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The Queen Of The Damned

The Queen Of The Damned

By Patrick Samuel • January 2nd, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 3/5
Warner Bros. Pictures

Original release: February 22nd, 2002
Running time: 101 minutes

Director: Michael Rymer
Writers: Scott Abbott, Michael Petroni, Anne Rice (novel)
Composer: Richard Gibbs, Jonathan Davis

Cast: Aaliyah, Stuart Townsend, Marguerite Moreau, Paul McGann, Vincent Pérez, Lena Olin

The Queen Of The Damned

For as long as I can remember I’ve always had a fascination with vampires. Whether it was Count Orlok in Nosferatu (1922), Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee as Dracula or Gary Oldman as Vlad the Impaler in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), I couldn’t tear my eyes away from them. Entranced by their charm and power, and engrossed by the horror they unleashed there was also something tragic about these eternally damned creatures…something I could relate to as a teenager – loneliness. Despite having an eternity to wander the Earth they were always doomed to do it alone; having lost their chance at true love when they were still mortal.

Yet it wasn’t until I picked up a copy of Anne Rice’s landmark novel Interview With The Vampire (1976) that I came see the vampire world with a much different pair of eyes. Rice detailed an existence rich in history, culture and art and each successive volume of The Vampire Chronicles took us to a different place and introduced us to even more intoxicatingly sensual creatures. By the time I’d gotten round to the third book in the series, The Queen Of The Damned, I was completely taken in by the way these characters moved through time, carrying with them all what they’d experienced as mortals but amplified in a way that’s so unique to them as vampires.

Although Interview With The Vampire had been brought to the big screen by Neil Jordan in 1994, it would be a further eight years before another of Rice’s novels would see an adaptation. Oddly, it wouldn’t be the second novel in the series, The Vampire Lestat, but The Queen Of The Damned. Adapted by Scott Abbott and Michael Petroni and directed by Michael Rymer, the film had a more modern feel to it than Interview, something that work both for and against it.

The Queen Of The Damned

It opens with an introduction by Lestat, this time played by Stuart Townsend, who tells us that he’d been awaken from his slumber by the modern era’s music. Fascinated by the decadence he saw he then realised that he could finally take to the stage and be all he wanted to be in front of the masses and he would be loved for it. He could be a rock star. Assembling a band together, the Vampire Lestat rises to infamy and during a press junket he dares his hiding fellow vampires to “Come out, come out, wherever you are.”

His stunt attracts the attention of the ancient ones including his maker Marius (Vincent Perez) as well as the attention of a secretive group called the Talamasca who’ve always studied the world of the paranormal, including vampires. They’ve followed Lestat for a long time and a young researcher there, Jesse Reeves The Queen Of The Damned (Marguerite Moreau) believes he’s the real deal, especially after finding a diary left behind by the child vampire Claudia (from Interview With The Vampire).

Jesse falls under Lestat’s spell and becomes determined to meet him, but at the same time she’s also trying to unravel her own family’s mystery and figure out why she’s so drawn to this dark world. Meanwhile Lestat has bigger things to worry about than the Talamasca. With a huge concert to play in Death Valley there’s likely to be a lot of bloodshed as the vampires have taken up his invitation to come out of their coffins but he’s also responsible for the awakening of the first vampire – Akasha (Aaliyah). The ancient Egyptian queen wants to return the world to how it was during her reign but first she has to cleanse it, with blood.

As all these plots converge, The Queen Of The Damned should’ve been the vampire movie to top them all, but despite a truly great performance by Aaliyah and an exceptional rock score fused with eastern vibes by Richard Gibbs and Korn’s Jonathan Davis, the film suffers greatly again from its miscasting of several key The Queen Of The Damned characters just like Interview did with Tom Cruise as Lestat. It’s not that I though Townsend was particularly bad in the role; he just didn’t live up to playing such a larger-than-life character.

I don’t usually mind if a film deviates from its source material to tell a story, being as they’re two entirely different mediums sometimes radically adapting them for the screen can be the best approach. However, the decision to omit huge portions from Rice’s novel that was central to the plot, such as Akasha’s origins and the part about the red haired twins, in favour of making Lestat the central character resulted in The Queen Of The Damned losing a lot of its bite. Another drastic change was the age and appearance of Jesse’s older colleague David Talbot. In the novel he’s a much older man but in the film he’s play by Paul McGann. Having a younger actor play him makes the possibility of the follow-up story The Tale Of The Body Thief (1992) incredibly difficult as the premise depends on Talbot being in his later years.

While the film suffers in these areas there’s no denying it excels where the music’s concerned and the screen presence carried by Aaliyah who plays the role like a hungry viper, slithering seductively across the screen whenever she appears. And although the experience of seeing what’s undoubtedly my favourite vampire novel adapted for the screen in such a flawed manner, my fascination with these beings has never waned, except for maybe that other more recent vampire franchise…you know the one I mean…

The Queen Of The Damned

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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