As second sequels to moderately popular horror films go, “Vampires: The Turning”, the second addition to John Carpenter’s 1998 original starring James Woods, isn’t so bad that fans of the series should shun it. Then again, it’s not entirely good, so maybe shunning it, while perhaps a bit too harsh, might be worthy of an argument or two. “The Turning’s” biggest star is Patrick Bauchau, a character actor whose biggest claim to fame is the cancelled TV series “The Pretender”, which should immediately tell you something about this sequel’s pedigree. It is not, to put it lightly, anything of remote importance.
Having said that, if you are a fan of genre films, and a fan of vampire movies in general, then “The Turning” is not an entirely bad way to lose 80-odd minutes. The short running time certainly helps to hide the film’s many deficiencies, although this, again, is debatable. This time around the hero is Colin Egglesfield, playing an American chap name Connor who, on a trip to Thailand, loses his girlfriend to a band of motorcycle-riding vampires. As luck would have it, Connor gets some help from a group of good vampires led by the halberd-wielding Kiko (Roger Yuan) and the too-hot-for-vampirism Sang (Stephanie Chao), who has been waiting 800 years to put the head of the motorcycle vampires out of his, and her, misery.
Not surprisingly, “The Turning” has more than its share of schlock moments courtesy of a pedestrian script by writers Farmer and Hurst. There is mild relation to the previous two films in the series, mostly in the general recognition of vampires by the film’s populace as well as some familiar vampire slaying techniques. As was the case with “Vampires” and the first sequel “Los Muertos” (which starred Jon “shot through the heart” Bon Jovi as a vampire slayer), everyone seems to know that vampires exist (if not admitted out loud), and when Connor is told by vampire slayer/profiteer Raines (Bauchau) that his girlfriend is vampire chow, Connor offers little resistance to the concept.
“The Turning” does have some nice action utilizing (appropriately enough) Muay Thai fighting in the first half. Leading man Colin Egglesfield proves to be adept at the martial arts, and more than holds his own in his brief skirmishes with the high-kicking, motorcycle-riding vampires. (Amusingly, despite being a vampire motorcycle gang, the vampires are not exactly the best motorcycle riders around. In fact, their lack of skill with a motorcycle is constantly one of the film’s more unintentional funny gags.)
Later, Connor gets souped up vampire powers (well, bad contact lens and the ability to leap a few short distances using very bad wireworks, anyway) when he agrees for Sang to turn him into a vampire in order to more properly match his enemies. This is actually a unconvincing plot point, as it seemed Connor was holding his own amazingly well against the vampires even when he was just a lowly mortal. Oh well. Chalk it up as Plot Contrivance #52 and let’s move on.
Although he proves to be physically right for the role, Egglesfield won’t wow anyone with his acting. Not that it’s all the young man’s fault, as the script is so disinterested in being good that the presence of great acting by anyone in the cast would just muddle things up. As the halberd-wielding vampire, Roger Yuan has so little to do you wonder why his character is featured so prominently to begin with. The same for Patrick Bauchau and his vampire slayers, the former showing up three times throughout the movie, probably as a poor attempt to convince the audience that Bauchau deserved his position at the top of the marquee.
A potential saving grace is co-star (and judging by the last name, Chinese) Stephanie Chao, who is a better sexy vampire than she is a Thai, which she is terrible at, if her incredibly bad Thai (learned through phonetics, no doubt) is any indication. Not that her ability (or lack thereof) to speak the Thai language is worth getting angry about, as Chao is probably the most engaging (from a visually standpoint) character in the bunch. Which leads me to this observation: Chao’s one sex scene in the film, when she voluntarily engages in hot vampire sex with mortal Connor, is so screwed up by editing as to be outrageous. Really, guys, this is the one scene that could save your entire movie, and you screw it up to within an inch of its life? For shame, for shame.
The original “Vampires” did not exactly set the world on fire, so the persistence of a series based upon its world may be a bit perplexing to non-vampire movie lovers. Then again, for those of us who can’t get enough of this particular niche, “The Turning” is a decent enough entry. Could it have been better? Oh yes, that goes without saying with most films shot for a moderate budget, as “The Turning” obviously was. Aside from a lackluster script, some hilariously bad wireworks, and perhaps the dullest motorcycle chase to ever be put to film, “Vampires: The Turning” is exactly 80 minutes worth of momentary distraction.
Marty Weiss (director) / D.B. Farmer, Andy Hurst (screenplay)
CAST: Patrick Bauchau …. Raines
Nophand Boonyai …. Suwan
Stephanie Chao …. Sang
Colin Egglesfield …. Connor
Meredith Monroe …. Amanda
Roger Yuan …. Kiko