Stake Land

"I've seen things you wouldn't believe, things you really shouldn't see," whisper-warns Martin (Gossip Girl's Paolo, a weak lead), his car cruising down an empty road. Allow us to wholeheartedly agree: You really shouldn't see Stake Land---even if you are in the mood for lax, uninspired end-of-the-world-with-vampires thrills. Apparently, Martin lives in a universe without Dawn of the Dead or any of its rehashes. The first ten minutes alone serve up a narcotizing amount of obviousness: Old West--style postapocalyptic lawlessness, a surly surrogate dad known unconvincingly as "Mister" (Damici), a vintage convertible (why not a Honda for a change?), blasted highway signs and roaring, superhuman monsters that require impaling.

Mysteriously, Stake Land has been the recipient of some festival buzz, probably because there's nary a pale Edward or Bella in sight for a change. (Some quasi--Days of Heaven flourishes appeal to the pretentious.) Forgotten is the small fact that vampires lose a lot of their sexual potency when reduced to slobbering dogs. As with director Jim Mickle's previous Mulberry Street (2006), there's a crude interest in the devolution of American society---but we're a long way from George Romero's satiric shopping-mall shut-ins when the main grist for the mill is a violent, evangelical cult called the Brotherhood, just as awful as the vamps. The whole movie aches from tired blood.

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