Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Vampire Problem

Nate and I watched Queen of the Damned last night. It's a delightful little romp loosely based on Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles series, which I could never bring myself to finish. I'm not kidding when I say that I love this movie. I embrace the badness.

The vampire Lestat takes a nap for a hundred years or so, wakes up, and decides that he's tired of hiding his vampic powers etcetera. So, he makes the only logical move: he becomes a rock star.

I first saw this movie at 3am on TNT when I was about thirteen years old. I'm not exaggerating when I say that it took me years before I could get through explaining the premise without laughing hysterically.

It was, unfortunately, R&B singer Aaliya's last work before tragically dying in a plane crash. Unlike Heath Ledger, who died shortly after completing his Oscar-winning role in the critically acclaimed The Dark Knight, this movie was regarded as, to quote Anne Rice "a huge disappointment to [Anne Rice] and [her] fans," and a box-office failure, grossing five million dollars less than it cost to produce. For anyone not familiar, the term "bomb" is generally thrown around when a movie fails to make back it's budget during it's theatrical run. As a result, I feel really bad that this movie, and her acting in it, was as certifiably awful as it was.

She was terrible. Really, really bad. I mean, the whole movie was terrible, but I felt like most of Stewart Townsend's terribleness could be attributed to the script. His acting was among the best in the film (which, granted, isn't saying much), but Aaliya's was appalling. She kept doing this weird, supposed to be sexy gyration thing with her shoulders, and she had difficulty talking through her false teeth. She wasn't the only one, either.

I feel like, were I the costume designer, I would have made some creative changes when it turned out that two-thirds of the principle vampires in the film were completely unable to speak clearly through their teeth. Enough of the budget went to special effects that I feel like they should have been able to CGI the points in when it was necessary, rather than making the actors talk through ridiculous, obviously fake inserts.

I don't know what they did with Lestat's teeth, because Stewart Townsend was at least able to annunciate pretty well, all things considered. Whatever it was, they should have done it with everyone.

Of course, were I the costume designer, the costumes wouldn't have been as eye-scalding as they were. Ridiculous, impractical, gaudy. Tacky as all hell, every single one of them, which I assume probably wasn't what they were going for. I think for the most part they were going for dramatic and striking and kind of old-timey (with the exception of Lestat, who was all mesh shirts and leather pants), but they got horribly, horribly tacky. I think Queen of the Damned was billed as a horror movie, but the scariest thing about it was the costuming.

Well, no. I may have spoken too soon. The scariest thing about this movie is that this screenplay somehow got green-lit. I've read the screenplay. The screenplay is terrible. A reviewer on IMDB described it as though someone had opened Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles to random pages, made assumptions, got bored, stopped reading, and then made a screenplay based on those random pages and assumptions. I will probably never finish the Vampire Chronicles, but the way the script is written, this does strike me as probably about right.

What happened to the vampire genre? I read Bram Stoker's Dracula as a fairly young child (and was then scarred for life when I learned that it was all an allegory for sexual inhibitions), and was immediately captivated by vampire mythology. My mother, I think, was somewhat disturbed by some of the reading I did (we're talking like nine years old here), but it's fascinating when Twilight isn't the reference text. Vampires, for the most part, were not meant to be beautiful. The ones that were beautiful wanted to have sex with you, steal your blood, and eat your children. They were beautiful, but they were deadly. They weren't friendly. They didn't want to protect you.They didn't want to teach you how to love.  They didn't want to marry you before they would have sex with you/bite you. They wanted your delicious, delicious jugular vein. Vampires were villains- shrewd, manipulative, with ulterior motives.

Vampires, I believe, are in desperate need of a gritty reboot.


  1. Apparently (according to renowned author Tracy Hickman) vampire tales used to be allegories for abusive relationships, if you trace their evolution back far enough. So really, the Twilight series is just returning vampire stories to their roots.

  2. Many of the earliest vampire myths were nature myths to explain high infant mortality rates and create an excuse for spousal infidelity. Others were meant to act as boogeymen, scaring children into behaving. But vampire stories as allegories for human behavior didn't evolve until much later.