It's almost immediately apparent that something is very wrong with this follow-up to Neil Jordan's 'Interview with the Vampire.' The title alone is enough to raise eyebrows amongst devoted followers of Anne Rice's romanticized, bloodsucking nobility. It's the third book in The Vampire Chronicles series, which means producers jumped ahead and largely ignored critical plot details that would help in bringing the events of this failed adaptation into perspective. To compensate for such a grave transgression towards the loyal fanbase, the script by Scott Abbott and Michael Petroni borrows bits and pieces from the second novel, sloppily and forcefully bashing them into the main storyline of the third, and delivers one massively disappointing movie.
Of course, none of this really becomes clear until about halfway into this mess of swooning, melodramatic vampires, which often plays like some half-baked attempt to make modern Goth kids and the horribly dull sounds of Nu Metal into the latest cool, hip trend. Speaking of which, in an ironically funny turn of events, 'Queen of the Damned' released just as the popularity of that music style was starting to wane. As if destined to failure from the start, producers thought they were tapping into a cutting-edge movement that would hopefully guarantee box-office success. Unfortunately for them, the genre was already limping along out of the charts by the time the movie hit theaters, quickly dating the look, feel and music of the entire production. Ten years later, it seems laughably outmoded and obsolete.
Anyhow, that's just an amusing background tidbit I find more fascinating than the movie itself. Within the first few minutes of 'Queen of the Damned,' your interest and commitment to this dreadful mishmash of two separate storylines is quickly tested. As the camera dollies through a small maze of crypts, voiceover narration interrupts the quiet beauty of the stone chambers. It's supposed to be the voice of Lestat, a 200-year-old vamp wanting to sleep away the monotony of his existence, except his schmaltzy, romantically hokey tone seems unintentionally goofy. When we finally see Stuart Townsend as the face behind the derisive voice, making a bad first impression not just on a band of terrible actors but to audiences as well, we face the choice of continuing with this ridiculous charade or walking away from it. Being a glutton for bad movies, I chose to stay.
Not too surprising, the movie only gets sillier and grows ever more pointless from there, especially every time vamps leap into the air leaving behind corny motion trails. It was director Michael Rymer's way of insinuating the creatures' speed, but the effect only succeeded at making me laugh and left me wondering if this adaptation was not meant as some very subtle farce. Perhaps, we're not supposed take any of this serious. Looking like a rejected hobbit idea with a glazed, red-eyed face after smoking too much pipe weed, Townsend's smarmy and flamboyant feline characteristics are a constant annoyance, barely if at all tolerable as the plot's vampiric hero. He's paired with Marguerite Moreau as the bland and horribly dull Jesse, a paranormal researcher for a secret society who adds nothing to the story except delaying the film's main attraction promised in the title.
Sadly, 'Queen of the Damned' will forever be remembered as the last on-screen performance of recording artist Aaliyah. Suave, hypnotizing, incredibly sexy and ethereal, her portrayal as the mother of all vampires, awakened from her marbleized slumber is the lone positive of this otherwise forgettable horror flick. Her gleefully delightful entrance at a nightclub where she demonstrates her power to instantly combust any vamps that get in her way still manages to leave me in goose bumps — she is so amazingly beautiful in the role. Vincent Perez as Roman vampire Marius is also one small glimmer of light in this embarrassingly unreal production of a beloved series. When thinking of these two excellent performances, one can only imagine how much better the film could have been with stronger direction and writing. But what we're left with is a shoddy mess of stale mediocrity, forever damned as one of the dumbest adaptations ever made.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Home Video unleashes 'Queen of the Damned' to Blu-ray on Region Free, BD50 disc inside a blue, eco-cutout keepcase. At startup, the disc goes straight to a generic main menu with a static photo and music.
The 'Queen of the Damned' terrorizes Blu-ray with a strong and generally satisfying AVC-encoded transfer. Sharp details abound with clean, distinct lines in clothing, hair and architecture. Close-ups are especially revealing, exposing pores and excellent texture beneath the vampire make-up. Some deliberate photography to give the creatures of the night an smooth, ethereal feel, looking a bit like noise reduction, is made all the more apparent in the presentation. Other sequences, however, have an obnoxious digital, blurry quality about them, creating some mild crush in the shadows and posterization in the highlights. There's also very visible banding in the scene where Akasha and Lestat fly away from the concert, and the visual effects sequences are definitely the ugliest.
The rest of the presentation comes with a clean, crisp contrast and deep, true blacks, most appreciated during the many nighttime scenes. The color palette is bold and cleanly rendered with softer pastel hues appearing particularly full-bodied and warm. There's much to enjoy in this high-def transfer, but it's also troubled in several spots.
The queen makes a much stronger impression in the audio department than in the video. The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is quite active with several highly-enjoyable moments. Directionality is excellent with flawlessly panning and convincing discrete effects. Whether it's the cheers of the crowd at a rock concert or the subtle ambient sounds of crashing waves, the lossless mix creates a soundfield that's immersive and consistently engaging. The music also bleeds into the rears and fills the room with the dark rock melodies of Lestat's band.
The front soundstage is like a wall of sound with constant activity in every scene, from the flickering pops of the flames inside Akasha's sleeping chamber heard off-screen to the howling, thundering winds when first meeting Marius. Movement across the screen is fluid with well-prioritized vocals in the center. Dynamic range is precise and extensive with room-penetrating clarity and sharp acoustical details in the orchestration. A palpable low-end provides a great deal of weight to a few action sequences and appreciable depth to the music. In the end, the lossless mix is by the far the most entertaining aspect of the entire film.
Bonus material is ported over from the DVD release.
Meant as a direct follow-up to Neil Jordan's 'Interview with the Vampire,' this sequel severely drops the ball, with dreadful acting, corny visual effects, awful directing, and a downright ridiculous script. 'Queen of the Damned' mashes two separate storylines from Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles series and ends up with a shoddy mess of stale mediocrity, saved, if only for a brief instant, by the amazing performance of Aaliyah as the titular character. The Blu-ray features a great high-def video presentation with an even better lossless audio mix. Bonus material is the same as before, but unless you're already fan, this is probably best left as a rental.