2001, R, 93 min. Directed by J.S. Cardone. Starring Kerr Smith, Brendan Fehr, Izabella Miko, Johnathon Schaech, Phina Oruche, Matt Reid, A.J. Buckley, Simon Rex, Alexis Thorpe, Carrie Snodgress.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., May 4, 2001
It had to happen, I suppose. Given that by this point every other tired vampire cliché has already been trotted out and reimagined for a new generation of bloodsucker fans, The Forsaken breaks what may very well be the last iron-clad rule of the genre and gives us vampires without fangs. Granted, George A. Romero's Martin trod similar ground, albeit from a somewhat more cerebral perspective, way back in 1978, but even that film's John Amplas was considerably more threatening than the WB brat pack assembled here. Cardone, a veteran of straight-to-Blockbuster and Showtime fare, has finally managed to get some of his work a theatrical release, presumably with the marquee power of teen name-brands Smith (Dawson's Creek) and Fehr (Roswell). Apart from the fang-restraint of the nosferatu, however, there's precious little that's altogether new or for that matter shocking about this by-the-numbers thriller, which borrows liberally from Kathryn Bigelow's classic Near Dark and Robert Harmon's The Hitcher. Smith plays aspiring Los Angelean filmmaker Sean who sets out to deliver a drive-away Mercedes coupe to a woman in Florida with plans on dropping in on his sister's wedding once he's arrived. While on route, however, he somehow manages to lose his wallet, prompting him to ignore that cardinal rule of traveling through the desert Southwest: Never, ever, pick up a hitchhiker with wild eyes and an above-average fashion sense. The vagabond in question is Nick (Fehr), a vampire who is in turn tracking another band of bloodsuckers led by That Thing You Do!'s Schaech. Poorly shot, unexciting car chases abound, as does a seemingly endless parade of explosions and fire gags (of all the performers in the film, the stuntmen surely had the most unforgiving job of all), and by the time Izabella Miko turns up as a semi-comatose and about-to-turn-vampire victim who Sean and Nick take under their wing, it's all you can do not to put a stake through the heart of the screenwriter (Cardone again, by the way). The Forsaken is slick, I'll give it that, but the vast majority of the night-shot scenes are underlit, with a wild and skittish camera style that simply renders the occasional battle confusing instead of exciting. What's most annoying about the film -- and admittedly this may be more a quibble among genre fans than for your average moviegoer -- is Cardone's downright zany “revelations” about the true nature of the vampire mythos. Like the recent Dracula 2000, The Forsaken supplies its own twist, and also like that other film it comes as less of a surprise than a bewilderment. I'll refrain from spelling it out, though I'll note that the Crusades have something to do with it and it handily doubles as an AIDS metaphor. Who'da thunk it? It's been quite a while now since a genuinely arresting horror film has arrived that tackles the hoary tropes of vampirism in an original fashion. The time may finally be ripe to leave the bloodsuckers to their coffins and move on to less familiar terrors.