The Horror Honeys: Vampire Month ~ All She Wants Is Hell On Earth

Vampire Month ~ All She Wants Is Hell On Earth

A Head Honey Vampire Month Review by Kat

Queen of the Damned (2002)

Once upon a time, the 90s and early 00s to be exact, the literary world was obsessed with Anne Rice and her reimagining of the vampire genre - now, when I say "literary world," I mean my world at that age... which means, all the girls in my class were obsessed with Anne Rice. How could you not be? Sensual, forbidden stories about eternal love that knew no boundaries and no taboo. I hid my Vampire Chronicle's books from my mother, and then put them out in the open when I got my copies of Rice's erotica novels... #sorrynotsorry  

When the film version of Interview with the Vampire came out in 1994, I was elated and obsessed, and watched it over and over until the second film featuring the vampires Rice had created was released in 2002. Queen of the Damned featured the return of the vampire Lestat, and the addition of one of my favorite singers - Aaliyah.  I was so excited. 

I love you Marius. You deserved a better film.
The story (altered from IMDb for my own amusement/truthiness): The vampire Lestat becomes a rock star whose music wakes up the queen of all vampires. OK, so that's only a tiny part of it. Our favorite self-obsessed immortal is awoken by a really sub-par garage band who have been squatting in his New Orleans mansion. We’re also pretending that the entirety of Interview with the Vampire didn’t happen at all - so put any of that memory of Lestat and his arc out of your mind. QotD is a strange mashup of two of Rice’s books - The Vampire Lestat, and Queen of the Damned.

While the latter snagged the title (obviously), the story of the film covers a certain amount of Lestat’s origin story - which, if you’re a fan of the books, forget that you’ve already read about it, because this is toooootally different. We are also introduced to some interwoven story lines involving other vampires: the eternally tortured Marius (one of my personal favourite story arcs from the books, but only because he’s a Roman), the sensuously powerful Maharet, Pandora (who doesn’t get to speak, but her book also annoys the shit out of me) and the second act baddie, Akasha, the Queen of the Damned herself. 

Also wound in here is the agonizingly boring sub-story of Jesse Reeves and The Talamasca. Jesse is a novice in The Talamasca, and is therefore not permitted to do “field work” (aka running all over the world to find the object of her desire like a lovesick teenager), but she does it anyway.  Jesse’s obsession with Lestat, translates into a desperate ploy to put herself directly in his path to prove how obsessed she is with him. First, at a stunningly laughable vampire kink bar in London (ooo, they’re wearing latex!), and then at Lestat’s concert in Death Valley (actually Australia, but whatever, I’m sure it was cheaper) where she’s dressed like the worst example of a Hot Topic Goth I’ve ever seen outside of the 90s... even *in* the 90s she would have been laughed at. Jesse’s slavish need to be one of the undead turns Lestat’s crank, which annoyed the shit out of me because the Lestat of Interview was a hunter, not the prey, and that Lestat would have broken Jesse’s scrawny neck, not bitten it.

Can we talk about this concert for a minute? The lyrics of Lestat’s songs specifically reveal “vampire secrets” in an attempt to have some kind of family reunion… why he thinks this is a good idea I’ll never know, but it seems to be a form of drunk dialing, but on a much later scale. And after a few bottles of wine, texting the ex always seems like a great idea, right?    

Painfully. Boring. 
Complaints about casting, terrible dialogue and storyline aside, there are things about this terribad movie that I really enjoy. Anne Rice herself may have publicly distanced herself from the project, but there are elements to the story that do her work the justice it deserves, even if the cast (and script) can’t pull it off. As Lestat, Stuart Townsend intended to come across with shades of Claudia in his ferocity and precociousness as a newly born vampire - what we get is actually more like the Hayden Christensen version of Anakin Skywalker - all petulant whining and childish impulsiveness. So, the idea was there to have Lestat be a powerful immortal looking for a different way to live with his Dark Gift - to “live” more in the open and hunt as he desired.

His guide, Marius, is written as a much more tender character in QotD than in his own stories, and as such it negates Lestat’s entire complaint about his maker teaching him nothing, and not giving him a choice in his change. The tales of Lestat’s early awakening to the ways of the vampire are the most interesting thing about the film, and I know I’m not alone in the admission that I would have rather watched a film all about Lestat that led into Interview than anything that happened after he discovered Akasha and Enkil in their elaborate Disney display tomb in Marius’ basement.

The second act of the film is devoted to Akasha’s awakening and the realization that even though she’s been frozen in some kind of buttery marble carbonate for centuries, she’s still a monster; which is par for the course when you’re a goddess. I mean, seriously. Insatiable hunger, unquenchable desire… what’s not to love about this character? Now, while I have serious issues with the Vampire Goddess being awoken by the music of Korn (and yes, I love them) I think it’s quite fitting that Akasha chose the Brat Prince as her new consort… although, after seeing what she did to her last paramour, that might have been an ill advised decision on Lestat’s part. 

RIP, dread Queen
Queen of the Damned is all about being careful what you wish for, because the side-effects list is kind of terrifying. Lestat wants to be powerful and live as a vampire in the open… but watch out for that insatiable blood goddess you’re sharing a bathtub with, she wants to suck the world dry too, not just your… neck. Jesse desperately wishes to be a vampire, and to be with Lestat forever, even though there are ZERO things about her that would recommend her to him as a partner for eternity… but just forget about the fact that your family line is now extinguished for you to get your way, NBD. Marius wants nothing more than to protect Akasha and Enkil, and to prevent them from being awoken… but when he thinks he’s found a partner to assist him in his work, he ends up with Lestat, and then shit just goes bad. 

So, what does Queen of the Damned do for vampires in cinema? Uhh... it's not a lot. The film takes Rice's source material (several bits of it) and mashes them all together into an unrecognizable mess that is actually more insulting to the writer and her universe creation than anything. Cinematically there are some unique camera angles, and a genuine attempt to make a stylish film... but ultimately the film itself is a cautionary tale in how not to adapt a writers work. Just because you have the money for the sets and the wardrobe, and that bathtub full of fancy rose petals... doesn't mean you're making a good film.

Rollin' up in the club like... 
The other danger with making a book adaptation film, is that there is a fine line that has to be danced on... it should be accessible to people who aren't familiar with the source material, and pay proper tribute to the book for those who do know - Queen of the Damned wasn't either of those things. 

All these issues aside, I still watch Queen of the Damned at least once a year. I watch it for Aaliyah, for the parts of the Rice mythology that are buried within the craptacular script, and for the moments where I actually believe that there is a good film hiding deep inside this vampiric dumpster fire. 

Head Honey verdict: 2.5 Stuart Townsend facial expressions out of 5

You suck. 
Queen of the Damned is available via iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, Google Play
& blu-ray/DVD

What do you think of the Vampire Townsend?
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