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Sony Picture Classics presents
"If they haven't killed her, they'll turn her. Either way, she's dead."
DVD ReviewThere is a very threadbare connection with this film to John Carpenter's Vampires (and even less to the anemic Bon Jovi "sequel" Vampires: Los Muertos), in that a team of macho "pro slayers" use crossbows and winches to drag flaming bloodsuckers out of their nests into the daylight.
But that element seems like an add-on here, with the focus of the story being Connor, an American tourist (Colin Egglesfield) in China, hunting for his kidnapped gal pal Amanda (Meredith Monroe), who has been abducted by a group of nasty, motorcycle-riding vampires. In order to get Amanda back, he has to get in the good graces of a secretive horde of "nice" vampires (they only drink animal blood), whose sexy leader is Sang (Stephanie Chao), a woman who has waited 800 years to fulfill her ultimate destiny.
It's a necessary plot convenience that Connor is also skilled in martial arts, because that means he can partake in the film's many prolonged fight scenes, as the good vamps battle the bad ones in a series of skirmishes that all lead to the eventual big, destiny-fulfilling showdown during an eclipse. Bauchau, so wonderfully menacing on Carnivale, exudes the same creepy persona here, but director Marty Weiss only manages to squeeze him during a few scenes, and his presence is regrettably underused here.
Vampires: The Turning doesn't quite have enough story to last a full 90 minutes, and there is some obvious padding to even get it as far as it eventually goes. The requisite vampire bite-as-sex parallel gets fair play, with Chao having to drop top during a dreamy (or is it?) sex scene, and I'm sure most males won't mind it one bit, even if Meredith Monroe gets horribly shortchanged in that department.
There isn't much to hang your proverbial hat on here as anything completely new and inventive, as the martial arts are not enough to draw the chopsocky crowd and the vampiric elements are never really allowed to reach their proper potential. The sex is minimal, and the gore (aside from a nice decapitation) is hardly R-rated material. Yet, with that mishmash of styles, Vampires: The Turning was never a total chore to endure, but maybe that's my general love of all things vampire-like showing through. Weiss even manages to avoid a completely predictable ending, offering instead something a bit more esoteric than showy, something that doesn't always happen with films like this.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+
Image Transfer Review: The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from Sony suffers from a large helping of fine grain and fairly murky black levels during a few key scenes, but it is a tolerable presentation for the most part on this straight-to-DVD title. The few moments of significant color look presentable in an average sort of way, though this isn't the brightest film to come along, and the questionable shadow depth only makes some scenes a bit messy.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: A big improvement over the image transfer is the audio side, with a fairly active Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track that delivers some well-placed boomy sub action and enough rear channel cues to make this at least sound like a bigger film than it is. This isn't an audio showcase by any stretch, but for a second-tier title the presentation is well above par.
French and Portuguese 2.0 surround tracks are also included.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
7 Other Trailer(s) featuring Wild Things: Diamonds In The Rough, Boogeyman, D.E.B.S., Deadbirds, xXx: The Director's Cut, Sasquatch Hunters, Chupacabra Terror
Extras Review: No extras other than a large set of assorted trailers. The disc is cut into 12 chapters, with optional subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean or Thai.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsMaybe not the most perfect blend of martial arts and vampires, but it's a watchable piece of action/horror fluff with the expected wire-enhanced fighting and bloodletting. I had hoped to see more of kidnapped girlfriend Meredith Monroe and slayer Patrick Bauchau in the story, but they get relegated to near afterthought status when all is said and done.
Worth a rental for vamp-loving genre fans, at the very least.
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