I believe, fervently, that Saturday nights are made for watching bad movies, mainly because I’m a shut-in with the personal skills of a wounded bear who was already not too fond of people. But finding the right bad movie is difficult. You need to hit all the right notes of hilarious dialogue, wooden acting and over-the-top special effects. Sometimes you spend ten minutes flipping through the Netflix Instant selection of horror movies, think you’ve hit a winner (The Stuff) and then realize that you’ve made a terrible mistake (aside from the uncomfortable under and overtones and the wonderful casting of Michael Moriarty as a master of corporate espionage, The Stuff was dull. Insane, but dull). You have an option: turn back and spend another ten minutes browsing before clicking on Strippers versus Werewolves or just sticking it out with The Stuff.
So, in order to spare you and your loved ones the pain of watching the wrong bad movie, I offer to you my semi-weekly, most likely going to only do this twice, feature of Saturday Night Movie Review. I will scour Amazon Prime and Netflix Instant looking for the best, bad horror movie for you to enjoy. This is a service I graciously provide for free. Buy my book.
This week: Stake Land
I chose Stake Land because the poster reminded me of Zombieland and Zombieland still fills me with warm cheer whenever I think about it. There are also a few plot point similarities (post Apocalyptic America, surly vampire/zombie hunter teams up with teen to travel the countryside). The difference is that while Zombieland was an entertaining romp and hilarious, Stake Land is a giant downer. It’s Zombieland meets The Road. Vampires have overrun the country and it’s no longer safe to go out at night. Unlike in, say, Daybreakers, the vampires are not suave sophisticates, but drooling, brutal beasts that operate more on Old World Europe Vampyr rules than 19th Century Victorian Vampire rules.
Stake Land is not a bad movie. It’s well shot and has a great, grungy, country feel that I really dig. At times it felt a little like a western, especially in regard to the costume design and musical score: lots of fiddles and denim. There’s less of a coherent plot and more a journey of the two main characters, Martin and Mister. Mister is the bad-ass vampire slayer out of the two, if you couldn’t figure it out. They’re traveling north through the wasteland that is Vamp infested America to reach a place called New Eden which could be the best hope for our heroes to have a life that approaches normal. Or it could be a hellhole that’s out of food where the inhabitants have turned to cannibalism. It’s up in the air on that front.
They have adventures, they meet new people and one depressing episode after the other happens until we reach the end of the movie and it ends exactly like you thought it would. My only major complaint with the movie is The Brotherhood. They’re an ultra-religious movement that believes the vampires are God’s way of cleansing the Earth and, as such, anyone killing the vampires must be bad. They even go out of their way to helicopter drop vampires into surviving settlements to help purge the Earth of the unfaithful.
They’re almost cartoonishly evil and their leader is too over-the-top for a movie that’s, for the most part, relentlessly grim and surly. Stake Land does not pull punches and does not let up in its quest to make sure you’re as bummed out as you possibly can be.
By the end of Stake Land, I was feeling down, a little sad and I want to watch something with a rainbow in it.
And, in this regard, as a Saturday Night Movie, it fails. You won’t be laughing with your friends over the hilariousness of it. You will all look into yourselves and wonder at the bleakness of that world and wonder, truly wonder, at the costs you would pay if the world were to end and you were asked to make some truly difficult decisions. And then you’d grab another beer and turn on Strippers versus Werewolves.
I give it Two Cormac McCarthy Novels and The Executioner’s Song. Avoid for Saturday Night. Watch it Sunday Morning instead.