Let’s get some things out of the way: Yes, Stake Land 2 is a sequel to the 2010 film Stake Land and yes, it was produced by that film’s director Jim Mickle. However, this new chapter in the saga of Mister and Martin is a wholly different beast.
It was co-directed by the team of Dan Berk and Robert Olsen (who also brought you Body). Thus, although the film continues the storyline of Stake Land, it does so in a uniquely different way.
The film picks up more than a decade after the ending of the previous one so the world of our favorite vamp-killers has changed quite a bit. This is to the film’s benefit. Whereas its predecessor has a distinctly rural American flavor, Stake Land 2 raises the stakes (ha!) to incorporate a more post-apocalyptic Western feeling, one that also has the flavor of a Japanese Ronin film.
Yet, if you’re thinking it’s going to be like watching a Quentin Tarantino flick, you’d be dead wrong. There are many moments of levity, but this isn’t a self-reflexive, metacritical pop culture take on vampires. If anything, Stake Land 2 has tonal similarities to Turbo Kid; it almost feels like a comic book jumped right onto the screen.
There are archetypes: the grizzled loner, Mister (in the form of certified badass/national treasure Nick Damici); the Kid (Connor Paolo’s Martin); the Innocent (Laura Abramsen’s feral “Lady”); and the Big Baddie, “The Mother” (played by Kristina Hughes as a twisted inversion of Tilda Swinton’s Eve in Only Lovers Left Alive).
So much of the fun in Stake Land 2 is watching things play out, so I’ll keep spoilers and plot details to a minimum. Tragedy befalls Martin’s happy domestic bliss with Peggy (who we met at the end of Stake Land). Furthermore, things have gotten much worse for the humans in the last ten years: The Brotherhood has gotten more powerful and some humans, in a misguided attempt to survive, have turned to depraved acts of cruelty.
The religious fundamentalism that developed as a threat in Stake Land and which continues unabated in Stake Land 2 is an interesting comment on our modern political climate and one that was probably not an accident. (Like Stake Land, it was also written by Nick Damici.) Yet the film, despite its many platitudes about faith and friendship and survival, is never preachy, letting the viewers decide what they think of these developments.
Besides Lady, the cast is rounded out by the wonderful A.C. Peterson as Bat and the always-welcome Steven Williams (who you’ll recognize as Mr. X from The X-Files) as Doc Earl; their relationship is one of the best and most surprising things about Stake Land 2, though you’ll have to wait until the end of the movie to see exactly why.
Berk, Olsen, and cinematographer Matt Mitchell do carry over some of the gorgeous establishing shots that Mickle utilized in Stake Land, but with this film, they are more grandiose, underscoring the idea that the world is even bigger and more dangerous than ever before.
Satke Land 2, for all of its good qualities, does feel a bit ponderous and slow in pace at times, but that shouldn’t detract too much from your enjoyment of the film, especially if you think of it as an entity that deserves to stand on its own (and it does). Overall, Stake Land 2 is a fun, well-crafted film that is a worthy successor to one of the best American horror films of the last decade.
Stake Land 2 will screen on SyFy on October 29.