Queen of the Damned

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

The vampire Lestat (Stuart Townsend) has become bored with life, so he chose to sleep for a while, perhaps give things time to improve. After an extensive slumber, Lestat awakes to the sounds of hard rock music and in that instant, he knows he has found a better, more acceptable time period. This world is filled with dark images, tatoos, piercings, exotic fetishes, and all kinds of other things that excite Lestat’s senses. In this place, he is able to find not only acceptance, but fame and fortune, as he becomes a rock star. The masses take his music and make it their own, while dismissing his claims of vampirism as public relations fodder, to enhance his dark image and sell records, though he truly is a creature of the night, of course. But his music also has some negative implications, as it wakes Akasha (Aaliyah), the vampire known as the Queen of the Damned. She has plans to make Lestat her new King, but that involves tyrannical methods that he doesn’t agree with, which leads to some problems. When Lestat and his fellow vampires revolt against Akasha’s powers, which side will survive the carnage that follows?

As I am always up for vampire cinema and I loved Anne Rice’s novel of the same name, I had high hopes for Queen of the Damned. But when Anne Rice offered to write the screenplay herself and was refused, then Tom Cruise turned down the role of Lestat, I started to wonder if the picture would even be worthwhile. When the magical Aaliyah signed on, I started to think it would all turn out well enough, but in the end, Queen of the Damned is a let down. The kind of gothic atmosphere Rice conjured up in her Vampire Chronicles is tossed to the side here, in favor of quick cuts, flashy visuals, and trendy costumes & makeup. It has a camp sense to it, but the filmmakers don’t push to that angle much, as if they were convinced their vision of Queen of the Damned was serious. No, this one is just for laughs and most of them are unintentional, thanks to poor production choices, lackluster direction, or haphazard performances. If you’re a fan of MTV music video school of cinema, then you’ll want to give this one a rental, but those hoping to see a faithful Rice adaptation shouldn’t even waste their time on Queen of the Damned.

Just before Queen of the Damned was to be released, star Aaliyah was killed in a tragic plane crash, leaving us with only a pair of screen appearances. She was best known for her musical career however, where she started out as a teen and racked up big sales, as well as enough momentum to move to motion pictures. It is a shame this stands as her sole leading effort, as she obviously had ample talent, but is held back by poor material here. Had Rice herself written the screenplay, then perhaps Aaliyah could have shone, but instead, her turn seems cold and distant, not in the intended ways, either. Her screen presence is good however, which leads us to believe she could have been a real force in movies. You can also see Aaliyah in Romeo Must Die and prior to her death, she was cast in the sequels to The Matrix. The cast also includes Stuart Townsend (Wonderland, Under the Skin), Marguerite Moreau (Wet Hot American Summer, Mighty Joe Young), and Vincent Perez (The Crow: City of Angels, Indochine).

Video: How does it look?

Queen of the Damned is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. A separate full frame edition is also available, so make sure you look for the widescreen banner, to avoid being saddled with the hacked up version. The film’s flashy visuals come through very well here, thanks to a super clean print and no real flaws to contend with. I saw minimal grain and should be expected from such a recent release, the print is free from debris, so the image never has to slow down as a result. The dark visuals shine in this treatment, with refined black levels that highlight the vibrant, rich color scheme, creating a memorable visual experience. The lights shimmer, the shadows remain eerie, the blood burns red, and all the points in between look terrific, as this is a top notch visual effort in all respects.

Audio: How does it sound?

As this movie has lots of music involved, the surrounds are used often, but other elements make good use of the speakers also. The various music driven scenes sound great here, especially the live sequences, which use the surrounds to immerse the audience, as if we’re right in the front row of the show. But even canned music comes across in fine form, with plenty of presence and ample low end. The sound effects are powerful when needed, but also more subtle & reserved at times, so the track balances out the elements well. No issues with dialogue however, as the vocals are never lost in all the madness. This disc also includes a French language option, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Warner has slapped a ton of extras on this disc, starting with an audio commentary with director Michael Rymer, producer Jorge Saralegui, and composer Richard Gibbs. I found this to be an average session, with some information passed on, but too much self praise for my taste, especially when the work isn’t too impressive. You can learn about Creating the Vampires and The Music of Lestat in two brief behind the scenes featurettes, while a third examines the film’s fallen star, Aaliyah. The obligatory Aaliyah Remembered piece should please fans of her work, but lacks the depth and personal touches I would have liked. A total of thirteen deleted scenes have also been included, as well as extended versions of two concert sequences. I wasn’t too taken with the excised material, but a few good scenes were in there and of course, fans of the soundtrack should love the additional concert footage. You’ll also find four music videos, a gag reel, a selection of still photos, talent files, and the film’s theatrical trailer.

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