The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Stake Land II: The Stakelander
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #413: Stake Land II: The Stakelander
Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never been chased through the desolate wastelands by any sort of mutant vampire zombie creature, mostly because there are no desolate wastelands near where I live, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number four hundred and thirteen, I take a look at the kick-ass action horror sequel Stake Land II: The Stakelander, which made its debut via the Sci Fi Channel in October of 2016 and is now available on home video.
Stake Land II: The Stakelander
Author’s Note:: The version I am reviewing is the version that aired on the Sci Fi Channel in October of 2016. It was rated TV-14. There was plenty of gore and swearing on display, but I’m sure the version released on home video is uncut and more graphic. I mean, I don’t know that for sure, but the home video version is unrated/not rated. Why not heap on more gore and whatnot if there are no limitations?
Stake Land II: The Stakelander, also known as just Stake Land II and The Stakelander, is a surprising sequel to the badass awesome Stake Land which came out in 2010 (you can check out my review of that movie here). I say “surprising” because no one seemed to know that it was made until it was announced that it would premiere on the Sci Fi Channel. I do remember reading something about a potential Stake Land TV show, but a movie sequel? What the hell? We have the sequel, so are we getting a TV show, too, at some point? Anyway, Stakelander is directed by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, with Jim Mickle, director of the first movie, serving as a producer of some sort (I’m going to assume that Mickle didn’t do Stakelander because he was too busy with Hap and Leonard). Nick Damici returns to both write the screenplay and star as Mister, the badass vampire killer. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Stakelander picks up around ten years after the end of the first movie, with Martin (Connor Paolo) seeking revenge for the death of his wife and daughter at the hands of the Brotherhood cult. Martin had carved a relatively nice life for himself in New Eden, being able to raise his daughter in general safety and comfort. But then the Brotherhood, under new leadership (Mother, a vampire woman played by Kristina Hughes), attacks New Eden and kills damn near everyone there. Martin is basically the only survivor of the attack, and after burying his dead wife and daughter, Martin crosses the border back into the United States so he can go on a revenge mission. He wants to find Mother and kill her for what she did. Martin also wants to find his old mentor Mister (Damici), who is apparently still alive after the events of the first movie. And Mister has to be alive, since there are wanted posters everywhere featuring a drawing that looks very much like Mister.
The search for Mother and Mister isn’t easy. On top of the deadly vampire zombie creatures that still dot the desolate landscape, the world is populated by humans who are, for the lack of a better word, bad. Instead of trying to rebuild a society based on tolerance and love and all that kind of stuff, most survivors seem to have joined up with assorted psychos and killers who are all about killing people, ruling people, and generally being assholes. There are some “good” people still out there, but they are few and far between. In fact, Martin thinks he’s found two “good” people, an old couple who survive on a farm (Karl and Jean, as played by Blaine Hart and Kathryn Bracht), but they turn out to be less than honorable (watch the scene where Jean attacks Martin with a meat cleaver. Holy shit, it will make you jump). After dealing with that, Martin finds a motorcycle that actually works and hits the road again. Mister and Mother are still his main objectives.
So then some stuff happens, Martin finds a weirdo who likes to chew gum, he chases after a somber looking little girl in a farm, and suddenly Martin finds himself captured and stuck in a camp full of psychos who seem to capture people and eat them. I mean, no one comes right out and says “They’re cannibals,” but there’s quite a bit of meat cutting going on, but there are no cows or pigs or anything like that milling around. There are plenty of bloody human skulls, though. So Martin is shackled, beaten, and then forced to participate in a man-on-man brawl with the “champion,” “the Stakelander,” who we find out is Mister. Mister is a bit broken down, older looking than before, but he’s still a badass killer and he beats the shit out of Martin at the beginning of the fight. Martin holds back a bit as he wants to get Mister’s attention and he doesn’t think the best way to do that is to go after his mentor full force. So Martin and Mister beat one another a bit, but then Mister realizes that Martin is Martin and Mister decides that he’s had enough of this fighting shit and throws a spear at the lead psycho asshole (I believe this is Tattoo Face, as played by Tim Lynchuk). Mister and Martin then run out of the compound (they bring along a feral woman named Lady, played by Laura Abramsen).
So Martin and Mister head back to Mister’s personal hideout, a house out in the middle of nowhere. It’s here that Martin and Mister catch up, find out what the heck is going on (the vampires and the Brotherhood are more organized than ever before), and they talk about the nature of revenge. Mister used to be all about it, but now, he doesn’t seem to be all that invested in it. Martin, obviously, wants revenge for what happened to his family. Mister’s hideout is then attacked by the Brotherhood. Mister is captured, while Martin escapes with Lady. Mister is then crucified and left to die in a field, either by the physical effects of crucifixion or by the zombie vampires. Of course, Mister being Mister, he finds a way out of the crucifix and starts kicking vampire ass. Off in the distance, Martin shoots an arrow at one of Mister’s attackers, hitting Mister in the leg. It’s a bad hit, but, hey, Mister is still alive. He’s going to need help moving around, though.
