James Knows…DVDs: Stakes (2002)
Through the wonders of the Internet, I sort of met writer / actor / director, Joe Ripple. I met him as much as anyone can meet anyone else on the Internet and not in person without having cyber sex with him (not that I didn’t offer). Ripple has done several low budget horror movies over the past few years and he even has an IMDB page. I heard some jokes about his movies from the now defunct DVDSpot forums and the currently operational Bullet Point Review forums. These were all mostly about the quality of his films. I couldn’t say much of anything though because I haven’t seen any. Now I have.
My first entry into the work of Joe Ripple was Stakes, a 2002 film featuring vampires from a parallel dimension. These pasty bloodsuckers come through to our world and start creating a vampire army since they ran out of people to turn into vampires in their own. It’s up to a crack detective and a band of humans from this other dimension to stop them. Oh, and some little kid gets kidnapped for some reason. Sounds like an OK set up, right? It is actually. Stakes, which is co-written by Ripple, is a fairly interesting take on the vampire genre. Instead of going into the origins of the vampires, they come from a parallel Earth, similar to the recently released Marvel Zombies comic. Also, the weaknesses of the vampires are tweaked slightly as are the ways that they can be killed. The most interesting of which is a stake made of frozen holy water. I’m actually surprised that no one has thought of that sooner as it seems like a total no brainer when fighting vampires.
What hurts Stakes though is just about everything else. The CGI used throughout the film for such things as the dimensional portal and scary vampire eyes is pretty bad. Granted, the film was made with a low budget (although I don’t know how low), but seeing the bad CGI took me out of the story right away because it just looked very out of place. The acting is also a little rough, but again when you’re dealing with the low budget, what else can you ask for? There are a couple of decent performances, but you can tell that the actors aren’t all that professional. But, for filming on weekends when they’re not working their day jobs, it’s not bad.
For me, the real treat of the DVD came in the special features. There’s a behind-the-scenes featurette that’s about 20 minutes long included on the disc. This goes through a variety of interviews and other info related to the shoot of the film that’s pretty cool from an independent film standpoint. There’s a blooper reel which is OK too. There’s also a commentary from Ripple and producer Don Dohler which I was only able to watch the first third of. What I did watch though was pretty good, also from an independent film standpoint. Since I’m interested in creating my own film(s) in the future, the advice and information provided within the commentary (at least from what I was able to watch) was very useful.
At the end of the day, Stakes is what it is. It’s a low budget horror film with some halfway decent acting and a somewhat interesting story. There are a few mistakes (Vampire thug Dragus seems to grow a goatee throughout the film) and the characters can be a little flaky (the last surviving humans in this parallel dimension appear to be a secretary, a priest and the guy that cleans the beakers in chem lab), but I believe that it has a place somewhere. I’m not a huge Horror fan and to be honest, I would have never checked out Stakes if I didn’t come into contact with the director. That being said, it’s a fun movie and if you’re a fan of low budget horror or those cheesy Sci-Fi original movies, then you’ll eat up Stakes.