The open spaces of Mid and South-Western America have long been the setting for sundry deeds of cinematic violence. Think Badlands, think Natural Born Killers, even think Sergio Leone's spaghetti recreations of America's violent past. Kathryn Bigelow threw vampires into the mix with horror road movie Near Dark. Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, then John Carpenter, subsequently toyed with similar elements in From Dust Till Dawn and Vampires.
Writer/director JS Cardone picks up the vampire-road-movie-Western with The Forsaken, but adds a teen twist with the casting of Dawson's Creek regular Smith as the preppy innocent who finds himself in the middle of the war with the forces of evil, and Roswell star Fehr as the hunter. But Buffy this ain't. Similarly to From Dusk Till Dawn and Vampires, The Forsaken provides a lot of its "thrills" with that popular exploitation combo of nubile flesh (mostly that of Miko, who gets very few actual lines but plenty of chances to disrobe) and energetic blood-letting.
The Forsaken uses some interesting ideas to sidestep traditional vampire mythology. Vampirism is considered a viral infection and Kit is no suave, seductive Count Dracula - he's a vain, brutal predator who's raped and slaughtered for several centuries. (The vampire origin story comes in a wordy piece of exposition from Sean - eight 11th century French Crusaders, defeated by the rampant Turks, gave their souls to a demon from hell to survive, unwittingly becoming bloodsuckers in the bargain).
Cardone's ideas aren't anything new - variations appear in numerous modern vampire films, from Near Dark to Blade - but they make for fitfully effective horror. Desert roads in the dead of night, rocky canyons and roachy motels are perfect locations for creating an atmosphere of desperation and isolation, and Nick and Sean are indeed desperate: both are infected and have nobody else to turn to for help. However, their desperation is also a stumbling block, the film disintegrating into a lot of driving, running around and shouting, interspersed with cold, mechanical bursts of tits 'n' gore.
Despite teen TV hunks Kerr and Fehr, some stylish vampire trappings and atmospheric desert settings, The Forsaken becomes something of a daft, protracted chase. Its teeth aren't half so sharp as writer-director JS Cardone would have us believe.
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