At first Judge David Johnson though this was a driver's ed video for undead Hellspawn.
Technically an installment in the John Carpenter Vampires film franchise and a follow-up to 2002's Vampires: Los Muertos, this direct-to-video fang fest sheds much of the established mythology and goes for more of a self-contained story. But do not fear: There are still plenty of vampires.
Facts of the Case
Connor (Colin Egglesfield) and his girlfriend Amanda (Meredith Monroe, Dawson's Creek) are visiting Thailand on vacation. However, the two find their relationship beginning to splinter, and one night Amanda storms off. Connor pursues, but before he can find her, Amanda is cornered by a vampire, bitten, and hauled off to a nest.
Connor engages one of the bloodsuckers and the two throw down, until a mysterious old man chops the head off the vampire. He offers a sinister warning to Connor to leave well enough alone and storms off. Connor, unwilling to abandon his girlfriend to a life of killing and uncomfortable contact lenses, follows.
What he stumbles across is an all-out vampire civil war. The old man is Kiko (Roger Yuan), a member of a vampire sect that refuse to drink human blood. The group protects the lovely vampire Sang (Stephanie Chao), who, through a mystical rite centuries ago, inadvertently gave birth to the vampires that lust after blood and death. In one of those wildly coincidental instances that can only happen in low-budget horror movies, a special lunar eclipse—something that hasn't happened in 800 years—is about to take place, and it will offer the chance for Sang to sacrifice herself and make her vampire spawn become mortal.
This of course would put a serious crimp in the lifestyle of thrill-killing vampires, so they are constantly trying to wipe out Sang before she has a chance to work her mojo. Connor must face the choice between joining forces with the good vamps, and thereby putting his own soul in jeopardy, or hopping on a plane and finding a new girlfriend who actually wants to be with him.
Vampires: The Turning is not bad and not that good. It's a superbly mediocre vampire movie. For every cool thing it's got going for it, there's something subpar that brings it back down. It's like a perpetual one-step-forward, one-step-back demon tango. Let's score the different features and see what comes out ahead.
The look of the movie: From the opening credits with their sweeping
landscape shots to the decent set design, Vampires: The Turning is a
fine-looking film. The best thing I can say is that it doesn't look like
a straight-to-video release.
The acting: It certainly sounds like one, though. For all of
Egglesfield's martial arts prowess he's a very weak actor. His Connor comes
across as a complete tool. The rest of the cast are equally unimpressive: Chao
is gorgeous but underwhelming, the vampire heavies stumble through their
dialogue, and Monroe does little in the film but moan.
The action: This flick is as much martial arts as it is horror.
Egglesfield's aforementioned skills are the best part of his performance, and
the combat set pieces between him and whoever his foe happens to be are very
nicely done. The climactic fight is the high point.
The effects: Yeah, it's kind of unfair to pick on the CGI for
low-budget movies like this, but the fact is that the stuff is rudimentary.
There is never a moment when effects pop up that they don't look like effects. A
beheading scene is blatantly computer-generated; how about an old-school makeup
gag instead? The technology used to disintegrate slain vampires dates from circa
The story: Though the exposition is convoluted and a lot of the plot
details are contrived, I kind of dug the story. This whole face-off between
"good" and evil vampires is kind of cool. And the inclusion of vampire
slayers-for-hire (the only link to the past Vampires movies) makes the showdown finale
all the more fun.
The story, part two: But where have I seen young vampires on dirt
bikes fighting a guy who became one of them and now fights to defend a loved one
There it is: Even undead Steven.
The disc's 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer does the job well. The picture is clean, and details are sharp (too sharp, actually; see "CGI, unpersuasive use of"). The digital mix is fairly active. I was impressed with the level of discrete channel use, and the fight scenes pack a nice LFE wallop. Just a few trailers are it for extras.
Vampires: The Turning won't suck you in, but it won't suck either. It's a flawed but decent movie that delivers what it promises: fangs and martial arts.
Hung jury. Go serve some time in purgatory or something.
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