Editor’s Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on April 27, 2001, and we’re proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.


Perhaps if I hadn’t already seen Near Dark, and The Lost Boys, and From Dusk Till Dawn, and John Carpenter’s Vampires, and The Hitcher, I might have been a little more impressed by The Forsaken, which appropriates bits and pieces from all those movies and ends up being less than the sum of their parts. It contains a lot of blood and a lot of flesh, and has a sharp, slick look, but for those after more than cheap thrills, it’s an unrewarding experience because (once again) the characters have no meat on them.

It’s not an absolute requirement, of course, for a vampire thriller to have deeply complex heroes; let’s face it, Dark’s Adrian Pasdar and Boys’ Jason Patric weren’t the most compelling people. What’s especially disappointing about The Forsaken is how uninteresting the vampires are. They’re led by Kit (Johnathon Schaech), whose name serves as an undoubtedly unintended ironic comment on him, since he’s been assembled from the characteristics of past movie villains: dark clothes, model looks, ironic/sarcastic attitude and generic bad-guy dialogue. Nick (Brendan Fehr), one of the movie’s heroes, explains to Sean (Kerr Smith), who has picked Nick up hitchhiking, that Kit was once a knight in the Crusades, one of eight who made a deal with the devil and became cursed to drink blood and live in darkness forever. But absolutely nothing about Kit, as either written or played, suggests a man who has prowled the Earth for centuries.

Nick has been bitten by Kit, and further tells Sean that vampirism is like a virus that can be staved off with drugs, as he is doing. The rules that writer/director J.S. Cardone sets up become increasingly hard to believe and convenient as the movie goes along, particularly where the “telegenetic” link between bloodsuckers and victims is concerned. Meanwhile, as Kit and co. pursue their prey through the desert, Cardone sprinkles the chase with bloody attacks on anonymous victims and the kind of hyper-edited, whiplash-camera montages that are supposed to represent the characters’ tortured states of mind, but come off as youth-market pandering.

There’s also, in an apparent throwback to the rougher exploitation films of the ’70s and ’80s, abundant nudity that’s gratuitous instead of alluring, since the women in the movie serve as nothing more than props. At least the actresses in those older films got to speak once in a while; as Kit’s followers, the stunning Phina Oruche barely gets to make an impression, while Alexis Thorpe is given very little to say. But the worst is saved for Izabella Miko, as an infected girl Sean and Nick pick up and use as “bait” for Kit. When she’s not being stripped down by Nick (looking for vampire bites, don’tcha know), she’s lolling in a drugged stupor or having “telegenetic” freakouts; in the most unforgivable scene, Nick deals with one such outburst by punching her unconscious, a gesture the film presents as heroic and that some in the preview audience evidently saw as comic.

To be fair, The Forsaken’s first half hour does build some good atmosphere before it becomes clear there’s going to be no plot to support it, the actors who are actually allowed to act (i.e., Smith and Fehr) are pretty good and the overall film, derivative as it is, is at least not as thuddingly banal as something like Valentine. But nor does it contribute anything fresh or exciting to the genre, a disappointment considering how long Cardone has been at this game. Sitting in a theater in 1982, watching his low-budget debut The Slayer, I could hardly have suspected that two decades later I’d be taking in his first nationally released studio shocker—but nor would I have thought that, MTV flash aside, there would be so little advancement in his craft.

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