Queen of the Damned (2002)

queen of the damned

“How did you manage to slip through the ’50s in red velvet?”

The Scoop: 2002 R, Directed by Michael Rymer and starring Aaliyah, Stuart Townsend, Marguerite Moreau and Vincent Perez

Tagline: The Mother Of All Vampires

Summary Capsule: Everyone’s favorite Brat Prince wakes up the mother of all vampires by lip-synching to Korn vocals.

Alex’s rating: Anne Rice, shame on you.

Alex’s review: I know I can be very nit-picky at times, even to the point of becoming petulant and carrying on like a Ritalin-hungry eight year old who has had one too many Junior Mints; it is very simply one of my many charms and, more to the point, it’s not going to change anytime soon. Bearing that in mind I gathered my Chi, balanced my Chakras, massaged my aura, honed my patience into a fine sword of tolerance, and sat down to watch the sequel film adaptation of the Vampire Chronicles fully prepared to make an allowance for certain changes made to the story for the sake of turning it into a movie.

Fact is, I needn’t have bothered, because no amount of patience, tolerance, or exotic methods of meditation could have kept me from exploding into the fury of tongue-lashing which followed after less ten minutes of the movie and continued on in full force after the end credits rolled. This was very much to the chagrin of my viewing companions of the evening, who kept shushing and glaring at me repeatedly until my commentary was finally relegated to silently raising my hand anytime I had a complaint with the shameless waste of cellulose passing before my detail-obsessed eyeballs. Fortunately we had rented it and I wasn’t cooped up in a theatre, where the situation might have become, eh, let’s just say ‘messy’.

To say that the movie differs somewhat from the books is akin to asserting that the Grand Canyon is a hole in the ground. To detail my every specific complaint would be to re-write the novels in my own words. To start another sentence with an infinitive form would be the last nail in my coffin of pretension, so I’d better avoid that. Suffice to say, it’s not merely that the movie does differ from the book that gets under my skin like a bucketful of maggots, it’s the fact that it’s so wildly removed that the only things remaining are a broken skeleton of a plot and the names of the characters involved. Worse yet, it’s not even done for the sake of improving on the original material.

Actually, so many of the changes were made with absolutely no conceivable reasoning behind them. Point in case, why completely change Akasha’s plan in regard to the human race? Why make Marius Lestat’s sire when one of the major shaping forces in Lestat’s character as a vampire was that his sire effectively abandoned him to find out everything on his own? Why change the fact that Akasha told Lestat her name, which was knowledge she’d been denying Marius for the entire duration of his caretaking. For simplicity’s sake? I can hear the reasoning right now: “Oh yes, let’s see if we can make our currently cardboard-flat characters any flatter by eliminating major details of their pasts and pairing down their motives. That will appeal to our eye-candy addicted, simpleton MTV audience.” Excuse me for being insulted.

Yes, I’m a Rice fan. Yes, I’m a literary and film vampire aficionado. And yes, I also have a dirty little RPG secret, as those of you from the forums know about already. All that said, I know there are limits to what works in a movie versus a book, and I’m far from saying that the books are literary masterpieces. Still, I was so deeply disappointed by the way Queen of the Damned threw caution, taste, and any pretence of representing the story accurately to the wind, let alone being misnamed for a book which only gets about 1/4th of the movie’s screen time.

I don’t agree with the way lots of critics hail Aliayah’s performance as cinematic brilliance simply because she died in unfortunate circumstances shortly after principle photography was done; to the contrary I think she portrayed a character who was supposed to be the menacing but enigmatically alluring vampire queen with all the subtlety normally employed in waving a red flag in a front of a charging bull. She wasn’t alone in her low quality of performance, though; Stuart Townsend, of whom I’ve been fond in previous roles, seemed to have sucked his inspiration for portraying Lestat out of Subculture for Dummies – A guide to being Goth for the rest of us! It broke my heart that Lena Olin and Claudia Black got mixed up in this farce of an adaptation, even more so because their roles in comparison to the characters of the books could hardly have been more misrepresentative or in Pandora’s case, non-existent. Oh yeah, they did manage that too, when they entirely wrote out Maharet’s twin sister Mekare. Come on Hollywood, I shelled out my hard-earned buck for the privilege of watching this tripe, give me a break here!

