Monday, October 12, 2015

Horror Movie Review: Queen of the Damned

Queen of the Damned (2002) is not a great movie, but Aaliyah's performance/image as Akasha, the "queen of the damned" is one of the most perfect bits of casting ever in the whole history of film. She is dark and sultry and very very evil. She is my favorite female villain on film. She is the number one character I try to embody as I walk down the street, for a woman in our patriarchal society must embody a chick of extreme badassness, and you would NEVER mess with Akasha. She can burn you from the inside out with just the flick of her wrist. She can rip out your heart with her bare hands and suck it so dry that it crumbles between her fingers (see below). The scene these gifs are from is my favorite villain-entrance scene ever, and it happens around the 50minute mark in the film. She bellydances into a bar full of vampires, does that heart-sucking thing, incinerates the building and all the vampires in it with her MIND, then walks out triumphantly. It is THE most empowering action/destruction scene ever. The reason she can incinerate vampires with her mind is that she is the original first vampire. She holds within her the source of vampirism, effectively the mother of all vampires. They can't live without her. As I've mentioned before, though Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles have a lot of flaws, her origin story for vampires is the most intriguing to me. The book is the best of the series in my opinion because the entire history of vampires is laid out in great detail within.
The score is pretty great but the soundtrack is mostly awful. The music of Lestat's band is represented by Jonathan Davis' (of Korn) voice and arrangements. It's just not my style and makes the movie seem even cheesier than it is. The casting in the film is hit or miss. In contrast to the PERFECT casting of Aaliyah as Akasha there's the dubious casting of Lestat, Jesse, and Maharat, just to name a few. The details taken from the book are at times right on and at other times questionable. There is an omitted character (Mekare) that is sort of really important to the storyline of the book. There are a couple of rewrites of plot points that don't make sense to me (Marius is NOT Lestat's maker, etc) because they contradict both the book and the first movie. They totally left out Akasha's evil scheme to eradicate all but 10ish percent of the men on earth, which was a big part of her evil and why she needed to be de-throned. As it is in the film version, I didn't really get why she needed to be "dealt with". There are many parts in the movie that don't explain what's happening or convey the emotions felt by the characters well at all, which I think would make the film hard to follow if you hadn't read the book. And if you're going to assume we've read the book, stay true to the book, you know?

This film is really not as bad as I'm making it sound, but it is quite a big disappointment to me because I love the book and so many aspects of the film feel like they're almost right. At times they get the emotions/themes of the book so right, at other times so very very wrong. Aaliyah died just after, or maybe even during, shooting the film. My assumption is that the editing was rushed in order to get it out as soon after her death as possible and I think the film's end result really suffered because of that.

The treatment of women is not great. It does pass the Bechdel test, but barely. In the book, Jesse's relationship with Maharet and the Great Family was a big part of the plot, but this movie makes it all about Lestat. The book is so dense in content, however, that I don't think a movie could ever do it justice unless it was done as a trilogy. I would love to see this movie redone right someday, but without Aaliyah, it will be difficult. What a tragedy to lose her just when she was on her way to becoming a legend. The year of her death came her villain film debut and a spectacular album! RIP, Aaliyah. We needed you so much.  I am very impressed that film made the right decision in casting Akasha as a black woman. It would have been a complete failure had they cast a white woman, because this chick is from ancient Egypt! She's SUPPOSED to be black, and I am pleasantly shocked they did this part right in film for once.

Despite its oceans of disappointments, "Queen of the Damned" is still a campy mostly-good time. 

Aesthetics/Visual Effects: 3.5

Plot: 2.5

Characters: 3.0

Score: 3.0

Treatment of Women/Minorities: 3.0

Rewatchability: 3.5

OVERALL: 18.5

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