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Drive a Stake in It

The Forsaken is a pale reflection of the vampire flicks that inspired it

In terms of truth in advertising, the title The Forsakenis only partly accurate: Godforsaken -- as in "godforsaken piece of junk" -- might be more to the point.

Okay, that's a bit overboard. The Forsaken is reasonably well made and all, but it's simply too familiar, too derivative and too inferior to its predecessors to have any reason to exist. See if this rings a bell: Sean (Kerr Smith) is an up-and-coming film editor working for a Troma-like schlock production company in Los Angeles. In order to get to his sister's wedding in Miami, he signs on for one of those driveaway car-delivery deals. Now, whenever I do that, I get a 1987 Buick Century or something. But Sean, being the lead character in a movie that's gonna have chase scenes, gets a perfectly maintained Mercedes convertible. The last thing the guy at the driveaway agency tells him is "And no goddamn hitchhikers!" Of course, not only does Sean pick up a hitchhiker, but he picks up a hitchhiker who is literally "goddamned."

This worthy soul is Nick (Brendan Fehr), who, apparently not a fan of full disclosure, neglects to mention he is a vampire -- a good vampire, who is hunting down Kit (Johnathon Schaech), the primordial source of his line of infection. Apparently, the "forsaken" can be released from their condition only by destroying whichever of the eight original vampires -- according to the film's mythology -- they're "descended" from.

Sean (Kerr Smith, left) and Nick (Brendan Fehr) take viewers with them on their highway to hell. It’s a well-traveled road.
Dale Robinette
Sean (Kerr Smith, left) and Nick (Brendan Fehr) take viewers with them on their highway to hell. It’s a well-traveled road.

Writer-director J.S. Cardone, like many before him, dresses this up in medical terms: Vampirism is a disease transmitted by the blood, and the virus is somehow telepathically linked to its source. (The best and scariest "scientific" scheme for vampirism is the one put forth by Whitley Strieber in The Hunger, but that was a long time ago.)

Nick and Sean drag along with them the alternately comatose and delirious Megan (Izabella Miko), who was recently bitten by one of Kit's minions and who manages to get third billing, even though her condition renders her mute until the final scenes. Mostly she lolls about looking Kewpie-doll cute and occasionally takes her clothes off. Rufffff!

On a visceral level, The Forsaken is effective at times, with one or two genuinely exciting chase scenes. But its plot is stupidly constructed. Essentially, whenever he needs to goose things up, Cardone comes up with another wrinkle in his mythology. For example, in their second encounter with the bad guys, Sean and Nick kill one vampire but leave the rest. Why? Because (as is explained shortly thereafter) Kit must be killed on "sacred ground."

Other plot developments are simply coincidental or poorly explained. Early on, with no setup, Sean mysteriously loses his wallet. This may be necessary to explain why this straitlaced type would decide to break the rules and pick up a hitchhiker -- Nick offers to pay for the gasoline -- but it seems out of nowhere. As does the coincidental scene later, when a major character hands his wallet back to him, with a simple "Oh, I found this by the side of the road." On an empty, endless interstate? In the middle of some Arizona wasteland?

But the biggest problem here is The Forsaken's sheer lack of a reason to be. Cardone seems to have combined concepts from two different '80s films -- Robert Harmon's The Hitcher and, more heavily, Kathryn Bigelow's Near Dark -- both of which were written by Eric Red and both of which were far more intriguing and terrifying than this new run-through of old elements. Those films weren't wholly original either, but at least they added some new elements to the mix. Cardone brings nothing fresh to this painfully familiar genre.

 
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