Queen of the Damned
review by KJ Doughton, 22 February 2002

Queen of the Damned is the campy, comic-book flip side to Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire, jettisoning the self-important, artsy pretensions of that first screen adaptation of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles for a flashy, trashy goth-rock hybrid. Equal parts The Crow, From Dusk ‘til Dawn, and Marilyn Manson’s back-catalogue of doomy, nihilistic rock videos, Michael Rymer’s proudly silly spectacle is for people who felt that Rice’s decadent bloodsucker epics took themselves far too seriously. It’s striving to be cool to the core, full of face-melting industrial metal music and enough black spandex to don everyone at a Satanic coven’s progressive dinner party, but it ultimately has more in common with Beetlejuice than a black mass.

Full of Darth Vader wheezing sounds and ancient stone sculptures to "class it up", Queen of the Damned begins with the eloquent voice of testosterone-driven vampire Lestat (a gamely suave Stuart Townsend) informing us, "There comes a time when every vampire finds the concept of eternity unbearable." Revealing an undead death wish, this stringy-haired teenybopper announces that after "100 years of death," he’s re-emerged to have some worldly fun. Afterwards, he’ll allow fellow ghouls the hallowed opportunity to stomp his guts out in California’s Mojave Desert, while the Trent Reznor lookalike struts with a microphone as front man for a heavy rock band at a kind of demonic Woodstock. Seems that his vampire peers have a beef with Lestat’s vanity, angry that he has brought the undead population into the public eye.

This whole vampire-as-rock-star concept is a fascinating angle. Lestat facilitates press conferences, where journalists question whether he’s a true vampire, or merely a publicity hound masquerading as a debauched blood-craver. The movie’s one clever in-joke is its assertion that our society is currently so jaded by grotesque images that if a real demon did emerge, we’d be hard-pressed to notice. Meanwhile, his celebrity persona attracts the advances of nubile groupies, whose throats are casually shredded like tissue during Lestat’s after-show festivities.

Meanwhile, there’s a subplot concerning the Talamasca, an English clique of paranormal experts that includes Jesse (Marguerite Moreau), a fetching young female who has a crush on Lestat and fails to take heed of her group’s creed, "Observe the dark core, but never be a part of it." Later on, Lestat’s torrid tunes awaken Queen Akasha (embodied by an erotically charismatic Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash shortly after the film wrapped), a super-vampire who turns foes into burning piles of ash with a single, piercing stare.

Decorated in a bronze, Egyptian-style headdress and urban goth garb, Aaliyah commands the screen as she rips hearts from chests, Temple of Doom-style. Will she seduce Lestat to rule the earth as her eternal companion? Will Jessie win his hand in unholy matrimony instead? Queen of the Damned ends in an orgy of Korn-inspired noise, as evil beings fly through the air and clash for the privilege of ruling mankind. They occasionally meet their demise, undulating in graphic death throes, as missiles of black dust shoot from their roasting carcasses like octopus tentacles.

There have been a lot of camp classics emerging from pop-music divas lately, first with Mariah Carey’s Glitter, and more recently with Britney Spears’ Crossroads. With Queen of the Damned, Aaliyah’s fans might feel betrayed at her alarming lack of screen time, but such mourning admirers will be in agreement about one thing. Unlike the late singer-turned-actress’ more lightweight, bubble gum peers, she definitely had the chops. Rest in peace.

Directed by:
Michael Rymer

Stuart Townsend
Maguerite Moreau
Lena Olin
Vincent Perez

Written by:
Scott Abbott

R - Restricted.
Under 17 requires
parent or adult






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