Stake Land appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Not an eye-popping presentation, the transfer served the material well.
Sharpness looked good. A smidgen of softness hit some wider shots, but those instances remained quite insubstantial, so the majority of the flick showed fine clarity and accuracy. Jaggies and shimmering failed to distract, and edge haloes remained absent. The movie also lacked any source flaws and was consistently clean.
In terms of colors, Stake Land went with subdued tones. Parts of the movie featured a yellow tint, but much of it was simply grayish or desaturated. The hues never stood out as memorable, but they weren’t supposed to be impressive, so they were fine for this story’s stripped palette. Blacks were pretty deep, and shadows were generally fine. I thought they could be slightly heavy, at times, but not to a problematic degree. The image narrowly missed “A”-level consideration; it offered a solid “B+” presentation.
Given the low-key storytelling on display, I thought the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack proved to be pretty peppy. Unsurprisingly, the smattering of action scenes fared the best. These used the five channels in a satisfying way; creatures moved around the room, and other elements like vehicles, helicopters, and gunfire created a nice sense of place. General atmosphere was also satisfying, and the score emanated from all five speakers in an involving manner.
In addition, audio quality satisfied. Dialogue was natural and distinctive, without edginess or other issues. Music sounded lively and full, while effects provided good clarity. Those elements seemed accurate and boasted nice vivacity. This became a surprisingly positive presentation.
For a low-budget little-known flick, Stake Land’s Blu-ray comes with lots of extras. We find two separate audio commentaries, the first of which involves writer/director Jim Mickle, writer/actor Nick Damici, actor Connor Paolo, producer/actor Larry Fessenden and producer Brent Kunkle. All of them sit together for a running, screen-specific look at the project’s origins and development, story/character topics, cast and performances, sets and locations, stunts and effects, and thoughts about the shoot.
This commentary delivers a nice overview of the production. It touches on a good variety of topics and does so with a mix of humor and information. We learn quite a bit about the flick and enjoy ourselves along the way.
For the second commentary, we find writer/director Jim Mickle, producers Peter Phok and Adam Folk, director of photography Ryan Samul, sound designer Graham Reznick and composer Jeff Grace. They all sit together for a running, screen-specific chat about cinematography and the use of digital cameras, music and audio, sets and locations, effects, makeup and stunts, editing, and a few other production areas.
This track was recorded prior to the one I already discussed, and in retrospect, I wish I’d listened to it first. Perhaps if I’d screened it before the other track, I might’ve been less disappointed.
On one hand, I’m happy this piece lacks much redundancy; Mickle seems to consciously avoid repetition in the other track, so we don’t have to worry that we’ll hear the same thing twice. However, we also don’t really learn all that much from this piece. The participants joke around a fair amount and just fail to tell us a ton of useful material. We learn some decent nuts and bolts but the track fails to become especially engaging.
Next comes a documentary called Going for the Throat: The Making of Stake Land. It lasts one hour, one minute and 55 seconds as it provides ample footage from the shoot. For the program’s first half, we don’t find a single soundbite from any of the participants, as “Throat” concentrates on straight shots from the set.
Eventually we do get remarks from Mickle, Fessenden, Paolo, and Damici. They throw out some production basics and not much else, so don’t expect to learn a lot. The behind the scenes material remains the star of the show, and that side of things works well. It’d be nice to have a bit more context to set up the shots, but I always like this kind of material, and the piece presents it well enough to be worth a look.
Five Production Video Diaries fill a total of 48 minutes, 58 seconds. In these, we get a mix of elements. We see the film’s first video pitch, various tests, teasers, auditions, training, rehearsals, storyboards, effects progressions, music and sound design, the Toronto Film Festival premiere and post-screening Q&A.
All of these add a lot of good material. We find a solid array of behind the scenes footage and other components that give us nice insights into the processes. Even the Q&A generally avoids redundant material, so expect a positive compilation of pieces in the “Diaries”.
Seven Character Prequels occupy a total of 34 minutes, 25 seconds. Across these, we get glimpses of the film’s participants in the period that led up to the movie’s events. These are a fun way to learn a little more about the characters; even though they exist as promotion, they’re still cool to see.
The disc launches with ads for Wake Wood, Machete Maidens, and Norwegian Ninja. We also get the movie’s trailer.
Though closer to zombie flick than vampire movie, Stake Land offers a satisfying experience. It provides a surprisingly sedate, thoughtful enterprise, and its unusual tone helps make it more interesting. The Blu-ray delivers very good picture and audio along with a surprisingly solid set of supplements. I feel pleased with this movie and this Blu-ray.