Queen of the Damned (2002)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Supernatural Horror  |   Release Date - Feb 22, 2002 (USA)  |   Run Time - 102 min.  |   Countries - Australia, United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Brian J. Dillard

Although Interview With the Vampire is one of Anne Rice's most compelling novels and Queen of the Damned one of her most scattershot, this film adaptation of the latter still manages to be more entertaining by a factor of ten than Neil Jordan's hit version of the earlier book. That's because director/co-writer Michael Rymer, free from the demands of famous marquee names, manages to inject the material with a bit of self-conscious wit instead of translating Rice's mannered prose into dreary hand-wringing. With the late Aaliyah vamping and camping it up as ancient vampire queen Akasha and Stuart Townsend nailing Lestat de Lioncourt's mocking eyes and feline grace (if not his hair color), the film offers a surfeit of supernatural glamour. It helps that the script is an amalgam of Queen of the Damned and The Vampire Lestat, the much better book that preceded it in the series. Large and intriguing chunks of both novels had to be cut or compressed, but what remains is a fairly gripping yarn with just a few key characters, including Marius, an ancient Roman vampire played with sensual intensity by Vincent Perez. Unfortunately, Marguerite Moreau proves to be the cast's weakest link in the pivotal part of the film's lone human protagonist. In a succession of gothic costumes cheesy enough to rival the wardrobe of Alyson Hannigan's resident Wiccan on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Moreau drains several scenes of their pulpy vigor. But Townsend, Aaliyah, and Perez light up the screen, thanks, in part, to the striking set design, costumes, and special effects. Korn's Jonathan Davis may not have been every Rice fan's first choice to provide the music for the film's vampire-turned-rock-star setup, but the five songs he contributed are a lot more appropriate than the Guns N' Roses track that graced Interview. As for the climactic supernatural showdown, it may not be faithful to the source material, but it's a lot of fun. Aaliyah's tragic death may have lent the film's plot a morbid irony, but her charismatic performance helps make Queen of the Damned a guilty pleasure.