STAKE LAND II (2016)
Directed by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen
When his wife and daughter are murdered by the she-vamp Mother, Martin goes in search of his friend, former mentor and master vampire hunter, Mister. His search finds him at death’s door time and time again as the world has turned on its head and it’s not just vamps he has to be wary of. Tracking Mister down, Martin vows to seek revenge and kill the She-Vamp but it seems she has the deranged religious cult Brotherhood on her side.
I’m probably the wrong person to be reviewing STAKE LAND II (also known as Stakelander) as I haven’t seen the first STAKE LAND film, to my shame. However, a sequel should always hold up on its own even if a little will be lost on the viewer if they haven’t seen the earlier movies. Whilst I got to grips with who the character of Martin is and his past with Mister, thanks to a running commentary from Martin who likes to relive his memories, I found that Martin’s journey to find Mister a lacklustre bore. Like some sort of warped Western, we simply follow Martin as he falls into one trap after another, be it at the hands of a hungry, cannibalistic couple, a gang pitting survivors against each other for money or the disillusioned Brotherhood. Search, capture, kill and escape seem to be on the menu which is repeated over and over again to constitute this sequel to what I believe is one of the better vampire movies of recent years. Well, if this is anything to go by, I’m sure Stake Land fans will be rather disappointed.
The storyline, which is rather threadbare, is a slow, plodding narrative that drags its feet to its uninspiring conclusion. The threat of the She-Vamp ‘Mother’ is rather pathetic as she appears to be nothing more than a blind vampire with a legion of inept followers. Nothing about her sends terror in the viewer’s heart which is rather concerning considering the characters are meant to fear this creature. We don’t even know much about her other than she’s the reason Martin’s family are dead. The make-up of the other vampires, the Bezerkers, are probably the only highlight of the film and actually make terrifying creatures to look at but unfortunately they seem wasted in a movie that just has very little going for it. The only ounce of character this film has is a set of gay characters who’s relationship feels shoe-horned in and put on display for everyone to say “Ooooh, look how liberal this horror film is”. The way their relationship is so obviously pushed via particular shots and camera angles makes me question whether this was the true storyline after all – that couples, gay or straight, will fight for their love in a post-apocalyptic universe, even if it means facing death and vampires every day, as it seems that’s all Martin, Mister, Bat and Doc Earl do.
Though initially kicking off with a strong start, STAKE LAND II just descends into monotony and not even Nick Damici, who’s performance in Late Phases is one of my all time favourites, is unable to keep the viewer interested and engaged. Its paint-by-numbers search, scowl and survive mentality leaves too much to be desired.
As far as horror films go, I’d suggest giving this one a wide berth unless dull post-apocalyptic vampire westerns are your thing.