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The Forsaken (2001)
Road movies annoy me, but I think vampire flicks rock. A hybrid of the two should be like the bastard child of Carrot Top and Nicole Kidman; you don't know which way it could go, but you have an aching suspicion that this one's got its daddy's genes.
Not so with The Forsaken, which rewrites vampire lore (I think director/writer J. S. Cardone should get a special prize for being "rethink #1,000,000"), but steals copiously from other vamp films (most notably John Carpenter's Vampires).
While originality is not the film's strong suit, it does add a few touches not usually seen in horror. There's a little medieval history and vampirism is used as an allegory for AIDS - which, admittedly, isn't the first time this has ever happened. I enjoyed the approach, though, complete with drug cocktails to help fight 'the infection'. The Forsaken also manages to be a great little road movie, complete with conversation, conflict, and a little fun.
Sean (Kerr Smith, Final Destination) is delivering a car from California to Miami when he picks up Nick (Brendan Fehr, "Roswell"), a drifter who is given to ranting like some kind of Tyler Durden Lite. Nick has some kind of connection to the mysterious Kit (Johnathon Schaech, That Thing You Do!), the leader of a black-clothed pack who always seem to be where trouble is. After picking up a sickly pale girl (Izabelle Miko), Nick's secrets are revealed, and Sean is hopelessly drawn into a situation he neither wants or is prepared for.
An enjoyable cast keeps the film interesting. Fehr is great as the mysterious hitch-hiker who always knows more about a situation than seems right. Smith does a very believable transition from average joe to mercenary in the course of an hour and 45 minutes. However, the real stand-out is Schaech, who bristles with understated menace. He seems to be all control until the final sequence, when he really lets loose.
The direction is about as original as the script. It has a solid, creative base, but it's given to taking from other movies when it needs to. Is anybody else getting sick of the hyperactive-quick-cut flashback/dream sequence/hallucination? You know, the one where they hurl sounds and images at your senses for 30 seconds until your will to live (or to maintain a decent attention span) gives way. Cardone uses this particular technique on three different occasions; by the second time, I just wished he'd get on with things.
For those of you out there pumped up with testosterone and the base instinct to leave the toilet seat up, here's some good news: nearly all of The Forsaken's females flash their breasts to the camera at least once. Unnecessary? Perhaps. A distraction from the plot? Big time. Enjoyable? Hell yes.
While The Forsaken is not, say, The Definitive Vampire Flick. Nor is it, the Best Horror Film of 2001 (and the award goes to... The Others). Its just a fun little movie that will probably make all of its money in video, and rightly so. There's nothing overly bombastic about it (other than no less than three major explosions). It's a simpler vampire film, and damned if it isn't hard to dislike.