Saturday, February 16, 2008

Vampires: The Turning – review


Director: Marty Weiss

Release Date: 2005

Contains spoilers

This is ostensibly the third film in the John Carpenter franchise Vampires, which began with the movie Vampires and continued in Vampires Los Muertos. I say ostensibly because, for a start, John Carpenter was not involved in this in any way, shape or form. Also because this has naff all to do with the first two films. It is not because the first two films were told from the point of view of vampire hunters and this was from a vampire point of view. There is simply no connection (bar one slender one, or two at a push) with the first two films and the background mythology utterly changes.

The main slender connection? There are, very briefly, some hunters in this and, in one scene, they use a winch on a vehicle to pull a vampire into sunlight. In fact it is a scene that hangs incongruously in the centre of the film and I would hazard a guess that it was there for no other reason than to have a winch scene and “prove” this was part of the same franchise.

Stephanie Chao as SangWe discover the new mythology in the first moments of the film when we get a voice over by Sang (Stephanie Chao). She tells how there was a group of vampires in Thailand – the Phii Song Neng – who were sworn to not take human lives. She tells that she broke this rule and the vampire she created formed the group the Jai Tham or Black Hearts, a group who enjoy killing and feeding from humans. She then tells us that she must end this and turn all the vampires into mortals.

Dom Hetrakul as NiranThis is expanded upon in the film and we discover that eight hundred years before a warlord named Niran (Dom Hetrakul) desired Sang and killed her husband and son but she was a vampire and, in her grief, attacked him and subsequently turned him. He continued his evil ways and the vampires he created are dotted across Asia eating folks. However, she was turned during an eclipse and there is an eclipse due. If she were to sacrifice herself in the first rays of sun following the eclipse, at the exact location she was turned, all the other vampires will become mortal. This is utterly at odds with the source of vampires from film 1 and 2, but a least the blooming black cross has gone.

Amanda and ConnorThrow into the mix two American tourists, Connor (Colin Egglesfield) and Amanda (Meredith Monroe). Connor has taken her to a kick boxing bout, something he has studied for years. She dislikes it and walks out. They argue and she tells him it isn’t working and wanders off. He tries to find her but she is followed by Niran, who takes her up an alley and bites her. Connor sees him and his gang riding off with her on motorbikes and tries to follow (on foot).

effects of the sunOne of them comes back for him. They fight a bit and then he is saved by good vampire Kiko (Roger Yuan). Kiko tells him to go home, not to follow him (or he will kill Connor himself) and not to go to the police. Connor is a bit thick, however. He does follow Kiko to the lair of the good vampires, he then goes to the police (who refuse to help him) and so goes back to the house. He wanders around for a bit until he is attacked by Sang. He makes his escape by jumping through a window, breaking the shutters and forcing her back from the sun. Raines (Patrick Bauchau), a slayer, finds him, checks him for infection and gives him the same advice – go home. Incidentally we hear in this scene that a vampire head is worth $10,000.

Sang bitesDoes he go home? Of course not, he heads straight back to the lair – at night – discovers where the bad vampire lair is and goes there, again at night. As I say, thick. It is not as though he and Amanda are in love, she had ditched him, she said that hadn’t been working for a while and he does end up bedding the beautiful Sang.

awfully fake blood effectThe vampires burn in the sun, fall by crossbow bolt (presumably through the heart) and beheading also kills them. When they are beheaded the spray of blood is an awfully fake cgi effect. Once dead they kind of shrink to mummified corpse form. Another lore change in the series is that an infected person chooses whether to turn or not, they can fight it but the pain is unbearable and will eventually die, but all those who have turned have chosen to do so. In another (very slender) throw back to the second film we get a brief scene through a heat scope and notice that vampires are colder than mortals.

heat scopeThe actual scenery in the film is, at times, gorgeous to look at – due to the filming location. However, the cgi effects leave a lot to be desired and the make up effects are average. The fighting seems okay, to someone not too well versed in martial art movies and the camera remains steady and the direction is not overly reliant on fast cuts. The lore changes do not fit with the previous films but I could have lived with that if it were not for one factor.

Patrick Bauchau as RainesThe acting is atrocious and Egglesfield and Monroe I am looking at you as the worst culprits. The delivery of the, in fairness average to poor dialogue, is so wooden that one feels that the on-set carpenter had to be held back in case he or she became confused. We have no sympathy for these characters and thus do not care what happens to them. Indeed if Egglesfield whined “Amanda” one more time, I’d have personally fed him to a bad vampire. Bauchau chews up the dialogue like an old ham but he is almost a pointless character, a relic of films from the series' past.

dead vampireYuan gives a solid performance as Kiko, but, as beautiful as she is, I never bought into the concept that Chao was playing an eight hundred year old wise vampire. Hetrakul looks the part as Niran but the character is almost under-used, indeed there wasn’t really much of a depth to any of them.

chewing on a neckA poor way to end the series, 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Many thanks to Zombiepunk, for some reason my DVD of this decided to stop working and he came to the rescue by lending me his in order that I might complete this review.

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