Sunday, December 4, 2011

Stakeland - A World of Vampires and a Bleak Future

“In desperate times, false Gods abound.”

The world has changed radically. A vampire pandemic has decimated civilization as we know it and the few survivors cling on to false hopes and spurious salvations. “People put their faith on the loudest preachers,” Martin says.

Martin (Connor Paolo) is a teenager who lost his parents to the walking dead, a composite of zombies and vampire, fiercer and doubly aggressive. One night, a rogue vampire hunter, simply called “Mister” (Nick Damici), saves Martin from the fate that befell his parents, and the young man has since become Mister’s protégé. They have to navigate this treacherous world preponderated by anarchy, a pseudo-religious flock of Christians called “The Brotherhood” who pilfer and ravage the existing communities that have managed to secure themselves in “lockdown towns”. Mister and Martin have to travel north to Canada to a place called “New Eden” where it’s vampire free. Sure, they’ve also heard that “there’s nothing there… no food”. They’ve been forewarned of the cannibals.

Along the way, they meet Belle (Danielle Harris), a beautiful teenage girl who’s heavy with a child; Willie (Sean Nelson), a former marine who has come home to look for his family; a feisty nun (Kelly McGillis) they rescued from the sex-starved “robe-wearing crazies”. While rescuing the nun, Mister kills the son of Jebedia Loven (Michael Cerveris), the looney head of The Brotherhood. Soon, Mister and Martin turn “fugitive” throughout Stakeland, being hunted by Loven’s vast network of thugs!

The film takes an unusually introspective approach in this post-apocalyptic saga. In fact, this is told from the perspective of young Martin. We hear his thoughts in calm, almost whispery voice overs (think “Tree of Life”). The stark disparity and rich contrast between the lush green vegetation and the moral ambivalence of the people who just want to survive creates an atmosphere of dread scarier than other monster flicks that wallow in darkness. Everywhere there’s an atmosphere of stark desperation. Connor Paolo creates a vulnerable and endearing Martin, allowing his audience to sympathize and care. It helps too that this young man is so darn good looking! LOL

There’s a bit of confusion on how they can stop these vampires: one minute, it’s by thrusting a stake at the base of the skull; the next is through their hearts. This idea vacillates throughout the film and should have been delineated clearly.

The script does away with unnecessary romanticizing, thus despite Martin’s obvious attraction to Belle, there are no forceful romantic strains that deviate from the main story. After all, this is a world besieged by despondency, anguish, losses and an amoral environment. Martin’s relationship with the rest of the characters is believable and affecting: the nun; “hard ass” Mister, The narrative has created a world free from the clutches of politics, but chaos has taken over: the President is dead; the Middle East is gone; “scamps” (young vampires), “berserkers” and mean-spirited warriors roam the land. Where do people run for cover?

Do not miss it!

Connor Paolo is Martin.

Connor Paolo appears in the TV series "Revenge".

Connor Paolo as Eric van der Woodsen in "Gossip Girl".

A younger Connor Paolo with Angelina Jolie in Oliver Stone's "Alexander". He played the young Colin Farrell.

Connor Paolo

Danielle Harris

Danielle Harris is Belle

Bonnie Dennison is Peggy who comes into the story like a breath of fresh air.

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