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   QUEEN OF THE DAMNED (2002) 

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CAST
Stuart Townsend
Marguerie Moreau
Vincent Perez
Aaliyah
Paul McGann
Lena Olin
Christian Manon
Claudia Black

DIRECTED BY
Michael Rymer

PURCHASE


DVD



The Novel




Time: 101 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Horror/Drama


As a fan of the novel, the third in the Vampire Chronicles written by Anne Rice, I was initially thrilled to hear a movie was being made of this sprawling, bloodthirsty, sexual epic. I should have known better. The original tale is too detailed and filled with far too many splendid characters to be translated onto the screen with even half the passion and depth as appeared on the page. The film rendition is literature light, an MTV video version of vampire history that replaces true horror with quaint, blood-soaked special effects. Townsend makes a far more compelling Lestat, mainly because he doesn't have the same movie star baggage that made Cruise so unbelievable in the role.

He captures the true loneliness and petulance of the character, a creature of the dead who's tired of living his life in the shadows of time. In an effort to end his suffering for good one way or the other – he'll either be killed by the other vampires for revealing their presence to the human race or be able to walk among the living like a normal being – he fashions himself into a rock and roll superstar, unveiling himself to the world. The humans believe it's just a gimmick to sell records; the vampires are highly displeased by his public display of their secrets.

The only being on his side is Akasha (Aaliyah), the mother of all the Earth's vampires. It was her utter ruthlessness and thirst for blood that created the horde of living dead now walking the planet. Of course, her legend is unknown to most of her children, her memory and power feared by the few elders who know her history. Lestat's initial encounter with her hundreds of years before, while she and her king were in the care of Marius (Perez), awoke her spirit and gave Lestat a very powerful ally. It is his passionate music that breaks her stone wall of silence and unleashes her evil back upon the human race. Needing a new king, she seeks out Lestat and protects him from those who are trying to kill him. This new breed of vampires is no match for her supreme powers. She leaves a wide wake of death behind her, desiring to rule the world once again with Lestat at her side.


"From that moment on, they were my friends, my children, my band. Giving the world a new god...me."

Initially enthralled by her strength and beauty, Lestat becomes disgusted with the wasteland of corpses she leaves to rot. She is a creature who only cares about quenching her thirst, equating people with food and nothing more. He is looking for a companion to share the centuries with, someone interested in watching and enjoying the changes the human race brings upon the world, not an instrument of death and destruction. In the end, he must choose between his love of power and his love of the human spirit. Guess which road he follows. While Townsend's portrayal of Lestat gives this film great heart, the story is just so minimal, if you don't know anything about these characters I fear you'll be either terribly bored or hopelessly lost. While the look and feel of the film is dead-on dark and sexy, there's a distinct lack of danger that hampers the believability of the characters.

The pervasive, throbbing soundtrack only adds to the music video vibe, which further takes away from the seriousness of the story. Aaliyah obviously relished her role of the uber-vampire bitch, giving a gutsy and totally insane performance as the evil Akasha. Since the part merely calls for straight up viciousness, it's not very deep or challenging, but she makes chewing a still beating heart sexy and that has to count for something. All the other actors are mere window dressing to the relationship between Lestat and Akasha because they aren't giving anything at all to do. As Jesse, the young girl who eventually wins Lestat's heart, Moreau is adequate, but nothing in comparison to the allure of Akasha. Lestat certainly must have found someone more interesting in his several centuries on Earth than her. Maybe the film wouldn't have felt so lame if Jesse had a personality worth fighting for. I guess her humanity is supposed to be enough.

All in all, QUEEN is a shallow effort that lacks suspense, scope and soul, but will probably amuse those in the MTV generation with its' style and subject matter. For those looking for more than a little bite to their vampire stories, read the books. There you'll find a tale that will chill you to the bone and make you yearn to join the ranks of the undead.



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