Horror, Stake Land and the resilience of the Vampire film

Horror has been in danger of becoming an extinct genre around these parts recently. Anything from the contemporary crop that has managed to get someone, somewhere excited seems to be shot down as quickly as it rose from the dead. You're Next is the most recent example I can recall. There was encouraging word from some, but Ben hardly found anything positive contained within and I found myself turning it off after half an hour or so. This does of course mean that there could have been magic contained within but I must admit I found little evidence to suggest that. It wasn't terrible but I had seen that Horror film before. Several times in fact. Other recent delves into the genre (notably The Purge) have left me wary of current critical champion Oculus, despite having had the opportunity to catch up with it recently.

Into that climate arrived the Stake Land blu-ray, long a resident of my rental list. As sub genres go, perhaps 'Vampire' is the one furthest removed from whence it originally came these days. From the camp of the Eighties and before, to a world that can't avoid the influence of Twilight. That said, a glance down the list of recent vampiric productions also suggests that this is a sub-genre relatively resistant to Horror's recent problems, as well as being one that consistently churns out an interesting gem of a film every so often.

I remain a big fan of 30 Days Of Night (2007). Though some may argue, I think Let Me In (2010) is at least equal to Let The Right One In (2008), which is itself a very interesting film. These gems exist in a climate that peppers us with big budget proto-camp (Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter) and teen-friendly Twilight hangers-on (anyone remember Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant?), but exist they do, alongside Indies such as Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive and others.

Stake Land is, at times, a pleasantly nasty little film. The finale in particular, though marred by its budget, has few problems with treating many of its characters with the abandon they deserve in an America filled with vampires. The Evil Dead-like special effects are great and whilst at times it can be a film that is unfortunately earnest, it often manages to be attractively genuine.

More than that, like a lot of the best Vampire films, it also seems to have a clear idea of what its vampires stand for. At one point the vampires are dropped from the sky into a pleasant commune of people who are trying to live in the New World slightly differently than the far right religious psychopaths flinging vampires from the air. Is this a very clear comparison point to US foreign policy? Vampires stand in for bombs, the people living life differently are any number of nations targeted by the US in recent years, the far right idiots are, well, far right idiots.

Similarly to Zombies - though, I would argue, less successfully - the Vampire often represents 'the other', or whatever society is afraid of at the time. Perhaps Stake Land's true genius is that it takes the vampire on from here to something much more in the zeitgeist: rather than be afraid of the other, these days, are we not actually more afraid of those in control? If only more Horror films could take such an interesting approach.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.


  1. Great write up! I dug Stake Land. It felt really different from some of the other things in the genre.

    1. Yeah, I enjoyed it too, despite some of its problems. It's not often that you see a Vampire film these days allowed to take its make-up lead from The Evil Dead!