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Introduction
(Movie Review written April 2001)
Since the dawn of movie making, Hollywood has been making vampire pictures. In 1931 the world was first introduced to Count Dracula in "Dracula", one of the all time classics in the genre. Over the years that followed countless remakes of Dracula, as well as many imitators would come to the silver screen. There have been some good ones such as Anne Rice's "Interview with the Vampire" in 1994 and "Bram Stokers Dracula" in 1992 but with the good comes the bad with such feeble attempts at the genre in "Dracula 2000" and "John Carpenter's Vampires" (1998). However, so far 2001 has brought us two worthy contenders in "Shadow of the Vampire" (a look at the making of Nosferatu) and now the low budget "The Forsaken".

Our two hero's enjoying some chow
Film
The Forsaken is the story of Sean (Kerr Smith), a 20 something guy who works as a trailer editor in Hollywood. You know, the guy who cuts the previews you see before the movie. Sean is leaving on a cross-country road trip to drop off a car to its owner and go to his sister's wedding. The guy he's delivering the car for only gives him two rules, do not total the car and do not pick up hitchhikers. So Sean drives the car along the road for a while and suddenly out of nowhere this car comes speeding up beside him full of beautiful women who invite him to join them at a local drag race function. He politely declines saying he's on a very tight deadline and as fast as they arrive they are gone. He continues along the road but something weird happens and causes him to swerve off the road and into the dirt. A bit spooked he decides to continue on to the next town where he rents a hotel room and packs it in for the night. However his slumber doesn't last long as he's awaken by odd sounds coming from the room next door. Feeling a bit concerned and really tired he heads back to sleep. Morning comes and once again it's time to hit the open road. However before he takes off he runs into a lowly drifter type of a guy who wants a ride, Sean initially says no, but agrees after the mysterious stranger offers to pay for gas. The stranger is Nick (Brendan Fehr from TV's Roswell) who's character is opposite from Sean in every way. Sean's a stick to the rules type guy and Nick is the rebel that ends up getting them pulled over by the cops for littering an open beer can. Left with no money they take a few time-saving detours, which land them in the land of gas stations plastered with missing person posters. This also just happens to be a long a strip of highway where a gang of powerful Vampire's go looking for their next victims. One night after having a few drinks at a local dive, Sean and Nick see a girl (Izabella Miko from Coyote Ugly) in the bar that looks to be really troubled. She runs out of the bar and tries to get on a tour bus. Out comes the waitress from the bar asking her to pay her tab which she obviously can't pay. Nick pays for her and she joins them as they go to a hotel to try and help her. At this point she is really sick and Nick strips her down and orders Sean to get all the ice he can. Nick quickly searches for bites and finds one surrounded by a very red area of skin. Nick then explains that he was bitten a year ago at a party and been trying to hunt down the one who did it and that he's going to use Megan who has a telekinetic link to the leader to draw the leader to him so he can kill him. However there's a catch and the Forsaken has to be killed on sacred ground. So with the vampires hot on their trail Sean, Nick and Megan head for a local mission.

Oooh.. These guys look bad..
"The Forsaken" was shot on a relatively low budget of around 5 million dollars, but you wouldn't know it by looking at it. The special effects including numerous explosions look amazing, in fact when compared to the explosions in Driven they look near real. The sound mix was also very effective and overwhelming at times. Technically this film is an amazing achievement with such a small budget, I was expecting a lot less and a more amateur look and feel to the overall picture and was highly impressed with the technical aspect. Hats off to all involved on the technical side of "The Forsaken".

While the technical aspects of The Forsaken are all rock solid, the performances are another matter all together. Ranging from acceptable to good and downright awful and flip-flopping no one actor's performance remains the same throughout the whole movie. To start off, with the majority of the budget going to the aforementioned special effects we are left with a cast of what I'm calling WB Network stars as most of the principals in this film currently have or have had a role on a show on the WB Network. The two stars Kerr Smith and Brendan Fehr appear weekly on "Dawson's Creek" and "Roswell" respectively and are still new to the big screen. Brendan has had small roles in Final Destination alongside Kerr and "Disturbing Behavior". Kerr has also appeared in the "Broken Hearts Club" and as a semi-regular on TV's The Young and the Restless. In certain portions of the film I saw them slip into their TV characters. Both gave un-even performances but are progressing along in the right direction in their movie careers since the last time they shared the screen. I'll give the edge to Brendan here as I felt he was the more solid of the two only slipping into Micheal Guerin from "Roswell" a couple times. Usually I'm not a big fan of Brendan, but I think it may just be that I'm not a fan of his character on Roswell. Also from the WB and former MTV DJ is Simon Rex who gives the movies worst performance as the daytime driver for the vampires. He is just plain bad; I cringed every time I saw his character on the screen. Perhaps it was just a bad outing for the guy, and hopefully he isn't always that bad of an actor. Jonathon Scheach ("That Thing You Do") is one bad vampire dude and oozes evil and creepiness like no other. It may just be the fact that this guy, like Joaquin Phoenix ("Gladiator"), just gives me the creeps whenever I see a picture of him, but whatever it is, I believed his performance. I don't think he's the kind of guy I'd want to run into in the middle of nowhere. While her character doesn't say much the lovely Izabella Miko, fresh off her role as Cammie the Russian tease in "Coyote Ugly", is excellent as the nervous and scared victim Megan.

Director and screenwriter J.S. Cardone has done an excellent job crafting a small in scope vampire picture. By focusing the story on only a handful of characters, both human and vampires, he is able to more tightly weave a believable story and make the special effects more realistic. If the number of characters were added too, both the plot and effects would suffer and "The Forsaken" would not be the film it is. I applaud Cardone for keeping the picture small enough in scope to use the budget effectively.

