Forsaken [2001]

Inviting comparison to Kathryn Bigelow's 1987 cult hit Near Dark, and derivative of The Hitcher and a half-dozen other films, The Forsaken is nevertheless a gritty little B movie that succeeds on its own modest terms. There's nothing new here, and the film's vampire folklore is only marginally intriguing, but if you're attracted to nihilistic tales that unfold in the middle of nowhere, you'll appreciate this bloody dose of low-budget horror. It all starts when Sean (Kerr Smith) agrees to drive a vintage Mercedes from Los Angeles to Florida, where he'll deliver the car and attend his sister's wedding. His troubles begin when he picks up Nick (Brendan Fehr), a nomadic "hunter" on the trail of a small cadre of vampires (a.k.a. "the Forsaken") who've been spreading their blood-sucking virus since medieval times. Nick's mission: Stop the virus by killing the vampires on sacred ground, using a rescued victim (Izabella Miko) as telepathic bait (telepathy being one of the movie's vampiric innovations). It's basically a road movie with car chases, nudity, and plenty of grisly violence. It's not as stylish or witty as Near Dark, but after two decades in the B-movie biz, writer-director J.S. Cardone knows what he's doing, and while the movie's never really fresh, it's also never stupid. The young cast plays it straight (which is good), and Jonathan Schaech is a standout as the lead vampire. It's anybody's guess why the vampires manifest themselves as desert-dwelling punks in a rusty Dodge Charger, but hey, sometimes you just gotta go with the (blood) flow. --Jeff Shannon

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