The Turning is a supposed sequel in John Carpenter’s Vampire franchise, but it is a sequel in name only. There is no real connection to the original film or to Bon Jovi’s 2002 sequel with only two token elements chosen to insinuate that this is taking place within the same cinematic universe: vampire hunters are paid a bounty for every vampire killed, just as in the other two films; and the jeep&winch party trick that was a prominent feature of the second film is briefly reintroduced here.
Connor and Amanda, an American couple, are on holiday in Thailand. Unfortunately it took a vacation for Amanda to realise how obnoxious and laddish Connor is, and after a row she returns to their hotel alone. When she is kidnapped by a vampire biker gang (yes, really), Connor begins some bumbling and ineffective attempts to save her, but he soon stumbles into a vampire gang war and also finds the time to develop an interest in another woman.
This is not a good film. Weak writing aside, the film’s biggest problem undoubtedly is that Connor is simply not a very likeable hero. He is a bloodthirsty martial arts nerd who enjoys watching people beat each other to a pulp, completely ignoring how upsetting this is for his girlfriend who he has dragged along to the fight. But the filmmakers have other ideas. In their point of view, Connor is a “real man”, and Amanda only gets into trouble because she leaves him. Because women, the film tells us, need men to protect them and a woman ought better put up with their man’s insufferable behaviour because without him she would be lost.
Despite being nominally the “hero” of this film, Connor has a blatant disregard for other people’s well-being. When chased by vampires, he has no problem with luring them into a market densely packed with people. And when he tries finding his girlfriend in a vampire lair, he steps over and ignores a dozen or so vampire victims who also need his help. For the filmmakers, this is probably be OK as these other people are all Asian and so they probably don’t count.
In true B-movie fashion, our All-American hero not only walks over half-dead Asians to save the white girl, he also happens to be a Thai martial arts expert who has no problem holding his own in a fight against people who are actually Thai (and immortal). And he just so happens to be better at riding a motor bike than any member of the undead motorcycle gang.
And at the very same time as Connor is lamenting the fact that his girlfriend has been kidnapped by vampires and is swearing that he will do everything to save her, he appears to have sex with another woman? Again, quite possibly the filmmakers’ idea of a “real man”.
All these unpleasant aspects of the film’s hero are made worse by the fact that the man portraying him (TV-actor Colin Egglesfield) is giving a poor performance and by the fact that the plot is really weak. If there was anything even modestly engaging in this story, then maybe one wouldn’t have so much time thinking about how appallingly obnoxious the film’s “hero” character is.
This film technically has a three act structure, but the first and second act feel pretty minor. The second act’s action sequences fall flat, and so the film relies entirely on its grand finale (which is really nothing to shout about either). With no enjoyable action and no functioning arc of suspense, the film would have needed something else to carry it, but there is nothing here. Egglesfield’s performance does certainly not carry the film; and the film makes the mistake to sideline Amanda completely, even though there is a story here to tell and a situation well worth exploring. The actress, Meredith Monroe, may not be the greatest of thespians, but she certainly has what it takes to play this role and the film might have benefited from an extended Amanda plot-line.
The other actors in this film (including Patrick Bauchau, Roger Yuan, and Stephanie Chao) do a fine job, but the script does them no favours and they are never at risk of having to do anything challenging or having to employ any of their talent.
The world this story is set in is interesting (complete with an 800-year-old back story), but the world-building is done by monologue and nothing much is done with the world that is sketched here. One interesting aspect of the present day stand-off is that there are three to four different parties with different agendas. That could have been used for some intriguing plot twists, but it is handled in an extremely ham-fisted and disappointing manner.
The Turning was directed by Marty Weiss, who usually does commercials. But I do not think that the directing was the film’s biggest problem, although I feel that Weiss could and should have pushed Egglesfield to a slightly less poor performance. The biggest problem was surely the writing, courtesy of D. B. Farmer (for whom The Turning represents his sole imdb credit) and Andy Hurst (who specialises in cash-grab sequels).
As it stands, this film is a rather boring B-movie whose quality never really rises above the lowest end of mediocrity. It is the unlikeable hero that makes this film especially hard to sit through.
Rating: 2.5 out of 10.