The complaints that have little or nothing to do with the books in specific are hardly scarce, either. In terms of special effects, etc, I think they would have had better results with ketchup than with whatever runny substance they used for blood. I mean, seriously, I got a hankerin’ for some red Kool-Aid while watching. Any of the kindergoths I went to high school with could have done a better job with the makeup. The costuming was laughable, starting with the anything-but-Egyptian costumes adorning Akasha, and culminating for me in Jesse’s red & green plaid mini-dress. Yes, that’s right folks, red & green plaid. The stunts left me yawning and wondering if they had expended the majority of the budget on securing Johnathan Davis’ vocals, which were one of the few things in QotD which did not make me want to forcibly remove the ‘un’ from the undead in the movie.

The soundtrack, in fact, is the only salvage from this wreck worth mentioning with any praise attached. If you’re a Manson, Orgy, Korn, or Rage Against the Machine fan, you might just be able to coast through to the credits on the tunes contained within, most of which were composed by Korn’s Davis.

Finally, it can’t be said that I didn’t give QotD its fair shot. I did in fact view it once more with my fellow mutant Rich in the hopes of finding some shred of redemption therein, but as expected, I came away just as disappointed as before, if not a bit more tipsy. All in all, I can understand why Tom Cruise refused the role. In my stack of vampire flicks, this one hits close to bottom, even ranking below Dracula 2000. Now that’s low, man.

Rich’s rating: So many terrible vampire puns to make here, I can’t settle on just one…

Rich’s review: Before I launch into the meat of this review, I have a few caveats to dole out. These are mainly for my own protection – I already get enough hate and vitriol in my email inbox from others, without adding the voices of those reading this review to them. So here goes.

Caveat Number 1: I know it’s not considered polite to speak ill of the dead, and I know that Aaliyah tragically died in a plane crash shortly after filming this movie. OK. However, this movie blows, and I reserve the right to unleash my sarcasm-lash on its ugly back, which may at times involve me pointing out what a terrible, terrible job Aaliyah did in, admittedly, an exceptionally poorly written role. Please don’t hate me – or if you do, keep it to yourself.

Caveat Number 2: This film is based on a series of obscenely popular books, which are part of a ‘folklorish’ multi-media back catalogue of gothiness. I’ve got nothing against any kind of alternative lifestyles, gothiness included; I have even counted myself among the spiky collar/black clothing brigade, and enjoyed doing so immensely. However, it’s possible that during this review, I might make a few sly jibes at the Goth community. Remember, I’m doing this a) because I was, and occasionally still enjoy being, a member of that community, and b) because it’s so easy. So if I crack a few Goth jokes here and there, please don’t hate me. And if you do, please don’t fill my email inbox with bad poetry.

So, where to begin? Well, if I know my fellow Mutant, Alex has already regaled you with tales of how this film bears as much resemblance to the book it is allegedly based on as my bank balance is similar to Justin Timberlake’s (i.e. One is full, and readily enjoyable – the other contains only a fractional resemblance to the first, and you really have to eek out the enjoyment from it). So, rather than re-treading old ground, I’ll try and give you an un-book-reader-biased opinion of this movie, for those of you who haven’t read the books.

Given that this is a sequel, you’ve probably seen its predecessor, Interview with the Vampire, yes? I thought as much. Oh, you at the back who hasn’t…I can see you there. I suggest you leave here now, and go watch Interview instead, unless you have a morbid desire to be very, very confused. Right, now that they’ve gone, my fellow Interview-watchers, it’s on to the turgid menace that is Queen of the Damned.

