A Stake Through the Heart

Written by Spencer Winans on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts.

Stake Land, a new
independent film from Glass Eye Pix about feral vampires, is the latest collaboration between
director Jim Mickle and writer-actor Nick Damici. The story takes place along
the East Coast, as the narrator, played by Gossip Girl’s Connor Paolo,
and his mentor-slash-guide—a renegade vamp slayer, played by Damici—trek north
in an effort to survive the apocalypse in the “Land of Eden,” aka Canada. Stake
opens at the IFC Center April 22 and goes to video on demand soon
after. We sat down with Damici to talk about his favorite horror movies, the
state of kickboxing and the allure of baby’s blood.

NYPress: I have to say, in the very
beginning, when the vampire is up in the rafters and sucks the baby’s blood and
then drops the body down onto the floor… That opening scene prepared me for a
gruesome film. Did you write that scene?

Nick Damici: Oh yeah. And if it were up
to me, I would have shown even more detail. But you can only do so much on a
small budget.

In what capacities were you and Jim Mickle
writing the script for Stake Land?

Well it was a back-and-forth process. I wrote
the story and then I gave it to Jim, and he would basically read and edit what
I wrote. Jim was more of an editor throughout the process. We went back and
forth many times like that.

When did you and Jim Mickle begin

Jim and I met on the set of a student film when
he was a student at NYU. We were at this really creepy old house up there in
Connecticut. I mean this house, alone, was a horror story. I guess it kind of
set the tone for our relationship [laughs].
So we got to talking and formed a friendship. From there on out we continued
working together. Then we did Mulberry Street together. Jim Mickle has
been great to collaborate with. He’s a true talent.

Stake Land looks to have had a significantly larger budget compared to that of
Mulberry Street’s.

Oh, it wasn’t very much at all, but it was
about 10 times more than Mulberry Street. We shot Mulberry Street
right there in my apartment, between Mott and Mulberry. We literally had no
budget. I’m still peeling of production tape from the ceiling. [Laughs] I still have lighting poles up
on the shelf in my closet. A little advice: Don’t offer your apartment as a
place to shoot a movie. [Laughs]

So why horror?

Well, I’m not confining myself to horror. But,
I definitely have the most fun with the horror genre.

Do you have a favorite horror movie or book?

I have to say—and this is not really considered
a horror movie, per se—but the old King
? My god, that movie is a masterpiece. It’s always been a great
inspiration for me. That’s what going to the movies is all about.

As for books, I mean you’ve got Stephen King of
course. And Richard Matheson was clearly a huge inspiration for Stake Land.
His work is brilliant.

The old, abandoned factory and warehouse spaces
where you filmed were really something else. Stake Land has some great
shots of you guys rummaging around the wreckage. How did you find those places?

Brent Knuckle, he’s our location guy. I have no
idea how he did it. He found all those places, mostly in upstate New York,
where we shot the winter scenes. We shot the summer scenes in Pennsylvania,
around Pottstown.

I heard you did some camping during the film.

Oh yeah. I camped out in Pennsylvania for about
three weeks. I consider myself a bit of a woodsman.

But yeah, all those abandoned places have been torn
down. It’s like our movie rolled through all those places and they just came in
and demolished it all after we finished shooting. Those places are all gone

We hear you’re into mixed martial arts.

Well, yeah. Yoga, boxing, martial arts.

What do you think about the ban on kickboxing
in New York?

I don’t think politicians really know the
physics behind these types of sports. The real power behind a punch comes from
the legs. In many ways boxing is just as dangerous, if not more. When you see
these guys on top of one another pummeling each other in the face, they’re not
really getting behind it like a boxer can. There’s only so much damage an
ultimate fighter can inflict with an elbow or fist when straddling his
opponent. I don’t know why New York has kept it illegal.

So—we have to ask—are you still dating the
owner of Tom and Jerry’s?

Yes. We’re still dating. We’re going on about
17, 18 years now. I remember when [New
York Press
was] located down there, by Tom and Jerry’s; you used to come
down a lot. Yeah, 17 years ago, I was a barback there.

You’ve had a successful acting career. Why do
indie films now, at this point in your career?

I’ll tell you. I’m tired of playing the same
character: cops, FBI agents, police enforcement types. I want to branch into
different roles. And I’m having a lot of fun writing and working with Jim.