Monday, June 29, 2009

The Forsaken: Desert Vampires – review

dvdDirected by: J S Cardone

First released: 2001

Contains spoilers

This is yet another movie, which has languished within my collection un-reviewed for quite some time. Not because of the quality of the film but just because I hadn’t got around to it.

I was once told that this film was, allegedly, a remake of Near Dark. If that were the case then it failed, however I have found no evidence suggesting that it was a remake of that excellent piece of vampire movie history and so we shall henceforth ignore that and move on. Not that this is particularly original as a movie, in its own right, but it isn't Near Dark and does manage to hang together well enough in its own right.

a gratuitous excuse for a quick bloody boob shot?We begin with a girl, Megan (Izabella Miko), in a shower and covered in blood. Perhaps it was just a gratuitous excuse for a quick bloody boob shot but the scene was peppered with flashes of violence and blood, of knives and guns and defilement. This is important as much as we get quite a few moments of flashes – due to the telepathy shared by the vampires in this.

Sean (Kerr Smith) wants to go to Miami, for his sisters wedding. To get there he manages to get the job of delivering a $50k Mercedes. His trip seems okay until, having just had a boob flash by a girl in another car, he gets a blowout. At a garage he is told that the rim will need bashing out and it’ll take a day to get a tire. His wallet has vanished – but he has money in an envelope for a wedding present. He gets a motel and, following a strange dream, notices a car outside and strange noises, almost animalistic, from the room next door.

Nick and SeanIn the morning he picks up his car (the motel room next to his seems to be attracting flies and there are smears of red on the drapes, he doesn’t notice that but does notice that the car has gone). A hitcher, Nick (Brendan Fehr), asks for a ride. Sean refuses (it’s a stipulation of his delivery contract) until Nick offers to pay for gas up to his destination. A brief misadventure occurs with local law enforcement but nothing too serious, however it is clear that Nick sees himself as a disenfranchised member of generation X.

Cym and KitThey stop at a rest stop and, when they get out of the bathroom area, there is a group of people around the car – and they are clearly our vampires. Now the film doesn’t make all the names clear but they are Kit (Jonathon Schaech), Cym (Phina Oruche), Teddy (Alexis Thorpe) and the daylight servant Pen (Simon Rex). They need a jump start, which Sean gives. He asks them if they were at the motel but they deny it. As they guys drive away Cym states that Nick is a hunter, Kit knows this.

They go to a bar to eat and Nick has a very rare steak. He goes to the bathroom and Sean spots a girl looking nervous – Megan – one minute she is there, the next she has vanished. When they get outside she is clearly worse for wear and trying to get a bus with no ticket. A waitress comes out as she has not paid for her coffee. Nick pays for the coffee and tells Sean to get the car. Reluctantly Sean goes along with things. They get a motel room and Nick says she is infected – he’ll explain but he needs ice. He strips her, finds the bite (just below the panty line) and places her in a bath. He sends Sean foreven more ice.

a telegenetic reactionOut in the desert some youths are having beers and firing a gun, generally doing the things that youth do in this sort of flick. The vampires appear and ask for a beer. There is an altercation that leads to Kit punching through the torso of one of them and removing his heart. Back at the motel Megan reacts, as the violence begins, even bleeding from the nose. She starts to scream and Sean has to put his hand over her mouth as Nick deals with the motel owner. Nick tells Sean she is infected with vampirism – it appears she bit Sean’s hand and he passes out.

reaction to sunlightIn the morning, when he comes around, Sean is not feeling good but will hear nothing of vampires. As it is they killed the motel owner and took a room the night before. Nick takes Sean to their car, knocks out Pen and has Sean open the boot. Teddy leaps out at him and then the sun takes hold of her and she quickly burns up. It is then explained that Nick is also infected, holding the infection off with drugs.

It is a telegenetic virus, thus there is telepathy between the infected and should a source be killed, before full turning, the infected will be cured. The source, in this case, is Kit – a Forsaken, one of 8 French knights. 9 knights survived a battle at Antioch. During the night the demon Abbadon came to them and offered them eternal life – 8 gained that eternal life by sacrificing the 9th. They were so ashamed that they hid the next day in caves (hence the sunlight bit). Over the intervening centuries 4 have been killed and 4 remain; 2 in the Americas. Killing vampires involves either sunlight or beheading, Forsaken must be killed on sanctified ground.

hunting or hunted?There is a connection between Megan and Kit, thus Nick is using her as a homing device and wants to head to a nearby Spanish Mission. The use of an infected person as either a vampire lure or tracker is nothing new. Let’s face it Stoker invented such an idea in Dracula, with the link between the Count and Mina. However, I was reminded, given the setting, of the plotline in Vampires - not to worry the Vampires' sequel, Vampires Los Meurtos, would go on to steal Forsaken’s “drug cocktail holding back the infection” idea.

Jonathon Scheach as KitThe film doesn’t do too much new, but what it does it does with competence. The acting seems very down to earth and there is some nice meaningless violence. For some reason Jonathon Scheach, in looks, reminded me of Chris Sarandon in Fright Night and I was kind of taken with the idea of a French Crusader, turned vampire, creeping around and singing Metallica (Enter Sandman). We could have done with a deeper look into his character.

The soundtrack was loud and brash – perfect for the MTV generation it looked to represent. The film itself was never going to win major awards but it does everything it sets out to do. The film set itself up for a sequel but, given it didn’t happen closer to its release, I doubt one will ever emerge. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Christine said...

Oh, I hated this movie... and I wanted to squeeze the nose of that irritating main vampire!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

fair enough - I thought he was quite fun

Derek Tatum said...

I have heard this movie compared to NEAR DARK due to the setting, but it was not intended to be a remake. Just FWIW.

The Dirge Of Gabriel said...

I enjoyed this film when it first came out, and noticed the similarity with Near Dark and agree with you that if it was a remake it was a poor one.

The vampire gang certainly did not have the same charisma that Lance Hendrikson and Co had, which was funny as most of them went on to make the first Alien film together.

I was also intrigued with the Templar backstory with Abbadon and how they were more powerful as to be destroyed on Holy Ground. Of course I find the idea of just a bite transmitting the vampire state scarier then then the blood exchange as its easier for them to breed like zombies, and its not a sensual as the exchange.
Recent vampire literature, the Twilight Saga and Evernight by Claudia Gray have used the bite virus now.

Of course I've never really understood or liked the transgenic method of vampirism as a plot, killing the founder of the line will cure all its progeny. This was also used in the '87 Werewolf series.

It just seems a bit silly to me, I guess it suggests a more magical hold then a medical/virus one, which if that is the case then medication shouldn't really be able to stall a magical transformation in my book.

All-in-all I still enjoy the desert vampire genre, as there isn't that many of them along with Vampires, Vampires Los Muertos etc, so I don't begrudge the movie its shortcomings.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers guys - I don't personally think it was meant to be a remake - but the suggestion was made and so was mentioned.

In some respects I guess the pills could be 'alchemy' but the virus/supernatural line is often too readily blurred