Director(s): Dan Berk, Robert Olsen
Cast: Connor Paolo, Nick Damici, Laura Abramsen
Release Date: February 14, 2017
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 4/10
Disc Rating: 7/10
When his home in New Eden is destroyed by a revitalized Brotherhood and its new Vamp leader, Martin finds himself alone in the badlands of America with only the distant memory of his mentor, the legendary vampire hunter Mister, to guide him. Roaming the wilderness of a steadily decaying country, Martin searches for the one man who can help him exact revenge. Once reunited, Mister and Martin prepare to confront the ravenous Brotherhood and its monstrous overlord. But it’ll take more than the two of them to battle this terrifying new threat, and with the future of humanity hanging in the balance, the stakes are higher than ever before.
Reuniting one of horror cinema’s most memorable heroic teams, STAKE LAND II is an epic exploration of a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by blood-thirsty vamps and social collapse, where only the strongest survive.
Picking up some time after the events that concluded the first film, ‘Stake Land II’ rejoins the original’s main character Martin (Paolo) who is now living a surprisingly happy life with the woman he loves and their young daughter; at least until the fateful night when a female vampire dubbed The Mother with an unexplainable control over the others arrives at their home and murders his wife and child. Desperate to find the vamp responsible and avenge his family no matter the cost, Martin sets out on the road in search of his old mentor Mister (Damici), the closest thing he ever had to a family and likely the only individual capable of helping him to successfully complete his suicidal revenge mission. Yet upon finding his long lost father-figure, Martin soon finds himself in a fight to the death which is only the beginning of his newfound troubles back on the road within this dangerous world.
Directed this time around by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen (Body) from a screenplay by the returning Nick Damici who also co-wrote the first film, Berk and Olsen do a fairly competent job at the helm of ‘Stake Land II’ guiding it along reasonably well for the most part, even if some sequences do drag partly from a lack of movement and questionable shot selections. The cast is comprised of a few returning individuals from the first film, along with a number of newcomers to the franchise and includes Connor Paolo (Stake Land, Mystic River), Nick Damici (Stake Land, Cold In July), Laura Abramsen (Wolfcop, The Sabbatical), A.C. Peterson (Narc, Shanghai Noon), Steven Williams (TV’s The Leftovers, Supernatural) and a number more, some delivering quite capable performances in their respective roles, while many others are notably lackluster.
‘Stake Land II’ offers hints of the original’s greatness and does a fairly competent job continuing the storyline from where the first left us with a relatively decent story and two returning key characters that offer some hope, yet even with its few positive elements to contribute, it largely disappoints and the good is regularly outweighed by the bad, such as mediocre acting from many cast members and a slow, low budget tone. It ends up feeling more like a painful and in many ways failed attempt to recreate the shock and emotional turmoil of its predecessor, while only falling flat in its goal far too often to achieve its intended effect. There are the occasional hints of the unsettling and heartbreaking moments from the previous film, but the emotion is often lacking and the bloodshed and gore is frequently restrained in an unnatural way as opposed to the unforgiving carnage on display last time around, and none of the newly introduced characters offer anything worthwhile; nearly all of them providing far more simple decoration than relatable or worthwhile characters which only makes the intended emotional moments within largely laughable and irrelevant to the viewer. The fellow diehard fans of the magnificent first film will probably want to make a point of giving ‘Stake Land II’ a whirl when they have the chance, if only to make up their own mind about the sequel, as well to enjoy the few solid elements it does have to offer. While I would encourage fans to give it a watch if they’re able, I would suggest approaching it without the highest of expectations if possible, and it’s probably unnecessary to go out of your way to acquire a copy immediately.
Overall, ‘Stake Land II’ is a fairly disappointing follow-up to a truly spectacular genre film that offers a decent storyline and a few returning characters for familiarity, along with a few decent elements, but sadly, little else. Unfortunately the film falls flat in most regards, and is absent of the blood soaked, uncompromising brutality its predecessor delivered; attempting to recreate the brutal emotion that the first brought to the table, yet failing to do so as a result of interchangeable actors, uninteresting two dimensional characters, and largely lacking the heart which its predecessor had in spades. Those such as me who are huge fans of the original will probably still want to check this one out at some point, either out of simple curiosity or for the always enjoyable Nick Damici who helps to at least keep things bearable, even if his acting and writing talent aren’t quite enough to save the film.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Stake Land II’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing the film’s original 2.35:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks pretty great for the most part and delivers a sharp and detailed presentation throughout. It holds up impressively even during the numerous darkly lit sequences of which there are a great deal within, never resulting in anything occurring on screen to become rendered indiscernible or drastically affected, yet some sequences do get a bit troubling to keep track of with the conflicting dark colors that often share the screen, although fortunately never causing any real problematic issues. Overall, this is a largely capable high definition video presentation that while not quite perfect, should still have no trouble pleasing most folks.
The Blu-ray release features a lossless 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This lossless multichannel soundtrack provides a crisp, clean and relatively aggressive audio presentation from start to finish. It frequently utilizes all five available channels in order to send the music, along with screams, nature elements, crowd chatter, and of course bullets, debris and even more throughout the various speakers, and never causing any dialogue which might be occurring simultaneously to become distorted or rendered inaudible. Overall, this is a pretty wonderful 5.1 channel DTS-HD MA soundtrack that compliments the action and other elements within and shouldn’t disappoint.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Stake Land II’ includes one worthwhile extra; the behind the scenes Featurette: ‘Stakelander: The Making of Stake Land II’ (running approximately 24 minutes in length) which includes behind the scenes footage and interviews/comments with the cast and crew. The film’s ‘Trailer’ (approximately 2 minutes) is also included.