Profile: Jim Mickle, director of vampire horror Stake Land
Director turnes hometown into a post-apocalyptic wasteland
Name Jim Mickle
Born Pottstown, Pennsylvania, 1977
Background After graduating from New York University’s filmmaking programme, Mickle worked in the camera department for features Transamerica, Shortbus and Pride and Glory. The experience gave him the platform to make his own feature, low budget horror Mulberry Street. He then returned to his hometown of Pottstown for vampire thriller Stake Land, which he co-wrote with actor Nick Damici, who also plays the enigmatic character of Mister.
On making a vampire movie post Twilight ‘I wanted to make a different kind of vampire movie to the ones I’d seen, not like Twilight at all. I was thinking more of Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven or the struggles of the characters in John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath. I wanted a dustbowl depression look, not some futuristic, apocalyptic look, but more little kids running around in potato sacks. I wanted to think outside of the box in terms of horror, and to focus more tightly on the characters for a traditional coming of age story.’
On critics who read a political meaning into his film ‘People have seen the film as a critique of capitalism, greed or extremism, and I’d agree that it’s meant to be a cautionary tale. And I think that there’s a different kind of religious element to it, dealing with fanaticism. But people are welcome to take their own meaning from it; I saw it more as a classic western, with a universal theme.’
On turning his hometown into a post-apocalyptic wasteland ‘It was surprisingly easy! Part of it was pretty much in my old back yard, where I knew we could get the right kind of cornfields and pounds. And the demolished buildings we used were ones I knew from growing up, so the art department didn’t always have to do much to dress up the buildings. But if you’re trying to location scout for closed gas stations, it’s not hard to do, as there’s plenty around these days.’
What’s next? Mickle is re-teaming with Damici for Cold in July, a violent drama set in 1980’s West Texas. ‘There’ll be no monsters this time around,’ says Mickle.
Stake Land is on selected release from Fri 17 Jun.