Stake Land II (2016)

Rating:

aka The Stakelander

USA. 2016.

Crew

Directors – Dan Berk & Robert Olsen, Screenplay – Nick Damici, Producers – Larry Fessenden, Greg Newman & Peter Phok, Photography – Matt Mitchell, Music – Redding Hunter, Visual Effects – Blaze Blaze Blaze, Special Effects Supervisor – Casey Markus, Makeup Effects – Peter Cerner & Brian Spears, Production Design – Sara McCudden. Production Company – Glass Eye Pix/Berserker Entertainment/Last Pictures

Cast

Connor Paolo (Martin), Nick Damici (Mister), Laura Abramsen (Lady), A.C. Peterson (Bat), Steve Williams (Doc Earl), Zane Clifford (Juda), Kristina Hughes (The Mother), Nicole Garies (Billie), Bonne Dennison (Peggy), Jamie Bird (Belle)


Plot

Since his time with Mister, Martin has been living in Canada. He has settled down with a woman and they have had a daughter. Martin then returns home to find both of them have been killed by the She-Vamp known as The Mother. Martin returns to the Stake Lands in search of Mister, seeking his help in tracking and killing The Mother. Captured by a community where he is forced to fight a death match for their amusement, Martin finds his opponent is none other than Mister. The two of them break out, taking a feral girl that Mister names Lady with them. After Mister is wounded by a vampire, they are forced to take refuge at a community run by an old friend of Mister. However, the vampires led by The Mother come, wanting revenge against Mister.


Stake Land (2010) was one of the best 2-3 films put out by Larry Fessenden’s Glass Eye Pix. A collaboration between director Jim Mickle and actor Nick Damici who also wrote the script, it did innovative things with the vampire hunter theme, creating a fascinating post-holocaust world where vampires had overrun humans. The effect of the film came in the casual background detail afforded to the world, as much as it did a focus on the internal bleakness of the characters and their journey.

Stake Land II, also referred to as The Stakelander and Stake Land II: The Stakelander, is a sequel where the two lead actors, Nick Damici and Connor Paolo, repeat the same roles they did the first time. Damici returns to write the script again, while the show is again overseen by Larry Fessenden (who has a small role as one of the defenders during the climactic siege). Jim Mickle however has departed and has been replaced by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen who had previously written-directed the thriller Body (2015) and written the script for Mike Mendez’s fun body-hopping effort Don’t Kill It (2016). The anticipation is that Stake Land II should offer more of what worked so well the first time around.

As such, Stake Land II approximates the same desolate, wintry landscapes of the first film. There are similar bleak voiceovers as the characters reflect on the world around them. But the result is not the same. Part of the problem is that Stake Land had a clearcut road movie/quest plot as we joined the characters and saw the exploration of the world around the periphery throughout the course of their journey. By contrast, Stake Land II lacks such a drive. The early scenes are driven by Martin’s quest to find Mister. Things pick up slightly once Nick Damici is reintroduced to the show but even then most of his performance feels like a cliche of the wry, flinty wisdom that you would imagine being delivered by a Kris Kristofferson or Jeff Bridges character. There is the interesting new character of the ‘She-Vamp’ known as The Mother and Martin’s determination to kill her in revenge for the murder of his wife and daughter. On the other hand, The Mother never does anything other than hang about and snarl when you cannot help but feel the film would have gained a good deal more if she had been built out into a worthwhile nemesis.

After Martin and Mister are reacquainted and make an escape, the plot loses focus. The show seems to shuffle through episodic encounters in various communities that the characters stumble into, followed by a siege climax. A sense of the ramshackle nature of the script comes early on where Martin encounters a middle-aged couple on a farm who invite him to stay only to then attack him in the night. Who they are and why they are attacking him is never given any explanation. Many of these sequences seem to draw from other post-holocaust films – the scenes where Martin is forced to compete in a to-the-death-gladiatorial combat is reminiscent of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), while the siege climax where a small peaceful community hold off against the crazies is very much reminiscent of Mad Max 2 (1981), albeit where this film strains to make the action look epic on a low-budget.



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