Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.
Vampires Lestat (Stuart Townsend) and Akasha (Aaliyah) exchange vital fluids in "Queen of the Damned." The film opens today.
By Mark Betancourt
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday Feb. 22, 2002
Somewhere between "Nosferatu" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" lies the latest drop in the vampire movie bucket, "Queen of the Damned."
Of course, the film is closer to an episode of "Buffy" than it is to vampire movies of old. Films about the undead have always managed to reflect the most primal trends of their times, like how Bella Lugosi's 1931 "Dracula" feeds on flappers. "Queen of the Damned" is no exception.
The vampire Lestat (Stuart Townsend) - we know him from Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles series - has basically awakened after a couple hundred years because he heard this teenage band's music and got an idea.
So Lestat gets up, goes over to the teen-agers - who stand there in awe of his vampireness, their nipple rings trembling - and asks them if he can be in their band. In the next scene, he has turned their little weekend pastime into a worldwide pop sensation, and Lestat is giving a video conference to reporters in London.
Here's where the trouble starts. Lestat starts telling people he's a vampire, which is totally against vampire protocol. Then, knowing how pissed off everyone in the vampire community is going to be, he invites all those steaming undead to his first and only concert in none other than Death Valley, California.
(Hee hee. That Lestat, what a sense of humor.)
There is of course, also a love story. Jesse (Marguerite Moreau) is some kind of British Agent Scully, except smaller and cuter and dumber. She decides to follow Lestat around as part of her "research," but really she just wants to become a vampire so she can be his girlfriend.
Then, of course, there's the Queen of the Damned herself, Akasha (Aaliyah). She pretty much just likes to burn people alive. Lestat's catchy crooning has awakened her from somewhere even vampires don't talk about, and she goes on a rampage on her way to making him her king.
"Queen of the Damned" is basically just a nice little movie about some vampires getting together for the common good. That's right - somehow the movie manages to explain that normally, humans and vampires live together in harmony, kinda like lions and antelope. But Akasha disrupts this delicate ecosystem, and the vampires must put aside their differences and band together to destroy her. Good for them.
Not surprisingly, this movie is built around music. Sometimes the plot only carries the characters from one song to the next, which is better than just having the plot be stupid.
Lestat's anguished songs are interesting: Often they describe his own personal conflicts about being a vampire, including remorse for having killed an innocent girl back in the 18th century. There's a lot of heavy, grinding guitar and screamed-at-the-top-of-your-lungs lyrics about loneliness and the urge to taste human flesh, too. Apparently vampires, like so many of their mortal wannabes, also rely on music to express themselves.
So who cares if the dialogue sounds like soft-core goth-pop song lyrics? It's the age-old union of sex and violence, the perverted and the pleasurable, the living and the dead. Moviegoers have been stroking their dark sides with stuff like this for 80 years. Who can resist?