In Queen of the Damned, there’s only a really a single character in common between the two films (not strictly though; Armand from Interview also appears briefly, reinvented from Antonio Banderas to a chubby fop with blonde curly hair who adds absolutely nothing to the film.). Rising from his grave once more comes the charismatic fang-master Lestat De Lioncourt, played with charisma, panache, and aplomb by Tom Cruise in Interview, and played like a tragically angst-ridden college freshman (majoring in Arts) with a penchant for tight black clothes, silver skull jewellery and too much eyeliner by Stuart Townsend. Ooo, he’s so tragic and mysterious and terrifying at the same time, like the wardrobe where my Dad keeps all the clothes he saved from the 70’s.

Lestat, having gone stone cold bonkers for a couple of hundred years sat in his Louisiana mansion all on his lonesome, decides one day to stop moping around like an old shut in, and to actually get out and have a look at the world. After a quick stop at Hot Topic to pick up his requisite Leather Pants and Tight Black T-Shirt, Lestat decides that the best thing for him to do with his time now would be to join a band, become famous, and tell the entire world that vampires exist.

Now, what reason could Lestat have for violating the code of silence the vampires have enforced for thousands of years? Well, we’re never really told in the entire film, though a conversation Lestat has at the end of the film indicates he did it because he was bored – sounds like a good enough reason to me! Lestat naturally becomes instantly famous (and by instantly, I mean INSTANTLY – one shot, he finds the band rehearsing and exchanges absolutely shockingly clichéd dialogue with them; next shot, they’re multi-million making rock stars) despite having never, ever playing a live show; and his vampire buddies from around the globe get a little miffed that Lestat is going around telling the entire world that they’re real, and revealing all their secrets.

Incidentally, the world’s reaction to the knowledge that vampires are real? Meh.

By now, this film is racking up horrible plot points, and vague allusions to a background by the truckload; but never fear, while the plot may be hurried and horrible, and the dialogue more stilted and self-conscious than a 16 year old asking for his first date – doesn’t everyone look cool? All Goth and angsty and night-time and stuff. And listen to that killer soundtrack, kids.

So while Lestat is helping himself to groupies for a little midnight snack, we’re introduced to the other concern in this film – a young lady called Jesse, who works for a group called the Watcher’s Coun – I’m sorry, the Talamasca, who knows vampires exist, but don’t interfere with them; merely watch them. Jesse is a young little go-getter, who doesn’t like the stuffy English rules, and decides that the best way to watch vampires is to go to their clubs and talk to them and stuff. That’s probably safe – good thinking girl.

So, Jesse becomes interested in Lestat after he tells the world he’s a vampire, and in order to stop her running off getting herself into trouble, the head of her order, David (Paul McGann), gives Jesse Lestat’s diary, which he has hanging around his office, to read and hopefully keep her off the dark and foggy streets of London, and to treat us, the audience, to an exciting flashback to Lestat’s past. Oh joy, oh rapture.

After learning how exciting Lestat’s past was (read: painfully not exciting), we find that David’s plan has BACKFIRED. Oh, cruel irony, Jesse is now even more obsessed with Lestat, and resolves to go find him by getting into as much trouble as possible. After nearly getting eaten several times, Lestat saves Jesse so that they can have an excruciatingly painful exchange of lines, before Lestat disappears into the night, all mysterious.

You might have noticed that this point the fact that Akasha, the titular Queen of the Damned, hasn’t been in it for more than 30 seconds so far. Expect this to be a running trend throughout the film. And in case my point hasn’t been clear so far, this film is an abomination of cinema that should be forever shunned. Right, onwards – we’re nearly at the plot now.

So Jesse, now spurred by actually meeting Lestat, decides to go to his concert in Death Valley. On the way she phones her boss, who has explicitly told her not to go to the concert, to tell him that’s what she’s doing. So, in a move that forever baffles logic, that’s where he decides to go as well.

