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'The Forsaken': A Throatful of Vampires, Defanged

by Stephne Holden ("New York Times," April 28, 2001)

Some vampires apparently have better table manners than others. Compared with the elegant time travelers of "Interview With the Vampire," who siphon eternal life from pretty necks with the snooty discrimination of oenophiles, the bloodsuckers who terrorize the Southwestern badlands in "The Forsaken" are slurping beasts who bury their faces in their victims' mutilated bodies. The difference between these two styles of noshing might be described as the difference between a black-tie banquet and a roadside beer blast of bikers on acid.

On its own extremely gory terms, "The Forsaken" is a reasonably smart generic hybrid. Although technically a vampire movie, some of the genre's standard accouterments, including vampiric fangs, are missing. With its murky midnight palette, and repeated images of terror exploding out of the darkness, the film, written and directed by J. S. Cardone, belongs more to the lone-traveler-menaced-by-evil-forces tradition of "Psycho" and its progeny.

Here, that lone traveler, Sean (Kerr Smith of "Dawson's Creek") is driving a borrowed car from Los Angeles to Miami to attend his sister's wedding. Against his better judgment, he picks up a seemingly innocent hitchhiker named Nick (Brendan Fehr), who insists that they help Megan (Izabella Miko), a wildly disoriented young woman they notice at a bus stop.

Nick and Megan turn out to have a fateful connection that Nick has kept from Sean. Both are infected with a virulent blood disease that will turn them into vampires if they don't kill the host organism. Nick has made his life's quest the hunting down and killing of the host organism, who is 900 years old. After Megan accidentally bites Sean in the middle of a screaming fit, he too becomes infected. Led by the ashen-faced but satanically handsome Kit (Johnathon Schaech), the vampires are well aware that Nick is on a mission to eliminate them. When the movie pauses to catch its breath, it also compares Kit and his leering friends to the Manson family.

Had it exhibited a modicum of restraint, "The Forsaken" could have been twice as scary. But like most movies of its ilk, it trots out its full arsenal of shock tactics far too early in the game and squanders the suspense it has accumulated. There's nothing left to do but jack up the noise level, speed up the car chases, double the size of the fireballs that consume most of the movie's dilapidated real estate and pour the extra buckets of gore. Ho hum.


Written and directed by J. S. Cardone; director of photography, Steven Bernstein; edited by Norman Buckley; music by Johnny Lee Schell and Tim Jones; production designer, Martina Buckley; produced by Carol Kottenbrook and Scott Einbinder; released by Screen Gems. Running time: 90 minutes. This film is rated R.

WITH: Kerr Smith (Sean), Brendan Fehr (Nick), Izabella Miko (Megan), PhinaOruche (Cym), Simon Rex (Pen), Carrie Snodgress (Ina Hamm) and Johnathon Schaech (Kit).

"The Forsaken" is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It is extremely gory and includes profanity, nudity and sexual situations.

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