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FORSAKEN, THE: DESERT VAMPIRES

SYNOPSIS:
Horror movie editor Sean (Kerr Smith) is driving cross-country to deliver a vintage Mercedes and attend his sister's wedding when he reluctantly picks up a rough cut hitchhiker, Nick (Brendan Fehr). Nick just happens to be a vampire hunter on the trail of a pack of rather unruly youthful vampires who feed on wary travellers. Nick and Sean run into Megan (Isabella Miko), who has been left for dead by the vampires and infected by their virus. Using her to lure the vampires out of the wastelands, Nick races against time to kill the vampire leader, Kit (Jonathon Schaech), and save all three from becoming undead.

I sort of sympathise with what writer-director J.S. Cardone was trying to do here. With its brief running time, gratitutious nudity and cheesy gore, The Forsaken seems designed for one half of a drive-in double bill. Except that this is the twenty-first century, and drive-ins are a thing of the past - so the film half unwillingly becomes a tongue-in-cheek exercise in nostalgia. Like practically every Hollywood genre filmmaker these days, Cardone feels obliged to wink heavily at his audience, with self-conscious jokes about the hero's job as a film editor (a plot point that never pays off) and a sub-Kevin-Smith monologue about how pop culture has declined since the 60s. Yet Cardone's heart doesn't really seem to be in this kind of posturing: in the film's best sequences (notably the final night-time showdown) he reveals his colours as a more traditional director of action/horror exploitation. Here he's still borrowing from films of the past (From Dusk To Dawn, Near Dark, The Lost Boys, and especially John Carpenter's Vampires) but rather than trying to make hip ironic references he's less pretentiously ripping them off. Cardone has had a lengthy career as a writer-director of straight-to-video features, and you'd think by now he might have learnt the lesson (which Carpenter knows well) that humour is more effective when it isn't telegraphed, and that genre conventions need to be made believable on their own terms. Still, by the abysmal standards of current Hollywood youth horror movies this is an improvement on all those wretched imitations of Scream.
Jake Wilson

How on earth or in hell did this unholy effort make it to the big screen? A video rental on a rainy night to watch in background over pizza and conversation, this bloodthirsty bloodsucker movie just plain sucks. One can only think the rising stars of Dawson's Creek's gay hunk Kerr Smith and Roswell's brooding bad boy Brendan Fehr were enough to test their big screen potential. But with or without them, this still isn't worth the entry fee or the two hours that will disappear from you life. The film is full of screaming dialogue, like "Three days ago I had a fat job at a film company...now I'm going to turn into a vampire!" If only he would do it quietly. The sound effects come in all the wrong places, the photography is unnecessarily flashy, and the medical terminology used to explain these strangely fangless creatures makes The Lost Boys look like a page out of Gray's Anatomy. More amusing is the way these vamps attack their victims. They kill and mutilate bodies with unflinching cruelty, ripping out hearts bare-fisted and chowing down on rather strange parts of their victims' bodies. They are a far cry from the snooty neck-nippers of Interview with the Vampire, or even Hannibal the Cannibal, who can't resist a bit of "free-range rude." I think the most vampiric fun is had with George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino in From Dusk Till Dawn, which, despite taking that severe plot turn in the last act, has killer dialogue and a vicious sense of humour. Either way, get out the garlic and the crosses and send this unholy film back to hell.
Shannon J. Harvey

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

FORSAKEN, THE: DESERT VAMPIRES (MA)
(US)

CAST: Kerr Smith, Brendan Fehr, Izabella Miko, Phina Oruche, Simon Rex

PRODUCERS: Scott Einbinder, Carol Kottenbrook

DIRECTOR: J.S. Cardone

SCRIPT: J.S. Cardone

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Steven Bernstein

EDITOR: Norman Buckley

MUSIC: Tim Jones, Johnny Lee Schell

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Martina Buckley

RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 6, 2001

VIDEO RELEASE: Universal Pictures Video

VIDEO RELEASE: February 6, 2002







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