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Review by
E.C.McMullen Jr.

Queen of the Damned
QUEEN OF THE DAMNED
Warner Brothers
Rated: Australia: R / Finland: K-18 / Ireland: 18 / Sweden:15 / Norway: 18 / UK: 18 / USA: R

When it comes to fine cinematography (Courtesy of Ian Baker: THE PUNISHER [1989], THE RUSSIA HOUSE, THE CHAMBER) QUEEN OF THE DAMNED,rocks!

Where good costume design is concerned (especially Akasha's crown) QUEEN OF THE DAMNED, rocks!

When it comes to great sound, Great SFX, and a Great soundtrack, courtesy of Jonathan H. Davis (koRn), Richard Gibbs (Oingo Boingo), and Jay Gordon (song "Slept So Long" - Lead Singer for Orgy), QUEEN OF THE DAMNED, rocks!

And that's about all the good I can say about it.

Aaliyah is being pushed in this movie, since she is the title character, but the main banana is Stuart Townsend, who plays the Vampire Lestat.

In the Anne Rice novels. Lestat is never a good guy. He is the anti-hero because he kills us and disposes of our remains without respect. He is an unrepentant slaughterer of humanity, but in Anne's hands, he is also a charming rogue. An asshole you can't help but like, so comfortable is he in his own skin. Lestat has fully accepted himself, unlike the whining, sniveling Louis (played by Brad Pitt in INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE). In the first movie of this series, Tom Cruise, a great actor despite some of the quirky roles he chooses to play, played Lestat to the hilt and stole the show in INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE. Cruise was the Lestat that Anne wrote about. Confident, swaggering, funny. Yes, he was alone in the world - Louis was his weakness - but unlike Louis, Lestat was no mewling whiner, constantly obsessing over his loneliness. In fact, he spent much of the book (and movie) trying to kick Louis out of his perpetual slump.

Yeah, you can love the wrong people all right.

Now let's look at Townsend's version of Lestat.

Well, for one thing, QUEEN OF THE DAMNED starts off all wrong by saying that Lestat grew so weary of this world and his loneliness that he went to sleep for one hundred years. The movie makes it seem as if he slept right through the whole part in the first movie where he attacks the interviewer and says "I'm going to give you the choice that was never given me." QUEEN OF THE DAMNED wants to start the whole movie off from scratch. So we get a little bit of the book THE VAMPIRE LESTAT thrown in along with QUEEN OF THE DAMNED, and for some inexplicable reason, the movie starts off with a very long winded narration. Screenwriters, Scott Abbott and Michael Petroni, have never wrote for a Horror movie before and it really shows here. The narration is by Lestat. In Townsend's hands, Lestat is bored with existence, bored with himself: he looks bloated, feels fat, and he's sick of YOU!*

And the narration goes on.

And on.

And on.

Did I mention that the narration goes on?

At some point I expected Lestat to say: "Beep! Turn the page!"

And yet the movie keeps you intrigued thanks to all the folks I mentioned at the start of this review, plus the direction of Michael Rymer, who has never directed a Horror movie before. Never came close. Apparently he never needed to. Rymer knows what he's about. Except for reigning in the damn screenwriters - and having a decent leading man.

Townsend sleepwalks through his role of Lestat and it's more than boring, its painful. He takes off his shirt from time to time to keep the teenyboppers interested. Not that there would be that many watching an R rated movie, but there you have it. Maybe the film makers are preparing for the video release.*

At any rate, Lestat gets a band going and becomes a "Rock God". Everyone is mad for Goth Metal music (Something that would make the real Goth crowd, who covet the alienation of the fashion, running to embrace something more Branson, Missouri). Why the whole world goes nuts for something they never cared for in such masses before can only be attributed to that devilish, suave, dangerous, and charmingly rogue personality of Lestat - except he doesn't have any.