So then some stuff happens, Martin admits that he can’t repair Mister’s wounds himself, and Mister tells him about a compound that he knows about that has a doctor. Martin and Lady will have to drag Mister there. They create a makeshift stretcher and start dragging Mister to the compound. More Brotherhood soldiers show up and try to take down Martin, Mister, and Lady, but they fight the Brotherhood off, capturing one of them (Juda, as played by Zane Clifford). They eventually find the compound, and we find out that the compound is operated by Mister’s old pals Bat (A.C. Peterson) and Doc Earl (Creighton Duke hisself Steven Williams). It’s the best compound Martin has been in since New Eden as it has electricity and the people there seem to be aware of what’s going on in the world but haven’t lost their humanity. It’s a decent place to live.
Of course, that “good” feeling can’t last forever. Mother and her Brotherhood minions, not to mention their vampires, are still out there looking for Martin and Mister. And they’re going to do whatever it takes to find their prey and destroy them.
The Stakelander is a damn good sequel. While it doesn’t have the same “fresh edge” as the first movie, it makes up for that lack of edge with a slick look and scope. The Stakelander looks and feels big, especially when Martin is riding his motorcycle on empty roads. The landscapes we see are amazing, and the bleakness is often quite beautiful. When Martin starts interacting with people, the movie actually seems to get smaller. Both of the compounds Martin ends up in, good and bad, are not vast areas that take up lots of space. They’re both quite small. You’d think they’d be big since they house so many people.
The night scenes are super dark and there are times where it’s hard to see what the heck is going on. That’s awesome at times because it gives the scary scenes an extra sense of dread. You know the characters are there, but what, exactly, are they facing? You can hear the danger, but what are they fighting? There are times, though, where it would have been great to understand what was happening. The big “Mister gets off the crucifix and starts kicking ass” scene is hard to fully understand since it’s so dark. Is this darkness on the DVD, too? Is this just something that happened on TV?
The gore is excellent and the vampire makeup is gross as hell. These vampires are still ruthless, animalistic creatures that want to kill every human in the room, but some of them have reverted to walking like Stephen from Dawn of the Dead. Is this what happens when vampires outnumber humans (no more food for the vamps?). Could be.
There are some pretty decent action sequences spread throughout the movie. The Martin-Karl-Jean scene towards the beginning of the movie is well paced and scary, and the big fight scene in the cannibal pit between Martin and Mister is well staged. And the final siege at the Bat/Doc Earl compound is damn good stuff (well-paced, scary, etc.). The only stuff that’s not as well staged is the siege on New Eden. That stuff should have been bigger, more involved, but it’s just dark and hard to follow. Maybe if the movie had a bigger budget it could have found a way to make the New Eden siege larger? Despite the New Eden sequence, there’s still plenty of great stuff to see.
The whole cannibal thing is a little strange in that no one seems to talk about it. Has it become so commonplace in this new reality that people just don’t want to talk about it anymore? I’m also curious as to why Mister would ever associate with people like that. I mean, did he eat people while staying in that compound? Is that part of the whole “losing some of your vampire killing edge” thing, you just give up and start eating people because, hey, it’s meat? Am I just misreading what’s happening here?
Connor Paolo does a fine job as Martin. Martin is a broken man, but at the same time he’s also full of rage that he manages as he continues looking for both Mister and Mother. It’s interesting how he never really loses it, even though you expect him to. He had to bury his wife and baby daughter. That’s a horrible thing to have to do for anyone. Why isn’t he frothing at the mouth and killing everything in his way? It’s what Mister taught him what to do? Good stuff.
Nick Damici is, once again, awesome as Mister. He’s older now, a bit broken down, but he can still kill vampires. His message about the nature of revenge is unexpected but still very cool. At the same time, I’m kind of surprised that Mister is still alive, especially after what happened in the first Stake Land. And with ten years between the two movies, man, think about how many vampires he’s had to kill. I like his backstory in regards to Mother, and I think you’ll dig his final scene in the movie. He’s tired of fighting, he’s tired of the road and the world, but at the same, time what else is there for him to do but kill vampires? If Damici and his Mister character aren’t considered modern horror icons at this point, there’s something seriously wrong with modern horror nerd culture. Awesome, awesome stuff.
Laura Abramsen does a great job as Lady, the feral woman. Lady seems like a weird character to have in a vampire movie, but then you have to realize that Stake Land is a post-apocalyptic vampire movie, so when you realize that it makes all the sense in the world. If civilization is essentially over, odds are there are going to be feral people all over the place. I think you’ll be sad with the way Lady’s story works itself out.
