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To be honest, QUEEN OF THE DAMNED ($27) isn't as bad as I thought as it was going to be. It is a perfectly serviceable little vampire movie; with a slick MTV inspired visuals and attractive people portraying the undead characters. Of course, the movie does a complete disservice to the works of Anne Rice, with its wholesale hacking away at her novels. Beyond INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, Anne Rice's novels in The Vampire Chronicles are denser and much more multi-layered works, therefore two-hour films are incapable of doing justice to these books.


QUEEN OF THE DAMNED not only shoehorns the title book into a one hundred and one minute running time, it also greatly condenses vast portions of the preceding tome- THE VAMPIRE LESTAT into the same space. Neither book is well served by this approach; in fact, the movie almost dismisses the novels, making them seem almost inconsequential. Personally, I think The Vampire Chronicles should be tacked in miniseries form for a cable network, so the violence and adult aspects of the stories can remain in tact. If anything, THE VAMPIRE LESTAT would be best served at eight to ten hours and QUEEN OF THE DAMNED would run maybe four to six.

After a century of sleeping in a tomb, The Vampire Lestat (Stuart Townsend) is awaked by the sound of Rock music. Deciding to reinvent himself for the modern world, Lestat becomes the front man for a rock band. The Vampire Lestat is the perfect entity to tap into Goth Rock subculture, producing an album and music videos that become an instant media sensation. However, that most damnable creature Lestat uses his celebrity to give away all the secrets of vampire society and taunts his fellow vampires to come out from out of the shadows.


Not only does Lestat's music draw out other vampires, who want to destroy Lestat, it also awakens Akasha (Aaliyah), the mother of all vampires, who has been sleeping for thousands of years. As Akasha resumes her mantle as Queen of the Damned, she makes Lestat her consort and begins to indulge her insatiable bloodlust that will destroy both vampire and humankind alike. In the hands of director Michael Rymer, QUEEN OF THE DAMNED is a stylish and attractive movie, but the screenplay is lacking in depth, as it tries to squeeze too many ideas into a brief running time. The cast of QUEEN OF THE DAMNED also features Marguerite Moreau, Vincent Perez, Paul McGann, Lena Olin, Christian Manon, Claudia Black, Bruce Spence and Matthew Newton.

Warner Home Video has made QUEEN OF THE DAMNED available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays (Warner is also releasing a separate full screen version for those who like their movies mangled). Even though much of the movie is dark and stylized, this is another great looking transfer from Warner. The image is very crisp and nicely defined, bringing out the details in the handsome production design and costumes. Colors are vibrant and fully saturated, while flesh tones appear natural on the living characters. Blacks are very velvety, while whites appear clean and completely stable. Contrast is usually smooth, with occasional harsh accents. Shadow detail is excellent, allowing one to see everything during the films predominance of night sequences. The dual layered DVD keeps the most noticeable traces of digital compression artifacts in check.

QUEEN OF THE DAMNED comes with a great sounding Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. The mix is highly atmospheric, as well as being very directional. Sound effects whiz and pan effortlessly through the soundstage, drawing the viewers into the vampire realm. Dialogue is very cleanly rendered and voices register with a nice timbre. The bass channel is solid, enhancing both sound effects and the film's music. Speaking of music, it is an integral part of the film's story and has been mix with a real sense of presence and reproduced with excellent fidelity. A French 5.1 channel soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as have English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features as well as some supplemental materials. Included on the DVD is a running commentary with director Michael Rymer, producer Jorge Saralegui and composer Richard Gibbs, as well as thirteen deleted/extended scenes- totaling thirty minutes of material. Three featurettes are included on the DVD: Creating The Vampires runs under ten minutes, Remembering Aaliyah clocks in at three minutes and The Music Of Lestat runs under twelve. Three complete Vampire Lestat music videos from the film are included, as well as a music video for the song Cold from Static X. There are extended concert sequences from the film that includes two full versions of songs performed by The Vampire Lestat. Filling out the DVD is a gag reel, theatrical trailer, still gallery, and a short text essay on Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles.

As a stand-alone entity, QUEEN OF THE DAMNED is an entertaining enough vampire movie, featuring slick visuals and cool soundtrack. As an adaptation of Anne Rice's it leaves a lot to be desired. Still, the DVD looks and sounds great, so it may be worth your while to spend an evening with the QUEEN OF THE DAMNED.


Queen of the Damned (Widescreen Edition)


DVD reviews are Copyright 2002 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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