‘Queen of the Damned’ is the follow up to the 1994 film, ‘Interview with the Vampire’, (both of which are based on Anne Rice’s hugely popular Vampire Chronicle novels), and continues the exploits of the vampire Lestat. Recently awoken from a lengthy slumber, Lestat, (Stuart Townsend), finds himself in a new and exciting modern day America where he embarks on a journey to become the world’s most popular rock star with his band ‘The Vampire Lestat’. Along the way he bumps into a few old friends and rivals whilst also attracting the attention of the mother of all vampires, Akasha, (played by Rn’B star Aaliyah who tragically passed away six months before the films release). Once all the playing pieces have been set during the films opening twenty minutes it’s here that holes start to appear and both the film and the script fall apart.
The official follow up to ‘Interview with the Vampire’, (with regards to the books), was ‘The Vampire Lestat’, but was later considered too broad and episodic for a two-hour feature film and so a re-write of the plot was put forward with the larger part of the sequel being based on the third book, ‘Queen of the Damned’. The result, unfortunately, is a film that makes little to no sense at all what with whole sections of story that were integral to the plot being absent. Most importantly the story of the twin sisters and there involvement in how Akasha came to be the first Vampire was nowhere to be found in the movie. In turn, chapters taken from the two books that were included (like Lestat’s birth as a vampire and why Akasha and her husband King Enkil must never be awoken), are watered down to the point that its not only left the story confusing and shallow, but the cast bereft of any real character.
In ‘Queen of the Damned’, Lestat is nothing more than a two dimensional sexual predator and while it may be argued that essentially that’s all a vampire is it’s because Anne’ Rice’s vampire Lestat was so much more than your bog standard blood drinker-a cold, methodic killer but with an arrogance and charm that’s impossible not be attracted too,(something Tom Cruise captured magnificently in the first film directed by Neil Jordan)-one has to wonder if both writer and director actually read the novels or just pick chapters at random. As it transpired Anne Rice had no part to play in the screenplay, something which is painfully clear throughout. Gone has the cold, charming sophistication that made Ms Rice’s vampires so appealing. Gone has the rich and fabulous world in which they live out their immortal lives only to be replaced by something more akin to an MTV music video for sexually angst ridden teenagers who at the weekend pretend they’re vampires with severe depression and a longing to just ‘fit in’. While that may be a sweeping generalization of some of todays teenagers, ( I don’t actually think it myself, most kids who dress up like vampires at the weekend are actually quite friendly and very sociable), it’s clear who both writer and director ‘thought’ they were aiming ‘Queen of the Damned’ at.
The story jumps back and forth from one disjointed scene to the next with Lestat becoming more of an unbearable ass with each passing moment and Akasha’s wanton path of destruction offering very little in way of explanation as the film drags itself to its ridiculous happy ending where Lestat and girlfriend walk off into the, err, moonlight. Not even the presence of seasoned British actor, Paul McGann, (“will you stop saying that Withnail, of course he’s the fu*king farmer!”*), can lift this film beyond the realms of mediocrity.
If ‘Queen of the Damned’ should teach the film industry anything then it’s that some stories were never meant to be lifted from the pages on which they were first written as they’ll often end up being a sorry and embarrassing mess. Anne Rice’s ‘Queen of the Damned’ is one such tale, as director Michael Rymer has proven here.
*“will you stop saying that Withnail, of course he’s the fu*king farmer!” Is from a truly brilliant, British film called 'Withnail & I' starring Paul McGann and Richard E. Grant. A film I imagine many of you reading this will have seen and immensely enjoyed many times. If not, then bloody well get it sorted!