Review: “Queen of the Damned”

It may have been long and slow at times, but Neil Jordan’s “Interview with a Vampire” certainly was a film of eerie beauty thanks to atmospheric settings and great cinematography which made every shot seem like an oil painting.

‘Queen’ isn’t anywhere close to being in the same league, and indeed if you were expecting anything more than a much cheaper MTV style take on the whole story then you were really fooling yourself. I wasn’t expecting much and the result was my expectations were met – not exceeded but also not disappointed either.

‘Queen’ isn’t a write-off, but it isn’t really much beyond a vaguly watchable video release either. Elements of complex story are there which weren’t present in ‘Interview’ such as the Talamasca organisation and several more vamp characters, but we never really get to explore any of them – in fact aside from Lestat, a Talamasca girl, Marius (Lestat’s maker and male admirer) and Akasha herself, everyone else is little more than a cameo.

Townsend makes an interesting Lestat – certainly he has more physical appeal than Cruise, but he also has a somewhat dark edge behind him which gives the character more weight than usual (and helps cover some of the woeful dialogue at times). Aaliyah appears halfway through and certainly has a prescence on screen – combined with a sexy outfit (cross between 3rd Century BC African goddess and 20th century bikini babe) and an interesting facial structure, she portrays evil personified surprisingly well, especially in the body language as she really gets into the fun of the production. However, the delivery of some of her lines sound hampered by her fake teeth and awfully over the top accent which certainly aint Egyptian.

The first half of the film mostly focuses on the Lestat-Marius relationship, with Vincent Perez putting in a decent turn as Marius – especially as things unfold further into the story and his relationship with Lestat turns much more gag-oriented buddy like (esp. in the LA scenes). In the second half though, the film becomes over burdened with too many characters and not enough explanations. Actors like Claudia Black and Matt Newton (who plays Armand but looks nothing like Antonio Banderas’ version) are reduced to 1-2 lines and 3-4 minutes of screentime at most.

The film does have its saving graces though – a concert scene around Death Valley prompts for an interesting and fun action sequence, there’s a few welcome spots of humour such as a shot of Marius & Lestat conducting a conversation whilst Lestat’s crotch is directly behind them on a giant billboard (yes, the homoeroticism is subtle in this). Every now and then a camera move or set will be of interest such as the Queen’s lair or Lestat awaking on the island in the sun filled with corpses – maybe the boy can now get a much needed tan and enjoy the smorgasboard at the same time.

Still this is a sinking ship – the music which has so inspired the world to love Lestat more than Elvis just sounds like a bad Korn clone, too many of the actors take their job seriously (didn’t they read the material) and attempts to insert depth (“better dead than alone”) prove half-hearted at best in a script filled with holes. Even taken as pure trash, it only succeeds in certain spots – the rest its just a languishedly paced and over stylised dud.