QUEEN OF THE DAMNED
After a 100 year hibernation, the vampire Lestat de Lioncourt (Stuart Townsend) awakens and becomes a famous rock star. Breaking the vampire code, Lestat tells the world that he is a bloodsucker and announces he will perform at a concert in Death Valley. Seeking him out is Jesse Reeves (Marguerite Moreau), an investigator of supernatural phenomena who has family links with the vampire world. His music has also awakened Akusha (Aaliyah Haughton), a powerful vampire queen who desires Lestat and wishes to make him her king.
Review by Louise Keller:
Oh the tedium of eternal life… I guess the boredom and monotony might become a bit of a challenge, if you’re a vampire, that is. So the notion that rock music provides a new lease of life for Lestat, who is chilling out in an ornate coffin, is pretty cool. Also gives the filmmakers a good excuse to dish up an upbeat, arresting music soundtrack. Blood, fame and rock’n’roll is the new formula. You need to have a particular mindset to enjoy Michael Rymer’s big budget vampire movie. Shot entirely in Melbourne, Queen of the Damned is unabashed over-the-top Hollywood vampire escapism with black leather, glamorously stylish production design and enough neck-puncturing sharp fangs to satisfy lovers of the genre. It’s a dizzy ride of distinctive debauchery and a fun feast of escapist entertainment. The script works more or less, with a few dips here and there, but what is well worth the price of the ticket alone, is the look of the film, which through Ian Baker’s lens is simply dazzling. The design is lush and decadent themed with plenty of animal print and echoes of grandeur, while the costumes are sensational. Every single item stands out. Sexy, brooding with hungry eyes, Stuart Townsend is strikingly pallid as the ambitious Lestat who (like Oliver) pleads for “more” to his creator Marius (Vincent Perez is terrific). But of course, it’s blood, not food that he’s craving for, and there is welcome humour in such lines as ‘how did you manage to slip through the 50s in red velvet?’ to which Marius replies ‘I slept.’ It looks as though everyone had fun on the set – dressed in funky black, Andrew Urban who pops up in a cameo at the opening press conference playing himself, can attest to that - and the entire cast is terrific. Queen of the Damned will sadly also be remembered as Aaliyah’s last film and the film is dedicated to her, following her untimely tragic death at the age of 22. She is stunning as Akasha; not only does she look sensational in Angus Strathie’s imaginative and elegant costumes, but she commands presence and feistiness. Marguerite Moreau is appealing in the key role of Jesse, but Townsend commands centre stage, and theatricals take full flight at the climactic outdoor rock concert (at which 3,000 Melbourne locals congregated), which is crammed with eye-boggling effects. Take a look at Queen of the Damned – its look with haunt you!
Review by Richard Kuipers:
Imagine being locked in a nightclub with a crowd of unrepentant poseurs and body modification enthusiasts. That's how I felt trudging through this extended rock clip masquerading as a horror movie. Vampires may be able to seduce victims with eye contact but to entertain audiences they need to offer something more than heavy leather, chunky jewellery and bad Bela Lugosi accents. Anne Rice's novels are intriguing because they offer a central vampire character who has become mortified by his own existence. Neil Jordan's Interview With The Vampire (1994) captured this melancholy with much more grace and style than this hyperactive effort that seems geared at undemanding teenagers. A restless camera, non-stop music and frantic editing gives us no chance to be involved in Lestat or Jesse's journey. With no emotional attachment to any of the characters we're left with a visual and aural assault that becomes tiresome by the time Lestat kicks off the big gig in Death Valley. If character development isn't an issue you may get enough bang for your box office buck here. What you'll also get are some very weird accents and vocal mannerisms. At times Lestat sounds plummy English, at others like an Italian nobleman and there's even a hint of Rasputin as well. As for Aaliyah, who died just after filming and to whom the film is dedicated, her Egyptian queen sounds like she took elocution lessons from her old mate Vlad the Impaler in Wallachia. Didn't anyone look at how silly all this sounded on day one of production? Ho hum, another exercise in overcooked style and very little substance. This is a disappointing effort from talented director Michael Rymer who directed the AFI award-winner Angel Baby in 1995 and then made three pictures overseas, none of which were released theatrically here. This one will make a splash for a week or two but it simply hasn't got the chops to go much beyond that, despite a sterling performance by Urban Cinefile honcho Andrew L. Urban as a press conference journalist. Also, it's not scary even for a moment and that, my fellow horror movie fans, is just not good enough.
Note: As Andrew L. Urban plays a cameo role in Queen of the Damned, he has not filed a review.
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STUART TOWNSEND INTERVIEW by Andrew L. Urban
MY BIT(E) PART Andrew L. Urban reports
QUEEN OF THE DAMNED (M)
CAST: Stuart Townsend, Marguerite Moreau, Aaliyah, Vincent Perez, Lena Olin, Paul McGann, Matthew Newton (and Andrew L. Urban as himself)
PRODUCER: Jorge Saralegui
DIRECTOR: Michael Rymer
SCRIPT: Scott Abbott, Michael Petroni (novel by Anne Rice)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ian Baker
EDITOR: Dany Cooper
MUSIC: Jonathan H. Davis, Richard Gibbs, Jay Gordon (song, Slept So Long)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Graham ‘Grace’ Walker
RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 4, 2002