[box cover]

Queen of the Damned

Let's put it this way: The art direction is really good in Queen of the Damned. The sets are impressive (even if you're never allowed to forget that they're sets) and the costumes are gorgeous. But beyond that, this movie is so brutally bad that one has to wonder who the target audience was. Certainly not fans of Anne Rice's books, because the liberties that are taken with the novel's story are many and profound (or profane, depending on how you feel about Rice's extensive body of work.) But it's not for mainstream audiences looking for a kick-ass vampire flick, either, because the sluggish, sloppy pacing acts more as a tranquilizer than as an entertainment. No, this film seems to have been made for some small subset of teenage goths who have neither read Rice's turgid vamp porn nor have ever seen a genuinely good vampire movie, therefore allowing them to overlook the tedious plot, lousy dialogue and truly awful acting because the music and the clothes are so bitchin'. The story: The vampire Lestat (Stuart Townsend) arises after a 100-year nap so he can be a rock star. No, really — that's the plot. Along the way, he wakes up Akasha (Aaliyah), the ancient mother-of-all-vampires, and they writhe around at each other and try to look spooky. Oh, and a beautiful researcher (Marguerite Moreau) from the ultra-secret paranormal group Talamasca becomes obsessed with Lestat, Akasha wants Lestat to be her consort and help her rule over all the other vampires, and then there's a big old vampire showdown. But if you make it that far into the film, you should probably win some kind of prize for the effort. Townsend is an even worse choice for Lestat than Tom Cruise, if you can imagine (Rice has said that when writing the character she imagined a young Rutger Hauer!) and plays the character less as a powerful, ancient force of evil than as a malnourished Cure fan with plastic Halloween fangs. Aaliyah does her best, gamely hootching herself around in barely any clothes, doing some kind of lizard dance and flaring her nostrils a lot — but someone really should have told her that it doesn't make sense for an Egyptian queen to have an accent like Bela Lugosi. And, curiously, Lena Olin shows up in a minuscule role, making one wonder if she owed someone a favor. Warner's DVD release of Queen of the Damned has a sharp, crisp anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The disc boasts far more extras than the movie deserves, including a commentary by director Michael Rymer and producer Jorge Saralegui; three "making-of" featurettes: "Aaliyah Remembered," "Creating the Vampires," and "The Music of Lestat"; 30 minutes of additional scenes; outtakes; three Lestat music videos: "Forsaken," "Redeemer" and "System"; a Static X music video of "Cold"; extended concert sequences for the songs "Slept So Song" and "Not Meant For Me"; production stills; and the theatrical trailer. Snap-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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