Film Review: Queen of the Damned (2002)

Also known as: Anne Rice’s Queen of the Damned (complete title), Interview with the Vampire II (working title)
Release Date: January 10th, 2002 (Côte d’Ivoire)
Directed by: Michael Rymer
Written by: Scott Abbott, Michael Petroni
Based on: The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice
Music by: Richard Gibbs, Jonathan Davis
Cast: Aaliyah, Stuart Townsend, Marguerite Moreau, Paul McGann, Vincent Perez, Claudia Black, Lena Olin,

Village Roadshow Pictures, NPV Entertainment, Material Productions, Warner Bros. Pictures, 101 Minutes

Review:

“You’re beautiful to me because you’re human. Your frailty. Your short years. Your heart. All that suddenly seems more precious than anything I’ve ever known.” – Lestat

I think that most fans of Anne Rice’s work were happy with the 1994 film version of Interview With the Vampire. It would have been nice to see her Vampire Chronicles continue with that same cast and team but its sequel, The Vampire Lestat, never really materialized.

Eventually, Rice was pushed out of the project, the studio took over and we got this abomination, 8 years later.

I remember seeing the trailer for this and almost losing my shit in the theater. How could something so perfect be followed up with something so flawed and soulless? I never really wanted to watch the movie but my girlfriend, at the time, brought it home from Blockbuster one night and I was subjected to this heinously inferior creation that set adaptations of Rice’s work back decades. In fact, we’re still waiting for more Vampire Chronicles adaptations, 16 years later.

So what’s wrong with this movie? Short answer: everything. Long answer: read the next several paragraphs.

To start, this was made without the care that Neil Jordan and Anne Rice had with Interview With the Vampire. In fact, this doesn’t even have respect for the work it is based on. It was a quick, cheap and sad attempt at cashing in on something people craved without any wherewithal of what made Interview so damn good in the first place. Frankly, I’m pretty sure they never really cared about that to begin with and chances are, the filmmakers didn’t even watch that film or they found it boring because it wasn’t littered with nu metal or rap rock songs.

This was a film that tried so fucking hard to be edgy but it failed to understand what edginess is and that it really had no place being tied to the source material, as Interview was edgy in its own way. A way that showcased its eloquence and fit within the style of what that film was. Queen of the Damned was the forced edginess that makes most people laugh like when they see wealthy white teenagers wearing t-shirts that say “fuck you” or “suck my dick”. It’s cringe edginess.

A big example of this type of cringe edginess comes in the form of the film’s music. In the books, Lestat’s music is described to be otherworldly and it’s powerful and magical enough to resurrect a long dead vampire queen from thousands of years of sleep. So how did they make this work in the film? They didn’t. Lestat’s music was nothing but Korn songs that the actor lip synced. Fucking Korn. Now I don’t hate the band but c’mon, Korn? Really?!

Also, the film was terribly cast. I guess Stuart Townsend has the look part down but he certainly didn’t have the presence of Tom Cruise’s Lestat. And really, on paper, Cruise looked miscast but he made it work and put in one of the greatest performances of his career. But we got Townsend, a guy who also failed at being a convincing Dorian Gray, another literary character of greatness. He would ruin that character a year later in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Then you have Aaliyah, the top billed star who only appears in brief glimpses and not in full until the last half hour of the movie. Her accent was terrible, her inability to act was baffling and nothing about her seemed alluring or threatening. Once her and Lestat do come together, there’s no character development to their story and there is absolutely no chemistry whatsoever. It’s really embarrassing to watch.

You also have the parliament of vampires or whatever they’re called. Most of them looked ridiculous and like they were handpicked out of a crowd at a My Chemical Romance concert, even though I’m not sure if that band even existed yet.

This movie hurts my brain. I didn’t want to revisit it but since I just recently got reacquainted with the greatness that is Interview With a Vampire, I felt that I should re-familiarize myself with this, which really is the antithesis to everything its predecessor was.

Do yourself a favor. Never watch this. It’s beyond bad. It’s not even the sort of bad that becomes good. It’s the worst kind of film and shouldn’t exist.

Rating: 2.25/10
Pairs well with: other early ’00s vampire movies that were far from great like Dracula 2000 and The Breed.

Film Review: Interview with the Vampire (1994)

Also known as: Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (full title)
Release Date: November 9th, 1994 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Neil Jordan
Written by: Anne Rice
Based on: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
Music by: Elliot Goldenthal
Cast: Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, Antonio Banderas, Christian Slater, Stephen Rea

Geffen Pictures, Warner Bros., 122 Minutes

Review:

“The world changes, we do not, there lies the irony that finally kills us.” – Armand

In the ’90s and early ’00s, I watched this film a lot. But I had seen it so many times that I actually haven’t seen it now for at least a decade. But that time off from it made me appreciate it even more.

This is the best vampire motion picture of the 1990s. It is pretty damn close to being a masterpiece. It is a beautiful adaptation of a book that really has become a literary classic, at this point. And it’s great to see that Anne Rice penned this script, as no one knows these characters better than she does.

There are a few minute changes from the book. The stuff with Louis’ wife was omitted and the character of Armand has a different appearance from the literary version. However, these minor alterations don’t matter within the context of this film. Had it actually gotten sequels (and it should have) the Armand thing might of been a bit problematic but I’m still okay with Antonio Banderas in the role for this one-off outing.

Anyway, Neil Jordan did a superb job directing this. He had just come off of The Crying Game, a film that earned him two Academy Award nominations for direction and script, and also had some experience with supernatural gore after his work on the barely remembered film The Company of Wolves. Both of those experiences would serve him well in this film, which had supernatural gore and also tapped into very light homo-eroticism between a few characters.

One thing that really stands out is the film’s score by Elliot Goldenthal. It has the makings of a great classical composition mixed with some very powerful and energetic flourishes that help accentuate the scenes in ways that a less capable score wouldn’t have been able to accomplish. The music also flows with the picture, it’s not distracting or in the way, it just exists to set the tone appropriately and really, that’s all a film score needs to do. But the craftsmanship of these classical tunes is what sets this film apart and gives it such a grandiose feel. There are just few scores that can make this sort of emotional and narrative impact in modern film.

The acting in this is also possibly the best you will see in any vampire movie. Tom Cruise, at first glance, just doesn’t seem to fit the role of Lestat but he was absolute perfection and this is still my favorite performance of his. This was also where I first noticed Brad Pitt. This is where his career was really born, in my opinion, as this was a turning point for him and his exceptional abilities. I could use those same words for Kirsten Dunst and Antonio Banderas, as well. Both of them made such an impact in this that it really helped to set them off towards bigger and better things going forward.

Something else that stands out is the special effects handled by Stan Winston and his team. Most notably, the scene where Lestat is withering away to a corpse on the floor. That moment was masterfully crafted and has held up exceptionally well. It looks better than the vast majority of CGI effects that would have been used to achieve this today. Also, the amazing looking ash remains of Claudia and Madeleine were made by Winston and based off of photographs of victims from Hiroshima.

Interview with a Vampire is a perfect storm. It’s a film where everything, at every level, went right for the production. While there are some other good vampire films from the 1990s, this one takes the cake for me. It’s stellar from start to finish and it’s still an incredibly satisfying experience even after seeing it well over a dozen times.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: Bram Stoker’s DraculaNear Dark and The Lost Boys.