So, the guest list for Lestat’s concert looks kinda like this:

  • Jesse
  • David
  • Every vampire on earth, all desperate to kill Lestat.

Now, at this point, I’d like to just take a paragraph to tell you the one thing I liked about this film. Don’t worry, the vitriolic hate will be back in a second, but it’s time to recognise that Vincent Perez, as Lestat’s sire Marius, is the best thing about this film, particularly when visiting him in LA just before the big concert. Marius’ dialogue is actually amazingly quite funny, and Perez plays him masterfully. OK, all done, back to lambasting this miserable excuse for a mockery of a farce of a film.

At the concert, the plot finally rears its ugly head, as does Akasha, Queen of the Damned. Since you’ve laboured so bravely to actually get to the plot, I won’t spoil it for you; after all there’s precious little of it as it is.

It’s not hard to spot the key weakness of QotD as a film; plot begins at around 1:03:00, total running time of the film 1:34:00. Queen gives use over an hour of backstory for a plot which takes less than half an hour to resolve – its long in tail but short on teeth, and for a vampire movie, that sucks (teeth? sucks? Man, I crack myself up sometimes). However, clamouring behind this colossal film making error comes everything else that is wrong with Queen; clichéd, stilted and cheesy dialogue; terrible acting; its overblown sense of its own importance. This film SO wanted to be cool… and like most things when they try too hard to be cool; it just ended up looking ridiculous.

A minor consolation (if you like that sort of thing) is the soundtrack – if you like your music crunchy and guitary and shouty and moping (like I do), the soundtrack for QotD is actually a pretty good mix of the modern (at the time) Industrial bands; and all Lestat’s songs are voiced by Jonathan Davis from KoRn, and they’re not ALL terrible.

So, in conclusion, cinematic bilge of the worst kind, a truly horrible disgrace of a vampire film. Stick a stake in it; it’s done.

Intermission!

  • Journalists are well-read on vampire politics and take real-life vampires very seriously.
  • Stuart Townsend faking a French accent
  • Johnathan Davis appears in the movie as the scalper trying to peddle tickets to Lestat’s concert in Death Valley
  • Jesse’s Amidala-inspired hairdo
  • Co-ordinated eveningwear for the angry ancients attending the concert
  • Lestat learned a trick or two from Peter Parker
  • Tom Cruise was initially offered to return to the role of Lestat, but he declined.
  • AAaliyah died in a plane crash shortly after principal photography was completed.
  • Michael Rymer called in AAaliyah’s brother, Rashad Haughton, to help overdubbing her voice following her death.
  • The concert scenes are set in Death Valley, California, but were actually filmed in Werribee, Australia.
  • The copy of Rolling Stone that Marius throws down in front of Lestat actually was the issue published on the movie before it was released.
  • Wes Bentley was originally cast as Lestat, but he dropped out.
  • The singing voice of Lestat was supplied by Jonathan Davis of Korn. However due to contractual difficulties, Davis could not sing on the soundtrack album release. The five songs written by Davis and Richard Gibbs for the movie were then performed on the album by Marilyn Manson, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, David Draiman of The Disturbed, Wayne Static of Static-X, and Jay Gordon of Orgy. Davis was still allowed to play several instruments on the album.

Groovy Quotes:

    • Lestat: How did you manage to slip through the 50’s in red velvet?
    • Marius: I slept.
    • Lestat: You didn’t miss much. Elvis.
    • Marius: Elvis, yes. Akasha: Join me or die!

Lestat: We are the powerful, we should walk fearless in the open!

Akasha: I have come to give you the world.

Marius: She takes pleasure in only one thing: destroying life.

Akasha: [to Lestat, regarding Jesse] I would like for you to kill her.

Jesse: Boo
Lestat: Boo back.