It can be done, of course and Tom Cruise is hardly an isolated incident. Hugh Jackman played Wolverine in THE X-MEN as an asshole who was never-the-less a charming rogue. Shaft was a charming rogue. Pierce Brosnan played both a charming rogue good guy in the Bond flicks and a charming rogue bad guy in The Tailor of Panama. Michael Caine played an old fart incredibly sinister, murderous yet charming rogue in SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM (You've got to see THIS flick!). Even Freddy Krugar became a charming though bloodthirsty, child slaughtering rogue in the NIGHTMARE movies.

It can be done!

But Townsend can't do it. Its almost unfair to have put him in such a role where he is obviously not ready. With his droopy, nearly comatose eyes and the perpetual sheepish half grin that looks like "one of the film crew just told a joke and I'm not sure I got it but everyone else is laughing, so..." Townsend drops the ball and so drops the movie.

Where else can we turn? Enter Jesse Reeves (Marguerite Moreau). Painfully obvious victim in waiting and Exposition Girl (like the constant narration wasn't enough! Is the audience supposed to be stupid?). She belongs to a shadowy, veddy British, Train Spotting type society that watches, but never, ever interferes with, Vampires. Jesse longs to be a Vampire. She longs to slaughter innocent people on a nightly basis, except for one problem: Actually killing her victims and drinking their blood is kind of icky*. Moreau is also another bad pick for this flick. Her career is largely built upon her fluff roles in The Mighty Ducks movies and Free Willy 2: The Aquarium Strikes Back. She doesn't have that innocent and beautiful, yet sinister combination that the role needs (and Jennifer Connelly is too old for the part). At this point you start to wonder if anyone was even given a screen test, or if they were chose simply because they looked good on an 8x10.

Because of the untimely and tragic death of Aaliya, she is the audience's center of attention, though it takes her forever to make an appearance. When she does, she walks with that Aaliyah walk that can't help but attract attention, she really knew how to move. Even her fellow Vampires, unaware that she is Akasha, Mother of all Vampires, fall silent before her. Unfortunately her part in this movie, like her life in reality, is far too brief.

The great Lena Olin is here, but has an even smaller role - she's consigned to little more than a cameo.

And if everything else wasn't bad enough, this movie also gets an

!!!UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT!!!
There are three black people in this movie that have any kind of substantial role and they all get killed. From the very first victim to the last. Even those actors who appear merely swarthy, die. Even the "good guy" vampires who appear less than pure white, die! Only oyster white folks live.

For more information, read the !!!UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT!!! page.

Oh, this Lestat is also back in the closet. His days of homsexuality and cavorting with Louis are over. This Lestat digs chicks, man! Sort of. Not so much digs as buries actually.

The happiest surprise in this movie is Vincent Perez as Marius (The Vampire who turned Lestat). Vincent Perez sucked in THE CROW 2: City Of Angels, fared much better in the non-Horror movie I Dreamed Of Africa, and steals the show in QUEEN OF THE DAMNED. When Marius and Lestat are together, you get the feeling that Townsend is playing a sleepy headed Louis to Marius's Lestat. Sad in a way - but Perez is the highlight of the film. Great to see someone grow in their profession!

QUEEN OF THE DAMNED has slick production values, a perfect soundtrack, great Special Effects, good direction, good costume design, lame script/dialogue, mediocre acting, and worse casting.

I give it two Shriek Girls.


This review copyright 2002 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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*
A tip of the chapeau to Jason Rohrbacher.

*
I've been at Blockbuster countless times to see the clerk rent an R rated movie to some little girl in gaudy make-up and glittery plastic jewelry - whose head just peered over the counter (With that great excuse: "My Mother is in the car.").

*
Can't I just have all the powers of a vampire, but still eat burgers and pizza? Unfortunatly, no. So what's the point of living? This question has sent many a vampire into frustrated acts of suicide.

*
And if you think I'm belaboring this point, there is one totally Louis type scene where Lestat, his mouth full of fangs and blood, says as a warning to a vampire wannabe "Is this what you want?"

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