Vampires: The Turning (2005)

Rating:

USA. 2005.

Crew

Director – Marty Weiss, Screenplay – D.B. Farmer & Andy Hurst, Producers – Scott Einbinder & Carol Kottenbrook, Photography – Geoffrey Hall, Music – Tim Jones, Visual Effects – Amalgamated Pixels, Inc (Supervisor – Phillip Palousek), Special Effects Supervisor – Kevin Rogan, Production Design – Martina Buckley. Production Company – Destination Films/Sandstorm Films

Cast

Colin Egglesfield (Connor), Stephanie Chao (Sang), Patrick Bauchau (Raines), Dom Hetrakul (Niran), Roger Yuan (Kiko), Meredith Monroe (Amanda)


Plot

Connor is holidaying in Thailand with his girlfriend Amanda but she walks away from him after an argument. A helpful local offers to escort her back to the hotel. Only this turns out to be the vampire Niran who bites Amanda’s neck and then sweeps her away on the back of a motorcycle. Connor tries to follow but is attacked, only for a mysterious man to appear and behead the attacker with a sword. The mystery man warns Connor not to follow him but Connor covertly does, seeking answers. Connor reports what happened to the Thai police but upon hearing the address he followed the man to, they urge him to forget about it. Connor investigates on his own and in so doing finds himself caught between two factions of vampires. On one side are the peaceful vampires led by the beautiful Sang who have sworn off drinking human blood; on the other side is a gang of vampire bikers led by Niran, who enjoy cruelty and blood-letting. In the midst of this is also a team of vampire hunters led by Raines who are killing the vampires of both sides for the bounty. Connor allows Sang to make him into a vampire in the hope that this will better equip him to take on Niran’s vampires and save Amanda. Sang is waiting for the coming eclipse in a few days – a time when, if she returns to the temple where she was first transformed, she and all who were birthed from her blood, including Niran and followers, will be made mortal again. Niran however seeks to do everything he can to ensure that she will never make it there.


Vampires: The Turning is supposed to be the second sequel to John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998). That said, there are almost no points of connection between Vampires and Vampires: The Turning – or for that matter the previous sequel Vampires: Los Muertos (2002). The vampires are very different in nature – for one, there is the discovery of a new breed of vampires who have foresworn blood-drinking. Vampire hunters were the principal characters in the previous two Vampires films and some vampire hunters do appear here – indeed the sole point of connection between The Turning and Vampires is a scene where Patrick Bauchau’s vampire hunter and associates find a nest of vampires and go through the whole thing of staking and dragging them out into the sunlight on winches just like at the start of Vampires. Here though Patrick Bauchau’s vampire hunter is a supporting character rather than the hero and moreover is a decidedly ambiguous figure. Vampires director John Carpenter was listed as Executive Producer on pre-release material for The Turning, however his name does not appear on the credits of the finished film – although the intriguing name that does is that of the always interesting writer/director J.S. Cardone who had previously made the modestly effective vampire film The Forsaken (2001) and is listed here as an executive producer.

Vampires: The Turning cycles through many of the cliches that have become familiar to the modern vampire film – warring factions of vampires, innocent humans caught in the midst, the battle to save someone’s love before they become fully vampire, a coming event and/or artefact that will change the balance of power, a vampire prime, organised teams of vampire hunters. The vampires go through the snarling, teeth baring and roaring thing that has become an overused effect among modern vampire movies. The one thing that director Marty Weiss adds to the mix is a good many Bullet Time effects – something else that is starting to become a vampiric cliche – as well as more than a few martial arts moves borrowed from the wirework of Hong Kong cinema, which are competent but never anything standout.

The main problem with Vampires: The Turning is that Marty Weiss is a director of flourish and effect more than he ever is of narrative. Weiss places much emphasis on soft focus style – he has a great sense for coloured lighting schemes – and throws up various posed martial arts and Bullet Time action sequences. The first half of Vampires: The Turning is almost entirely carried by these mood and action set-pieces but often has little in terms of narrative drive. These scenes sit aside others that topple into the risibly silly such as where the vampires attack the patrons at a nightclub en masse. At one point, Marty Weiss choreographs a long extended motorcycle sequence through the streets and markets that climaxes on the rather preposterous moment where the bike ridden by Colin Egglesfield and Stephanie Chao jumps between the second stories of two buildings followed by a pursuing vampire who explodes into flame as he emerges into the sunlight.

Certainly, the latter half of the film introduces some more substantial, if never entirely original, ideas – like the idea of a war between two clans of vampires, one that has foresworn blood drinking, the other that revels in it; the notion that killing a vampire renders all those that have been sired from its blood mortal. There is the by now cliche image that an eclipse represents the moment when vampires can walk in both sunlight and darkness at the same time. Although the idea of returning to the place that the vampire was originally turned is an obvious plot contrivance – surely this is something that any vampire, in knowing the importance this would have, would keep as a secret to themselves. In the end, we have a story that might have been interesting but feels like it needed to have been drawn out across a much larger canvas than the medium-low budget that Vampires: The Turning has been made with.

The film is also hampered by weak casting. Colin Egglesfield has a physicality in the action scenes but is Neanderthal and non-expressive in looks and acting talent – he doesn’t exactly come across as the brightest hero in the world. Nor does Stephanie Chao project much into her character. She has some very mildly erotic love scenes during Colin Egglesfield’s transformation but lacks much in the way of presence, certainly not for a character of the stature that she is said to have. The great and underrated Patrick Bauchau, the only recognisable name in the cast, is underused.

Director Marty Weiss subsequently went onto make the horror film Backwoods (2008).



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