Lifestyle Journalist: Do you have anything you want to say to the other vampires?
Lestat: Yes, as a matter of fact, I do.
Lifestyle Journalist: What is that?
Lestat: Come out, come out, where ever you are.

Akasha: See my children, remember your real family, or join hers.

Lestat: I don’t have time for this.
Jesse: All a vampire has is time.
Lestat: Not this one!

Jesse: Thanks.
Lestat: For what?
Jesse: You saved me.
Lestat: How presumptuous.

Lestat: Well, that makes you a very clever librarian, Talamascan. I knew I left that journal somewhere. So, was it a good read?
Jesse: It touched me.
Lestat: Did it now? Don’t worry, Jesse. Your kind never satisfied my thirst.

Lestat: You’re beautiful to me because you’re human. Your frailty. Your short years. Your heart. All that suddenly seems more precious than anything I’ve ever known.
Jesse: I’m not as precious as you think.

Akasha: You’re bold like your music. You live your life in the open like I did, long ago, when I had a king.
Lestat: Had a king?
Akasha: He is no more. Now you are my consort.

Lestat: A London goth. It’s funny. I would have pegged you for a Talamascan.
Jesse: Maybe in another lifetime.
LA Groupie: I’m an a Episcopalian!
Roger: And I’m a friggin Buddhist. Uh, Lestat…
Lestat: Roger, would you take our little Episcopalian back to church?

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

[Teaching Lestat how to kill]
Marius: Appreciate your prey.

Lestat: Boo. That was quite a performance. You should learn to be more careful. So, you know Marius?
Jesse: I know a lot of things.
Lestat: Not how to stay alive, apparently.
Jesse: Oh, I guess we have that in common, though I think I’m a little ahead of the race, here.
Lestat: Well, I can fix that.
Jesse: Your song “Redeemer” is about the girl with the violin?
Lestat: Yes. And what else do you think you know?
Jesse: You want…
Lestat: What do I want?
Jesse: You yearn…
Lestat: What do I yearn… what do I yearn…
Jesse: To walk with the living… out of the cold dark waste land of eternity.
Lestat: Very good, Talamascan. I knew I left that journal somewhere.

Lestat: Akasha!
Akasha: Why so surprised to see me, my love. You’ve called, I’ve come.
Lestat: My love?

Marius: In all those years I’ve kept them not once.
Lestat: Not until tonight, and she chose me.
Marius: I chose you.

Lestat: Many times I’ve called for Marius, but there was no answer. Just the endless precession of days, months, years… My teacher left me to my darkest lesson, that in the end, we are alone, and there is nothing but the cold, dark wasteland of eternity.

London vampire: Your host… what’s his name?
Jesse: Marius?
London vampire 2: Marius… Don’t know the guy
Jesse: Of course you wouldn’t, he’s an ancient.
London vampire 3: There aren’t any ancients left.
London vampire: They all turned to dust.
London vampire 2: So unless you got him in a bottle somewhere…
Jesse: You know you’re brave joking like that, I wish you could meet him.
London vampire 2: And why’s that?
Jesse: Because you might learn something.

Club Vampire: Fancy him do you?
Akasha: He reminds me of someone I knew long ago.
Club Vampire: Well all he’s going to remind you of is a pile of bones. We’re going to dismember him and set him on fire.
Akasha: Really? Is that what you’re going to do?

David Talbot: Can I ask…?
Jesse: What’s it like?
David Talbot: Yes.
Jesse: Do you want to find out?
David Talbot: Me? No, no – I’m too old to live forever.

[Maharet has just become a living statue]
Armand: She drank Akasha’s last drop. She took Akasha’s death into herself.
Marius: No, she sleeps.

Journalist: Yes, but these other vampires aren’t they going to be pissed off at you giving away their secrets?
Lestat: Mmmmm… I imagine they are… Yes…!

If You Liked This Movie, Try These:

  • Interview With A Vampire
  • Dracula 2000
  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula

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