Stakes DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Directed by Joe Ripple
Written by Don Dohler and Joe Ripple
2002, Region 1 (NTSC), 83 Minutes, Rated R
DVD released on October 22nd, 2002
Leanna Chamish as Alyssa, the Vampire Queen
George Stover as Father John O'Grady
Ashira Zimra as Shannon Wallace
Steven King as Dr. Brian Smithers
Jamie Bell as Jake Bishop
Syn DeVil as Raven
John Michaelson as Dragus
Erin J. Corsair as Elizabeth N. Fleming
Chelsea Leigh Ernst as Mindy
It seems lately vampire movies have been trying to evolve away from typical vampire lore. Blade, Blade II and Vampires: Los Muertos, among others, proposed that vampirism is simply a disease that can be controlled or even cured. Interview with the Vampire dispelled the notion of vampires being afraid of crosses. The Jon Merz "Fixer" novels even suggest a whole race of vampires living amongst humans, but causing no harm (for the most part).
Stakes takes a similar route in going against the stereotypical vampire vein.
In a parallel world, vampires rule. The downside for the vampires is they have resorted to cannibalism to survive. Three of the last remaining humans, Shannon Wallace, Father John O'Grady and Dr. Brian Smithers have managed to create a portal to our world. Originally, their plans were to come over, close the portal and live in peace on our world. However, plans change when the Vampire Queen Alyssa and her flunkies, Raven and Dragus, use the portal first.
So Alyssa, Raven and Dragus come over to our world and land smack down in the middle of a robbery. Now the two thugs robbing the mark are not the brightest bulbs in the box. Instead of wondering how these newcomers arrived from thin air, they are more worried about the threesome taking their victim. To make matters worse, the knuckleheads use foul language in front of the ladies, Alyssa and Raven. Well, these guys won't be robbing anybody ever again. On the downside, the victim won't ever be mugged again. Maybe that's an upside. It's a judgment call.
After Alyssa and crew wander off to greener pastures, Shannon, John and Brian show up to see the carnage Allyssa and friends left behind. With no time to spare, as the police are coming, Shannon and Brian hide while Father John talks to the detectives. I'm thinking the whole purpose of this scene was to establish a relationship between the Father and Detective Jake Bishop. It is quite amusing watching the Father explain what he was doing there.
Alyssa's next move is to get a place to set up shop, so they kidnap the daughter of Elizabeth Fleming, the local property manager or developer or something or another. Elizabeth hooks them up with a prime piece of real estate, a deserted warehouse. The perfect place for a Vampire Queen to create a force of vampires bent on taking over the world.
Now Shannon and her team, with the help of Detective Jake Bishop, must destroy Alyssa and her spawn before our world becomes vampire ridden.
I first got inkling of Stakes and Timewarp Productions at Horrorfind 2002. I had been walking around when I noticed fellow HorrorTalk reviewer, Eric Strauss, checking out a vendors table of a couple DVDs.
Okay I'm lying. I didn't even see Eric. He might have been at the table. Honestly, I don't even know if there was a table. All I saw was Leanna Chamish, dressed as the Vampire Queen Alyssa, standing beside something that looked like a table in front of which someone who looked like Eric stood. That's all I really remember. Sorry, Eric.
So, a couple months later I'm in a local blockbuster and I see this movie Stakes in the previously viewed DVD bin. I turn the box around and to my surprise there was the lovely Leanna Chamish on the back of the box. I immediately made my purchase and ran home to watch this movie.
Now, admittedly I went in to this movie expecting pure cheese and I was surprised to find I really enjoyed the flick. It's original, it's fun, it doesn't take itself too seriously and it's filmed in Baltimore.
The performances are, for the most part, decent. Granted, this is not a movie that is going to be nominated for any Oscars and there aren't any Oscar performances, but I've seen worse acting in major motion pictures. George Stover (Father O'Grady) and Steven King (Dr. Smithers) were fun to watch. Leanna Chamish (Alyssa) was funner to watch. She's like the Mary Ann of vampires, as in Ginger and Mary Ann. If you don't get that reference, go ask your parents. Back on topic, as a whole the performances were enjoyable.
The story was also pretty good. The pure blood vampires could walk in the daylight and stakes had no effect on them. It was quite a creative solution on how to kill these seemingly indestructible vampires.
As far as the special effects go, I have only one minor complaint. "Stakes" should not have used CGI for blood. While the special effects and gore were pretty good for the most part, the CGI blood is easy to tell it's, well, CGI blood. However, that does not take away from the film, it's just a small pet peeve of mine. Other than the CGI blood, the special effects were better than average considering the budget "Stakes" must have had. Keep your eyes out for one particular scene where a vampire gets staked and turns to dust in midair. In my opinion, it is one of the best special effects in the film.
If you live in the Baltimore area, this is a must buy for the location shots alone. Also, it's fun to hear Joe Ripple's Baltimore accent (hawn) on the commentary. If you don't live in the Baltimore area, buy this movie because it's a good movie and you'll be supporting a small production company. A little cheesy in some parts, but a decent movie nonetheless.
Video and Audio:
Stakes is presented in its OAR of 1:33:1 fullscreen. There is some pixelation in the film, but it does not detract from the experience
The back of the box says 5.1 audio. I am assuming it's Dolby and since my system is not 5.1, I cannot verify. That aside, there were no pops, hisses or distortions. Keep an ear out for the ending credits song, it's pretty good.
- Commentary with Don Dohler and Joe Ripple.
- Behind the Scenes – The Making of Stakes
- Blooper Real (MiStakes, get it?)
- "Stakes" and "Harvesters" Trailers
First, the commentary was terrific, almost as good as the movie. I highly recommend listening to the commentary, it's informative and funny.
The behind the scenes is also worth the watch. Much better than your typical HBO or Cinemax featurette.
The blooper real should be watched at least once and the trailers are, well, trailers.
A strong effort by a small production company.