Sean is a bright young man working in an unsatisfying job in L. A., and he has no money to attend his sister’s Florida wedding. But there is a precious car that needs transferring from L. A. to the east coast, and this provides Sean with the opportunity to get to Florida and with some cash in hand. But you know what they say about best-laid plans… On his journey through the Southwest, Sean meets with some ill luck as well as some dodgy strangers.
Produced in the wake of the trend that had previously also brought us John Carpenter’s Vampires and the From Dusk Till Dawn cash-grab sequel Texas Blood Money, The Forsaken taps into that same Southwestern Gothic vibe. It has, however, much less of a “modern Western” tone to it, and more of a horror-road-trip feel. You know: that redneck-horror/teen-slasher sub-genre where a bunch of teenagers are driving their car on a deserted road only to find themselves hunted and terrorised by some lorry, jeep, or pick-up-truck, etc. The film also has some sexploitation elements, including a not-so-subtle rape allegory.
As is usual with Southwestern Gothic, there is a fair share of gore. I believe that some filmmakers use gore as a substitute for a genuine Gothic vibe. And as such a Gothic vibe is something that the Southwest with its landscape, sunshine, and blue skies would be hard-pressed to provide, that might be the motive for the gore here.
Speaking of the Southwest: the film offers some beautiful, well-shot landscapes, as well as some nicely chosen locations (motels, etc.) that add to the local “nowhere-place” vibe.
Since most of the “fights” in this film are car-vs.-car, there is only one real fight scene, which is pretty good for this kind of film. The special effects, however, namely the “dusting” of vampires by sunlight, are not good at all.
Considering this is a genre B-movie, the film is pretty much by-the-numbers. We get introduced to our lead character in an efficient and competent manner, and all the troubles and baddies and the mystery-plot are introduced at pretty much the right time in pretty much the right way. In other words, pacing and story-development are OK. While there is little in this film that gets you excited, there is no “lull” either.
As for the arc of suspense, or lack thereof: the film clearly states what is at stake, but I never really felt it. There would have been ways to write the story in a manner that would allow us to feel these stakes, but plot-wise the film opted for a bare-bones approach.
The villains are also “bare-bones”: there is absolutely no insight into the minds or motivations of the vampires. We get a bit of historical perspective, a bit of lore, but nothing personal, nothing that would make them 3-dimensional characters. What we get from writer/director J. S. Cardone, is a “type”: these vampires seem to think of themselves as the “cool outsiders”. They have rock star looks, attitudes and (to a certain extent) lifestyle. They look and behave like rock stars on drugs and have an anarchist/nihilist vibe to them. They truly are “the Forsaken” (as vampires are called in the world of this film), and I believe that this name as well as certain stylistic elements are an homage to the vampires of The Lost Boys.
The nihilism in this film, however, extends beyond the vampires and affects the human protagonists as well. Those protagonists fare a bit better than the vampires, scriptwise: while the vampires remain 2-dimensional, the central human characters are quite nicely sketched. Ultimately, however, there is not much to them. And the girl that features prominently on the DVD cover is merely being dragged along and barely plays any role as an independent character. She is hardly more than an object, a MacGuffin.
The acting in this film is generally quite good, but I am not happy with the performance of Izabella Miko. Not that her role was written in a way that would have allowed any actress to shine in it. Kerr Smith and Brendan Fehr deliver good performances, although Fehr is clearly struggling to make much out of his pretty one-note, exposition-sputtering character. Jonathon Schaech does exactly what he is meant to do in this film: look good and add to the vibe. I do not think that there is any actual acting required in this role.
As for the supporting roles, the late Carrie Snodgress does an excellent job in this film, but I believe that her character is written inconsistently. There are also minor appearances by well-known actors like Marc Vann and Jamie Marsh.
As a B-movie, The Forsaken is a passable film – and mercifully short at that (87 minutes). It is slightly better than Texas Blood Money, but not as good as the Carpenter franchise. 5 out of 10 would be a fair rating. But let’s state this clearly: although this is not a really bad film, there is absolutely no reason to see this. If your time is precious, use it for seeing a worthier film. If you do not see The Forsaken, you are not missing anything.