel of the previous film. While the directors’ chairs are now filled by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, Nick Damici wrote and executively produced the script with cinematographer Matt Mitchell. I think Nick Damici understands the characters better than anyone else and it helps that he brought us back to this world with Badie Ali, Hamza Ali, Malik B. Ali, Larry Fessenden, Brent Kunkle, Greg Newman and Peter Phok – producers who were all on board for Stake Land, too. I’m so happy these players returned to the game because Stake Land 2 is the perfect sequel, the perfect continuation of the story – there is no break in continuity. The vampires look, move and sound the same. The wardrobe, props and special effects all look the same. The camera work and picture quality is spot on to the original movie. I was scared for a moment that being a SyFy movie meant a dive in overall quality, but Stake Land 2 is the vampiric sequel we’ve all been dying for. Well done, crew!
The only difference between Stake Land and Stake Land 2 is that the level of suspense is much, much lower. With the first movie, everything was new. The story was new, the world was new and we were experiencing it along with Martin and Mister. With Stake Land 2, we know how the world works. We know that you have to be tough and you can’t trust anyone and that your friends are going to die in front of you and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. There’s a little bit of a switch in dynamic in that Martin is now the more cynical one and Mister is more laid back, but we find out why later in the movie. They’re still bad ass, we still get treated to a bunch of vampire bloodbaths, but everything seems much calmer than before. Maybe the characters have settled into a life of complacency where they’ve accepted New America like the survivors in “The Walking Dead” have accepted how the word works now. That’s how I’d describe Stake Land 2, actually. It’s “The Walking Dead” with super vampires.
While it is a little milder compared to Stake Land, it’s also important to note that Stake Land 2 brings new elements to the story. Obviously that lies with the queen vampire, who’s different than the others because she can produce offspring that she can control. She was a cool villain, but the final battle with her left a lot to be desired. Also, vampires roam during the day now because they’re so hungry. We’re treated to a new established colony, giving us hope that the world isn’t as far gone as we thought. Maybe there’s communities elsewhere. We meet new characters that are just as likable as the ones from the first film. Most importantly, we get insight into Mister’s backstory. We get to see what made him into the man he is today. This happens adjacently to finding out what happened to Martin post-Stake Land. It was nice that the writers tried to spruce up the story with extra plot points.
Stake Land 2 is a capable and solid sequel, but it does suffer the sophomore slump. Again, I think this is due to the fact that we know this world already and there just wasn’t enough bite this go around. Fans of the franchise are going to eat this up for the nostalgic aspects and love of the first film and I would recommend this to other vampire fans, too. My only problem is I don’t know if love of franchise is enough for me to recommend this to people who haven’t seen the first film or aren’t vampire junkies. Honestly, Stake Land 2 might be a one and done viewing for me; as in I’d watch it once, maybe I’d buy it just to own it, but I don’t think I’d ever go out of my way to watch it again. I’d rather watch Stake Land if given the option. For now, though, a walk down memory lane is just what I wanted this Halloween season. Final Score: 6.75 out of 10.
Stake Land 2 stars Connor Paolo (“Gossip Girl,” “Revenge”), Nick Damici (“CSI,” Mulberry Street), Bonnie Dennison (“Guiding Light,” “Third Watch”), A. C. Peterson (“Hemlock Grove,” “Olympus”), Steven Williams (“21 Jump Street,” “Supernatural”), Laura Abramsen, Kristina Hughes, Zane Clifford, Nicole Garies and Jaime Bird.