A.C. Peterson and Steven Williams are fabulous as Bat and Doc Earl, Mister’s old pals from when the whole vampire thing started in Mexico. They’re great, old, badass characters, the kind of “old killers” you’d expect Mister to have as friends. It would be awesome to see them in some kind of prequel to the first movie, kicking ass in Mexico and whatnot. Will that happen? Who knows? For all we know that movie has already been made and we’re just waiting for a release announcement.
Kristina Hughes is terrifying as Mother. Hughes doesn’t have many scenes in the actual movie, but when we do see her it’s terrifying. In fact, her most terrifying scene is one where we don’t actually see her physical presence but we know she’s there. And the aftermath of that scene is, well, gruesome. Since the vampire menace is still present at the end of The Stakelander, it makes you wonder what else is out there, what other kind of vampires. How many more Mothers are out there?
So what’s next for the Stake Land franchise? Should there be a Stake Land 3? Of course there should be. And a Stake Land 4, too. And that “Mexico” prequel. And that TV show. There should be Stake Land everywhere. The world needs more Mister kicking ass and taking vampire names. Will we get any of that, though? Who knows? We didn’t know that Stake Land II was even a thing until it was released, so, as I said before, maybe part 3 is already in the can. We don’t know. We need a part 3, though.
See Stake Land II: The Stakelander. See it, see it, see it. Long live Mister!
So what do we have here?
Dead bodies: 20+
Undead bodies: Lots.
Doobage: A fire, a sort of fairy tale, multiple flashbacks, water pumping, spear through the neck, multiple bloody vampire attacks, crying, a very somber opening theme, duct taping a bad ankle, seemingly endless quiet, stake carving, slow motion stake practice, a dead rabbit, vampires burning up a bit in the sun, vampire mashing, a badass motorcycle, hanging burned up skeletons, arrow through the head, soup by candlelight, potential cannibalism, old newspaper clippings of attacks, shotgun blast to the chest, meat cleaver to the back of the head, attempted dog food trade, kidnapping, more potential cannibalism, dead body carving, death match fighting, a wicked brawl, another spear through the neck, booby-trapped stairs, music box hooey, off screen porch attack, an escape hole, crucifixion, neck breaking, wound cauterization with a road flare, a covered stretcher, off screen vampire feeding, dead squirrel eating, attempted rape, a dragging stretcher, truck hooey, wound fixing, dog eating, vampire baby nursing, card playing, multiple generators, attempted shower, booze drinking, floor mopping, a suicide trick, more booze drinking, an ultra violet light cannon, pitchfork to the back, interrogation, fingernail removal, serious throat slitting, a nasty surprise vampire attack, a suicide bomber, death by rock, bloody eye removal, decapitation, exploding kitchen, and a sad, somewhat uplifting ending.
Kim Richards?: Big time.
Gratuitous: A skull necklace, Nick Damici, a wanted poster, gum chewing, Thunderdome homage, talk about the nature of revenge, music box music, crucifixion, dead squirrel eating, Creighton Duke, a red ball, talk of “small nerves,” tough guy shit, Larry Fessenden, gay lovers, and a sad, somewhat uplifting ending.
Best lines: “What happened to Mister?,” “They’re dead. You’re alive. Act like it,” “Put it away, boy. We don’t do history,” “The world didn’t die with a bang. It died with a scream. Lots of them,” “You try anything, son, I’ll cut you in half,” “You’re not eating. We ate already,” “Bad things happen to good people. The world ain’t fair,” “Hey, there. Shit, man, you scared me,” “See you around, Canada,” “Most of the good in the world is gone. Hate. Hate seems to be the only thing that grows anymore,” “You don’t need fangs to be a monster. They’re worse than the vamps,” “Boy?,” “Fight or die,” “You got your whole life to die, kid, no point in rushing it. Let it go,” “Man spends his whole life on revenge, best dig two graves. I did,” “I hate vampires,” “I never had a feral brat before! I bet she bites!,” “Drop it! I said drop it or meet Jesus!,” “You sure about that, boy? It’s up to you,” “You sonofoabitch. I thought you were dead. I look dead to you? Yeah, you look a little dead,” “How you feeling, old buddy? Oh, like a bucket of shit,” “Don’t worry. We’re gonna squeeze him. Slow,” “God is great! God is in me!,” “Remind you of someone?,” “Dying ain’t much of a plan, boy,” “Cheer up,” “My daughter’s name was Rose,” “You sure you gonna be able to shoot straight?,” “Come on, you bitch! You want me? Come and get some!,” “Come over here, you bitch!,” “You feel better? No. But I don’t feel worse. I feel like shit. You look like shit,” “I can’t do this anymore, kid,” “Man wants his son to be better than he is,” and “I don’t know what happened to him. Guess it doesn’t matter. But I know I’ll see him again. In this hell or the next.”
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