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Queen of the Damned



"Queen of the Damned" ... a story weighed down by narration and convoluted characters.

IT IS not really easy being a vampire, you know. Other than lounging in moth-eaten centuries old coffins, and snarling and sighing like the trees on a mountaintop, you also have to fly around, look sinister, caress creamy necks and prance around in velvet and leather. Oh no, it's just not easy! There is the blood sucking to do as well _ all the while narrowing the eyes (around which is a generous slash of deep-coloured eye shadow to denote immortality and creatures from the dark), and also find time to be a rock star. And it must also not have been easy to make this film that has such impossible situations, that you know that you are on a big ride. That's ok! Because what is imagination all about, if you cannot paint on a wide canvas? After all, Dali was popular too! But then, it's not much of a movie either! What with its incoherent, sometimes corny dialogue (vampires don't settle old scores, they only harbour them), zombie-like characters and some really awful music.

Director Michael Rymer tries his hand at this horror genre based on the third volume of the books on the subject of vampires by Anne Rice.

A fascinating factor could be that one of its stars, Aaliyah, ironically died in an air crash shortly after shooting was completed. Stunning to look at, she portrays the Queen of the Immortals, spouting fire and heavy breathing, one hour after the film begins.

The plot concentrates on Lestat (Stuart Townsend), a centuries old French nobleman turned vampire, with music (that sounds most Indian) in his `damned' heart and yearns for fame, recognition and adulation from the dark, empty world of immortality. He thinks he can do this, by revealing who he really is, and enter the world of punk/ rock/ heavy metal. With a combination of good looks, talent and phenomenal appeal (because what he does on stage is considered awesome and lines such as "come out-come out from wherever you are'' are vastly irresistible) he achieves stardom and notoriety _ arousing the ire of the rest of his ilk. But then, there will always be trouble in paradise; or the film won't keep going, would it? So you have a nosey, orphaned, psychic investigator, Jesse (Marguerite Moreau) who is completely fascinated by Lestat _ she believes that that he is for real _ thanks to the awareness of such creatures, brought up as she is, by a benign vampire aunt, Maharet (Lena Olin)

By being a member of the Talamasca, an occult organisation of researchers, Jesse gains access to their prized possession _ Lestat's journals of his transformations.

Her reading of these memoirs leads to some bizarre flashbacks with an 18th Century encounter with the 2000-year-old vampire Marius (Vincent Perez), who is responsible for Lestat becoming one of the undead. Marius, now mentor, shows Lestat the ropes of the `business,' including a peek at the Mother of all Vampires, Queen Akasha (Aaliyah) of ancient Egyptian origin. Who is now so powerful, that she can withstand the sunlight and fire that normally destroys her kind.

Now back in the present day, Akasha believes that along with the power of Lestat's music and her invincibility, they can both rule and achieve her dreams of world domination. But then, even for her, its not going to be easy. The rest of the film shows why.

It's not really the artists' fault that the story weighs itself down with too much narration and its own convoluted characters. Really, if you try to compress three volumes of a book into some ninety minutes, what do you expect? And then, it is also not Lestat's fault, if he has to go around looking like a swashbuckling, pale, blurry vampire _ and not knowing whether to be good or bad. There is absolutely no lurking sense of menace to him, no tragedy, no sense of timelessness. And you can't really blame him; when he wants to frighten, he actually looks hilarious. However, for the punk/ heavy metal / hard rock fans there may be a few scenes, that could be appealing. Especially the one at the Death Valley in California. The band becomes the target of an attack by vampires and a lethal Akasha who burns them to cinders and carries Lestat away to a world where they can be king and queen, vanquishes all.

To those watching the concert, it initially seemed part of the gimmicks of a concert, till they realise to their horror, that some truly other world activities were going on.

Some special effects, flying stunts, and dismembered foes, make for some gory viewing.

CHITRA MAHESH

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