Queen of the Damned

Bite me.
By Sarah Kuhn
March 04, 2002
It took me a good while to really get a grasp on the whole “vampires are mad-sexy” thing. I mean, I read Anne Rice and Dracula and all that, but it wasn’t until Angel and Spike swaggered onto the scene with a little snarl, a little swagger, and a whole lotta black leather that I really got it. And still, I have trouble fully comprehending the mad-sexiness of vamps outside of the Buffy/Angel mythos. I mean, what? They’re pasty, skinny and they sleep a lot. They’re basically third tier indie rockers with dental implants.

So, when contributing to the sexy vamp mythos, all I ask is that the filmmaker attempt to acknowledge the inherent cheesiness within. Unless the filmmaker is named Joss Whedon. Then he can do whatever he wants.

Anyway, the newest addition to the sexy vamp canon, Queen of the Damned, somehow manages to get the cheese factor right, but muddies it ever-so-slightly with a plotline more convoluted than the entire run of 90210. Luckily, the Queen of the title is around to expand our understanding of the sexy vamp persona, and give it a whole new look to boot.

The flick basically mashes together two of Rice’s Vampire Chronicles – the book of the same name and The Vampire Lestat. Lestat is our focus here, and as Rice fans know, he is of the pasty, skinny, naps-a-lot genre of sexy vamp. He’s also a big rock star, and his tiresome, goth-metal musings wake up our long-slumbering Queen, who has been waiting for just the right moment to bust loose from her long exile. There’s also some junk about a fresh-faced, vamp-raised human (Marguerite Moreau) who thinks Lestat is a major hottie, but that’s the least interesting part of the flick (though it does provide the opportunity for a brief cameo by Farscape’s righteous Claudia Black).

As directed by Michael Rymer, Queen guides us through its mess of a story by slathering on a generous sheen of camp. There are gauzy dream sequences, gaudy costumes, and a scene where the Queen basically has herself a little human buffet made up of hapless sunbathers.

Speaking of the Queen, who goes by the name of Akasha, it’s a bizarrely macabre sight to see her as played by Aaliyah, the late, lovely R&B pop star who died in a tragic plane crash last year. Though she’s only in about a third of the movie, Aaliyah is quite a slithering sight to behold, all bejeweled headdresses and graceful fangs and naughty smiles. Her best scene has her taking down an entire vamp bar and leaving it in flames, haughtily emerging from the wreckage like some kind of supernatural Joan Collins. ‘Tis truly a shame that we won’t be able to see what this diva-in-the-making would have done with her Matrix role.

Akasha also succeeds in giving me and the world at large a little more insight into what makes a mad-sexy vamp. One can have perfectly bronzed instead of pasty skin. One can wear fabulous headdresses instead of cumbersome black dusters. One can spend the whole day snacking instead of brooding. I only wish Akasha could somehow magically materialize on Buffy and give Spike the wake-up-and-smell-the-non-Buffy-hottie smack he so richly deserves right about now.