by Del Harvey
A good start, but the next one should be better…
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This film owes quite a bit to John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998). The concept of vampirism being a disease is not new, and the most recent film to use that premise well was Carpenter’s. Not that The Forsaken doesn’t have its good moments; it’s just that the directors held back when they should have gone for the throat!
One of our heroes, Nick (Brendan Fehr), tells the other, Sean (Kerr Smith), the legend of The Forsaken:
At the time of the first great religious Crusade in the eleventh century, there was a horrifying siege at Antioch. During the first day of battle, the Turks slaughtered two hundred French Knights in a merciless bloodbath. By nightfall, snow had begun to fall and only nine men survived, doomed to perish if left exposed to the elements.
In the dead of night Abaddon, the angel of hell, appeared in their midst. According to Medieval legend, Abaddon visited battle sites in his suit of impenetrable black armor, looking for weak souls to steal and return to Hell with him. Abaddon made the nine knights an offer for eternal life. Eight of the men accepted and sealed the pact by murdering the dissenting knight and drinking his blood. But when morning came and the sun rose in the heavens, they felt a terrible shame and ran from each other’s sight, hiding in caves until night had fallen. From then on they were doomed to roam the earth alone, after dark, plagued by an unquenchable thirst for blood. In claiming their victims, their curse spread like a plague to everyone they bled. They became known as The Forsaken.
The first of the original eight cursed knights was hunted down and killed during the Spanish Inquisition, but not before he told his terrible story to the grand inquisitor, Don Fernando de Guevera. Over the past five hundred years three other forsaken knights have been dispatched, the most recent in Paris in 1967. But four of them remain. Two are said to be in Africa or Eastern Europe. The other two roam the deserted highways of the United States, claiming new victims daily. The only way for the newly infected to cure themselves is by killing their host before they turn—by beheading or exposure to sunlight, and then only when the creatures are on sacred grounds.
Okay, now that you know that, think about this: this little tidbit of backstory is delivered in a less than five minute conversation in a coffee shop. At which point Nick lets Sean know that he’s a vampire hunter. They have hooked up during a road trip, bump into the vampires, and try to save a young woman (Megan, played by the beautiful Izabella Miko—Coyote Ugly) who’s sick because she was bitten by the head vampire. The rest of the story is pretty standard fare for vampire films. Director J.S. Cardone barrows heavily from a number of films throughout, including John Carpenter’s Vampires, Lifeforce, Night Of The Living Dead, and The Lost Boys.
The film’s not really bad, it’s just so blatantly obvious in its borrowing. Which is too bad, because there is such great potential, such as the backstory about the Knights. There is such an apparent tendency to become as outrageous as comic books turned films The Matrix and Spawn. It’s just too bad the film wasn’t taken more into this direction. And I don’t want to give anything away here, but they did a very fine job of building up to a sequel.
J.S. Cardone delivers workmanlike direction. The camera work was appropriate and effective. The production suited the subject matter and was competently executed. The music leaned heavily upon a metal soundtrack, which I can only guess was intended leave a subconscious impression of Satanism.
Adn that decision, like so many others, helps illustrates one of the major flaws in this film. When it should have been edgy and eclectic, The Forsaken remained hackneyed and predictably true to its Eighties sense of horror. By contrast, vampire films which embraced a sense of self-parody (After Dark, John Carpenter’s Vampires, From Dusk ‘Til Dawn) were successful in execution and at the box office. Perhaps The Forsaken should have laughed at itself a bit more.
Kerr Smith (Hit And Runway) and Brendan Fehr (Final Destination, Tv’s Roswell) as young heroes Sean and Nick are a good pair and should be carried through into the sequel. Izabella Miko (Coyote Ugly) as Megan is a mysterious enough character to provide plenty of mischief in the sequel, too. Johnathon Schaech (That Thing You Do, The Doom Generation) makes a ho-hum lead vampire, named Kit, of all things. The rest of the cast is fine, but nothing worth mention here. The exception is Carrie Snodgrass (The Diary Of A Mad Housewife), who has all of fifteen minutes in the film as a spinster living on her own out in the desert, and she does so much with so little to work with.
The Forsaken is probably best left to video rental. It’s not bad, but it’s only the promise of greater things to come. And the sequel, if written well and directed properly, should be a very good vampire film. As long as they remember this simply truth known by any good bloodsucker: Go for the throat!
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly. He lives in Chicago and is a veteran of the Walt Disney Company, Lucasfilm, and the Directors Guild of America.
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