Horror review: Queen of the Damned

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, FEB. 28, 2002

Awesome vampire flicks are hard to find. The last one that really blew me away was Near Dark, and that was way back in ’87. In the case of contemporary big-budget efforts, Bram Stoker’s Dracula was too grandiose for my tastes, and the pretty-boy adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire didn’t get me involved.

The more recent, highly underrated Dracula 2000 was a feverishly paced diversion laced with icky humour and genuine suspense. Unfortunately, Queen of the Damned—based on another novel by Rice—is neither fun nor scary. It’s mainly an excuse for director Michael Rymer to unleash his arsenal of flashy, MTV-type visuals and Moulin Rouge costume designer Angus Strathie to play dress-up.

Stuart Townsend—the spitting image of ill-fated Brandon Lee in The Crow—stars as the legendary vampire Lestat, who rises from a decades-long slumber to invade a practice session by a really lame (and disturbingly undernourished) metal band. He appoints himself the group’s lead singer, and before you can say “payola from hell”, he’s on the front page of Rolling Stone (with a full-page ad on the back).

His nights are spent leaping from the ceilings of rooms in ornate mansions onto the throats of pulchritudinous groupies, who then have no choice but to become eternal fans (unlike those old New Kids on the Block devotees). With the addiction to fame coursing through his unholy veins, Lestat unveils his plan to perform at a huge outdoor concert in Death Valley, California (actually Werribee, Australia), and at a glitzy news conference, he invites the wrath of old-school undead everywhere by taunting them with “Come out, come out, wherever you are.”

Queen Akasha, played with hardly any clothes by late pop vocalist Aaliyah, takes Lestat’s summons to heart—but not before ripping a still-beating one from the chest of a mouthy bloodsucker who bugs her at a trendy undead hangout. This grisly introduction to the titular character is meant to illustrate Akasha’s savagery and ruthlessness; unlike Lestat, who relishes the adoration of mortals, she just wants to kill ’em all.

That conflict sets the stage for a big showdown, heavy on visual effects, with garish vampires zipping through the air and much exploding of blackened, burnt-out bodies. It’s sort of like a screwed-up cross between Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and last year’s remake of 13 Ghosts, if you can imagine that.

I wouldn’t try, if I were you.

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