Spring Be ‘Damned,’ 2002’s First Crop Of Films Look Bleak

“Queen of the Damned” picks up where “Interview with a Vampire” left off, continuing the story Anne Rice’s vampire with a conscience, Lestat (formerly played by Tom Cruise, now Stuart Townsend, “About Adam”). The third of The Vampire Chronicles follows the nobleman turned vampire, who is beginning to enjoy his new standard of living when he learns that a thirst for life can’t actually be quenched with human blood. Finding that his creator and sole friend Marius (Perez) has abandoned him, Lestat realizes that “immortality seems like a good idea until you realize you’re going to spend it alone.” Lestat buries himself in sleep for several centuries until present day when he is awakened by the sounds of modern alternative music. A few scenes later, and without explanation, “Lestat” is the hippest, darkest heavy metal/alternative rock band around.

Queen of the Damned is a juxtaposition of cult and pop culture. We see Serena Altschul of MTV News announcing the band’s first concert on a television in an underground vampire club, while Lestat describes his music as “Sex, Blood and Rock ‘ Roll.” Enter Aaliyah, who finished filming the movie just before her death in a plane crash last August. Aaliyah portrays the title character, Queen Akasha, the mother of all Vampires, who is taken with Lestat’s musical talent and wishes to crown him her new King.

While her on-screen time is limited to about thirty minutes, Aaliyah delivers all the sex appeal that is expected from the theatrical trailers. Costume designer Angus Strathie saw to it that there was plenty of stomach exposure, and the abundance of Aaliyah’s abdomen is probably the best marketing tool “Queen of the Damned” has going for it.

Jessie (Marguerite Moreaum, “The Mighty Ducks” Trilogy), who is also trying to win the beatless heart of Lestat, was probably an attempt to foil Queen Akasha. Jessie was raised among vampires (some more of the sensitive and loving variety) until she was sent away at the age of six. Growing up, Jessie is fascinated by what she remembers of her past and ultimately ends up working at a center for supernatural studies, where she becomes obsessed with the subject of her research, the vampire Lestat. But Moreau is acting as if she’s trying to flirt with seventeen-year old Scooter in “Mighty Ducks 3” instead of seducing a cunning centuries old vampire. She taints the scenes where Townsend’s acting skill could have brought the film to a better place. At this point, if one isn’t familiar with Rice’s Chronicles, everything begins to seem like an elongated episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Lighting (or lack thereof) is key in setting the tone of the movie as it shifts from clandestinely quiet to chaotically loud every other scene. Innovative camera angles and the visual effects of CREO studios turn scenes with mediocre acting and plot line into clips of artistic expression. The closing scene melds color, flashing light and the moving cars of a London street to create a piece of poetry in motion that should have been part of a movie more deserving of its presence. The mood is also enhanced by the music of Richard Gibbs and Korn frontman Jonathan Davis, performed by an array of alternative rock and metal artists, who also contribute their own original tracks. Wayne Static of Static X, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, and Marilyn Manson are among those who add to the soundtrack’s dark energy.

“Queen of the Damned” is not an entirely wasted endeavor on the part of director Michael Rymer (“In Too Deep”). The movie has an easy to follow, but more difficult to swallow, plot despite shifts in setting and time. And while there may not be any glue strong enough to hold this film together, the cinematography of Ian Baker (The Chamber) will at least keep you stuck to your own seat and derail any hasty exits from the theater. C-

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