Stake Land II: The Stakelander
R0 - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (3rd March 2017).
The Film

“Stake Land II: The Stakelander” (2016)

6 years after escaping from the vampire epidemic infested America - or “Stake Land” as it became known, Martin (played by Connor Paolo) and Peggy (played by Bonnie Dennison) have married and lived in a stable farm life in Canada - or “New Eden”. But New Eden is not safe from the south, as vampires led by the one eyed blonde vampire known as "The Mother" (played by Kristina Hughes) attack the town, killing Martin’s wife and child in front of him. The Mother is not any zombie-like bloodsucker but is sentient and is controlling, as she had bonded the vampires and the human group known as “The Brotherhood” together for dominance of the land.

Martin needs help in getting revenge and quests back down south to find the man that helped him escape from the clutches of vampires six years ago - the man only known as “Mister” (played by Nick Damici). Whether he is alive or not, his name is still a legend down in Stake Land as Martin discovers. He also learns that it is hard to trust anyone as the humans he has contact with eventually turns violent and/or deadly. After Martin is captured by a group of humans, he becomes prisoner in a gladiator-like dueling cage where he must fight the deadly champion, and you guessed it - it’s Mister!

2010’s “Stake Land” was a cult hit mixing the apocalyptic zombie and the vampire genres right when “The Walking Dead” was emerging on television, and was a cult hit with mostly positive reviews from fans and critics. The vampires were not like “True Blood” or “Twilight” with the romantic side or human like forms, but closer to rabid zombies or the rat like “Nosferatu” presence, with only desires to hunt and kill. There were no bat shape shifters or caped wonders. Just beasts that needed a stake to the heart to kill. “Stake Land” was directed by Jim Mickle and written by Mickle and Nick Damici - who would also play the character of “Mister” and produced by independent Glass Eye Pix. It took six years to produce a sequel which was also written by Damici but directed by the duo of Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, the directors of 2015’s “Body”. The cast members of the characters who survived the first film returned to the sequel and Glass Pix was ready to expand the story further with plans for the film as a second part in a trilogy. So with that in mind there is some incompleteness to “Stake Land II”.

Where “Stake Land” was enjoyable seeing the slowly dying America and how the people were trying to survive the apocalypse, “II” went further with how six years of living in fear changed the people in the south even more. It also developed the vampires into something else rather than simple killing entities. “The Mother” is closer to that of a smarter “Bub” from “Day of the Dead” having communicative abilities and knowledge of self and consciousness. There were some good ideas but there were also some weaknesses with the plot and the characters. Of course the audience wants to see Martin and Mister reunite but for the character of Martin to wander south to find a man who may easily be dead after all these years sounds like a far fetched idea - especially since his main goal should be finding The Mother rather than a mysterious legendary man. Martin already has the survival skills and there really isn’t much that Mister could offer. Also the girl that Mister helps - “Lady” (played by Laura Abramsen) who doesn’t speak and acts like a half human half animal is a strange character to have. If this were “Journey to the Center of the Earth” or “Tarzan” it’s understandable. But a woman in her early twenties to be like that only six years after the apocalyptic events of the first film? Not exactly plausible. On a positive note the characters of “Bat” (played by A.C. Peterson) and Earl (played by Steven Williams) help give some insight into the mysterious character of Mister, as their friendships stretch back before Martin was helped.

Even for the film’s rather short 85 minute runtime, the second half does become a task. Besides Martin and Mister who the audience has known since the first film, the rest of the characters are basically forgettable. When characters meet their death or stakes (pun!) are raised there does not seem to be as much risk emotionally. And with the story’s arc unfulfilled it’s an unsatisfying conclusion to the middle story, but that’s mostly to be expected. Hopefully “Stake Land III” won’t be another six year wait. I will remain positive about seeing it to the end.

Note this is a region 0 NTSC format DVD which can be played back on any DVD or Blu-ray player worldwide

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (anamorphic) in the NTSC format. One thing to be noted is that the film is dark - not only in tone but in color palate. Night scenes are sometimes hard to make out with it being mostly pitch black and even day scenes are a little on the dark side, though this seems intentional. Browns and yellows are the strong colors used and primary colors are almost non existent. The transfer is very good for standard definition with no errors in the transfer to speak of.

The film’s runtime is 85:07.

Audio

English Dolby Digital 5.1
The original audio is presented in 5.1. Music and effects are used effectively in the surround channels and since this is not a “jumpy” horror but a moody one, it uses the channels effectively. There are no issues of audio dropouts or low volume, with dialogue and music sounding fine. It won’t blow you away but it’s a good audio track for the film.

There are optional English HoH subtitles in an off-yellow font. The subtitles are easy to read and well timed but there was one or two minor grammar issues such as a contraction missing. (“Can’t” being spelled “Cant” for example.)

Extras

"Stakelander: The Making of Stake Land II" featurette (23:32)
Various cast and crew including Nick Damici, Larry Fessenden, Peter Phok, Connor Paolo, and more are interviewed on set about the making of the film. Topics discussed are about choosing new directors, getting the original cast back together, the shooting in Saskatchewan, coupled with behind-the-scenes footage.
in anamorphic 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Trailer (2:14)
The original trailer is offered here.
in anamorphic 2.35:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Considering the original “Stake Land” was released with two commentaries, a one hour documentary and more on the DVD and Blu-ray, it’s a shame that the sequel gets the shorter end of the stick (or the stake) in the extras department. Although to be fair, the US release has the same making of only and nothing exclusive. On top of that Umbrella Entertainment decided to release the sequel on DVD only even though the first film received a Blu-ray release.

Packaging

Note that the rear case has a "region 4" symbol this is in fact a region 0 DVD.

Overall

“Stake Land II: The Stakelander” falls under the sophomore slump and the “part two of the trilogy” categories, by trying to be ambitious but eventually not giving enough for a satisfying conclusion. As enjoyable as parts are and being great to see Mister and Martin again, it still fails by not giving enough time for the newer characters. Umbrella Entertainment’s release gives good video and audio with a fair making-of featurette but really drops the ball by not having a Blu-ray release and having much less supplements compared to the first film.

The Film: C Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: C- Overall: C+

 


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