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Film Review: 'Forsaken'

A troubled teen couple is sent down a dark path in this hauntingly tragic drama.

In the small town of Scottswood, the football team is revered, particularly its coach Duncan (Damon Carney) and his star quarterback son Mac (Michael Grant). But behind closed doors, Duncan's demeanor of a stern but supportive coach gives way to a controlling and abusive father, beating Mac when he fails to live up to his standards. Mac's only solace is in the form of his secret girlfriend Missy (Morgan Taylor Campbell), a social outcast at their high school who dreams to escape with Mac to be together.

After Duncan finds out about his son's secret relationship and intimidates Missy and Mac into ending things, the teens plot to run away together, only for their plan to be halted by Duncan. As Missy bears witness to Duncan's violent abuse, she finally snaps and goes to Mac's defense—killing Duncan in the process. Not wanting to be separated, Mac and Missy cover their tracks and struggle to cope with their deed, all while Duncan's friend Deputy Duffy (Donny Boaz) begins investigating Duncan's murder—coming to suspect Mac and Missy. As the two are backed into a corner, Mac and Missy make it clear that their love knows no limit—and they might be willing to get more blood on their hands to protect it.

As a modern take on the Shakespeare classic MacBeth, Forsaken is a solid retelling of the classic story with a strong duo to serve as the film's sympathetic take on MacBeth and Lady MacBeth. As we're quickly introduced to him as a parental abuse victim forced to tough it out while others turn a blind eye, Michael Grant makes you instantly feel for Mac, before and especially after he and Missy find themselves bearing a horrific secret. Meanwhile, Morgan Taylor Campbell gives a nuanced portrayal of Jane Eyre loving social outcast Missy, with her and Grant sharing strong chemistry that leaves you with no doubt that—for all their flaws and destructive actions—they truly love each other and will do anything to protect each other.

As their situation spirals, however, Campbell allows another dimension of Missy to emerge. As Missy goes to further lengths to prevent her and Mac's secret from being exposed, all while convincing Mac to stay strong for her, you begin to wonder whether she truly loves Mac—or if Duffy and Mac's former teammate/friend Troy (played with Reed Williams) are right in thinking Missy is manipulating Mac for her own desires. As a result, Forsaken's second and third acts are painted in a morally ambiguous color for everyone involved, leaving viewers wondering who to trust and who should be able to walk away happy from the tragic web.

Other performances from Forsaken also stick out and leave an impact, with Donny Boaz being among them as Deputy Duffy. While the events of the film put him in a position where he should be the hero, Boaz paints Duffy in a way that makes you question whether or not you want him to uncover Mac and Missy's secret. Revelations about his friendship with Duncan and how much he knew about his hidden dark side further complicate things, leaving Duffy in a morally ambiguous position that leaves how one should feel about him up to the audience.

Williams is memorably nasty as Mac's supposed friend and Tiffany Mack is achingly sincere and sympathetic as Duffy's fiancee and Missy's counselor Alice, becoming the film's sole unambiguously good character who become unfortunately pulled into the web Mac and Missy created. Taylor Murphy (who would later take the helm as main heroine in the unfortunately underwhelming Cheerleader Nightmare) is surprisingly likable as popular girl Candice, who becomes an unlikely friend and source of comfort (albeit of the brief variety) for Missy, and Damon Carney even uses his limited screentime to show that for all of his violent and controlling behavior regarding Mac, Duncan is ultimately a pathetically bitter man taking his frustration and pain out on his son.

Given its morally questionable characters and slow-boiling plot, Forsaken might not appeal to all viewers, and there are plot arcs (such as troubles in Duffy and Alice's relationship and a sudden health problem regarding the former) that are introduced before being dropped without any clear resolution. But despite these faults, Forsaken's strong talent and satisfying conclusion makes it a memorable watch and a strong installment in MarVista Entertainment's collection.

Score: 8 out of 10 decorative crowns of death.

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Film Review: 'Forsaken'
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