Directed by: J.S. Cardone
Starring: Kerr Smith, Brendan Fehr, Izabella Miko, Jonathon Scheach
Something old, something new, something borrowed ... and something blood red. Despite claims by writer-director J.S. Cardone and producer Scott Einbinder in press releases about originality, The Forsaken isn't quite the absolutely fresh "re-imagining" of the vampire film it thinks it is. Cardone claims, "There are no fangs, no bullets, no garlic" -- yet the film hardly lacks for bullets. Einbinder espouses the originality of the setting -- "You don't expect to see vampires in the desert" -- conveniently forgetting Kathryrn Bigelow's frankly superior Near Dark, not to mention that nearly existentialist classic of Bad Cinema, Billy the Kid Versus Dracula. There are traces of numerous vampire movies here. The film's climax, for example, owes more than a little to Joel Schumacher's The Lost Boys (surely, there are better things to pilfer than this). The whole rethinking of the origin of the vampire is clever enough, but it comes rather soon after the similarly themed rethinking of the origins of Dracula in Dracula 2000 to seem quite as groundbreaking as it might like. Cardone has, unfortunately, made his elaborate claims of originality in the worst possible genre of choice: Never try to snow horror fans. They tend to be too up on genre history to buy such claims at face value. And there's something just a little demeaning about the claim that you've reinvented a genre, since it implies that everything that went before was somehow wanting. (Cardone's statement, "We don't even think of it as a vampire movie," suggests that there's something inherently wrong with vampire movies -- as if he has a basic distaste for the genre and wants to distance himself from it.) But there are some very good things about The Forsaken and a handful of fresh ideas, most especially the reading of vampirism as a virus (something suggested in Dracula 2000, but explored more thoughtfully here) suggestive of a sexually transmitted disease and the allure of vampirism as a kind of drug addiction. And there's no denying that the movie has quite a few moments of good shocks, even if some of them cheat outrageously. It's not that hard to make an audience jump with a shock cut, a sudden explosion or a burst of hard rock music -- and Cardone likes to combine all three when possible. It works, yes, but it isn't working because of any inherent horror in the material. However, the story line itself has a certain unforced originality in that it presents protagonist Sean (Kerr Smith, Final Destination) -- whose job is editing trailers for crummy horror movies -- who finds himself in a real-life horror story when he picks up a hitchhiker (Brendan Fehr, TV's Roswell) who turns out to be an infected vampire hunter. It's also of more than passing interest that both characters' motivations (once Sean is infected) for destroying the source vampire (Jonathon Schaech, TV's Time of Your Life) are grounded in self-preservation than in any sense of mission to combat evil. This comes with an inherent problem, though, because Cardone then has to backtrack and ultimately make them care for both each other and a girl victim (Izabella Miko, Coyote Ugly) in order to make them appreciably more sympathetic than his villains -- a feat he barely accomplishes within the body of the film and then completely overplays in an epilogue that screams "set up for a sequel." Even with the film's good points, planning a sequel is almost certainly very wishful thinking on his part.