The Forsaken is a very violent and gory film. It's not for those who faint at the site of blood. There's a lot of blood and gore in this movie. It's all warranted and perhaps there could have been even more. While I'm not one to advocate violence and gore in film, I feel that in a story like this it's important for these elements to be present. After all, the mythology and legend behind vampires involves the sucking and drinking of blood. In addition to the violence and gore there are a couple instances of female nudity. This is not a movie for the kids; it's aimed primarily at an adult and older teenage audience.

Overall "The Forsaken" isn't the original "Dracula" but it certainly isn't John Carpenter's Vampires either. If you like a good vampire movie, you won't be disappointed in "The Forsaken".

Video
The DVD for "The Forsaken" is a double-sided disc with a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer on one side and a pan and scanned 1.33:1 version on the other. Being that the majority of the film's action takes place during the night I was a bit worried with how the transfer would turn out. Luckily all that worrying was uncalled for as Columbia Tristar have done a nice job here. The movie has a unique colour palette with various scenes looking like they had been shot through different coloured filters. Colours are sharp and well defined when needed, and flesh tones seem pretty accurate. Sharpness and detail is good for the most part but some of the nighttime scenes do seem a tad on the muddy side.  Problems come in the way of some minor grain, the occasional dust speck and slight amounts of edge enhancement. Being as the film did have a look that can be hard to transfer to DVD I'm willing to give Columbia the benefit of the doubt here, as this is a nice transfer despite it's few minor problems.  

The heroine drinks a freshly brewed cup of Joe
Audio
After being blown away at the theatre with the sound mix I was looking forward to a real cool audio experience with "The Forsaken " DVD and Columbia Tristar doesn't disappoint here. Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 this soundtrack is definitely a reflection on what I heard in the theatre. The film's soundtrack is loud, aggressive and over the top as one would expect from a good vampire movie. The front channels create a large and enveloping soundscape in which audio editor Alex Patsava sticks all sorts of cool split surround effects. Also getting some heavier then normal play are the surround channels, which are also used very actively for all sorts sound effects. At any given time you can expect to hear bullets whizzing by, shots coming from behind the listener and cars and trucks that appear to be coming straight at you. Music clarity is excellent with the alternative rock/metal soundtrack blaring from the front speakers. Dialogue is recorded at a good level and comes through nice and clear for the duration of the film. The low end is nice and low and really gave my subwoofer a good workout. There's nothing subtle about this mix in the least.  Sure it's a bit gimmicky in places but it's fun and it definitely kicks the experience up a couple of notches.

Extras
Released on just over 1500 screens at the height of it's release, "The Forsaken" went on to turn a profit, but not an overly impressive one. For this DVD edition Columbia Tristar gives the viewer and movie fan some value added material but not enough to be deemed a Special Edition.

First and foremost the feature that fast becoming almost a prerequisite on the discs of newer films is the audio commentary track. For "The Forsaken" Columbia invited Writer/Director J.S. Cardone to sit down and discuss his feature. Cardone sounds confidant about the film he made and shares many interesting stories about the production. Shot on a rather low budget for a film of it's type he discusses how he had to keep things moving during the production to keep the budget in check. Cardone also discusses his ideas and reasoning behind the choices made in casting, as well as how he made the vampire picture he wanted to make. The track does have a few lulls, but luckily it never veers into a narrative of the on screen events. This is an interesting and informative track that's worth at least one listen.

Up next we have a collection of 3 really short deleted scenes, presented in rough widescreen form complete with time code. These three scenes entitled "Two Guys Drive", "Outside Diner/Weird Guy's House" and "Megan confronts Kit" are all between 1 and 2 minutes in length. While there is no explanation on why they were cut from the film I can only assume it was due to pacing. Still due to their short length I think that two of these scenes ("Two Guys Drive" and "Megan confronts Kit") should have remained in the film as they certainly wouldn't have slowed the pacing much and because Izabella Miko gave a good performance in the latter scene.

Moving on to the extras of a more promotional nature we have two really short (less then 3 minutes each) featurettes. The first is entitled "Hard Body" and is a brief look at the stunts involved in the film and the films non-human co-stars. A bit of basic information is given about the cars used in the film and how some of the stunts were performed. Also included in this featurette is some interview footage with the stars discussing their scenes involving the cars or stunts. There's nothing of any real substance here though. The second is entitled "Actors Profile: Brendan Fehr" and like its title suggests it takes a look at the career of Brendan Fehr, who is probably the best known star in the movie. Fehr is an actor I'm all too familiar with already and while he seems to have legions of fans he's just doesn't seem all that special to me. The featurette consists of some footage from the film inter-cut with interview footage with Fehr in costume. Fehr discusses what attracted him to the project and so forth. At under 3 minutes, this isn't very in depth at all.

Rounding out the disc we have the usual Columbia trailer gallery this time featuring trailers for "The Forsaken", "John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars" and "Hollow Man" in DD 5.1 as well as trailers for "Bram Stoker's Dracula" and "John Carpenter's Vampires" in DD 2.0. All trailers are in non-anamorphic widescreen. Also included are cast and crew biographies for the 5 major principals involved in the project.

Overall
Columbia Tristar seems to be marketing this film towards the teen demographic, fans of the WB Network and more specifically fans of teen star Brendan Fehr who, in a rare DVD move for an actor has an extra feature all to himself. While I don't disagree with their motives I think that "The Forsaken" is an all out action packed, sexy, blood filled horror flick that can stand on it's own. This DVD edition features a nice video transfer, a cool and aggressive sound mix and some bonus features. With an MSRP of only $24.95, fans of the film or Brendan will be happy to slap down their hard earned dollars for this disc. Those of you who haven't seen the movie or are fans of the more traditional vampire movies might want to check it out as a rental first. Recommended.


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