We live in a time when apocalypse seems not only possible but probable, given our stewardship of our own resources.
So why are there so many more post-apocalyptic thriller scenarios that deal with plagues of either zombies or vampires? Perhaps it's because we think we understand how to stop the enemy when he's supernatural -- as opposed to how to deal with massive radiation leaks or climate change.
The characters in Jim Mickle's Stake Land are tough and to the point: They will do whatever it takes to stay alive and harbor no sentimental or romantic notions toward a vampire's former human form.
But Mickle's film turns out to be part Mad Max, part George Romero. It's gruesome and bloody, as you would expect in a modern vampire-plague movie -- none of that romantic Twilight business here.
Instead, it's just a kid named Martin (Connor Paolo), rescued from his own family by an itinerant vampire slayer called Mister (Nick Damici). Damici has more than a little of the mid-range Charles Bronson about him, playing Mister as blunt in his sentiments and quick with a weapon.
Stake Land is a post-apocalyptic road trip, with characters in search of safe haven, someplace the vamp-fever hasn't infected. Mister and Martin eventually wind up taking on a besieged nun (Kelly McGIllis) and three other still-human travelers. They don't all make it to the promised land, but there is enough of a promised land to bode a Stake Land 2, if the box office on this one is sufficient.
But Damici's script, with a subplot about a power-crazed fundamentalist preacher played by Michael Cerveris, is content with familiar horror and action tropes. These particular vampires seem surprisingly invulnerable to all but the most precise stakings, which reduces or increases the tension, depending on how you look at it.