It was my experience that movies helped a lot during puberty. I don’t know about other people, but all my friends and I wanted to do was watch a bunch of R-rated films and talk until the sex scenes — when we’d stop talking.
Chris usually got up to rewind once the scenes were over.
“You’re a pervert!” we’d say. But no one stopped him. We were too guilty for soft-core porn and Monster’s Ball was teaching us stuff.
We rented everything from the oldest rental shop in town, Video Dimensions. Blockbuster was running them out of business but they still had the most bizarre VHS selection we could ever hope to encounter. I’m talking Teeth, front row center, flanked by numerous bins of narrative gold. We’d scour them for NC-17 ratings, scoring obscure titles like Bliss and The Pillow Book.
It was in one of these bins that Itoro and I first found Queen of the Damned.
Aaliyah on the cover as a badass-looking vampire was enough to pique our interest. And then we noticed a guy lurking behind her, sans shirt, with a hint of chiseled abs. The rental deal was sealed.
What I remember most about watching that movie for the first time was thinking that Lestat (played by Stuart Townsend) was a vampire-version of Frodo Baggins in resemblance and demeanor, with a tad more angst. I also thought the rock music soundtrack was super cool, and Aaliyah was a goddess.
“She was life-giving,” Itoro says now, remembering Aaliyah’s ancient Egyptian-style boob plates and ability to make other vampires incinerate from the inside-out. “We felt like outcasts in high school, and she helped us dream.”
It was true. We were not very popular, and Queen of the Damned became an outlet for our torment. A weekly tradition was born from that viewing, which involved us fighting with Itoro’s little brother for control of the television and never, ever returning the rental property to Video Dimensions.
Before watching Queen of the Damned again, this time in my late twenties, I eased myself into the experience by viewing the trailer and was struck by this summation of the film, as told by ominous voiceover:
“All she wants is hell on earth.”
She refers to the Queen of the Damned (as portrayed by Aaliyah) who, in one scene, torches a building with the enflamed corpses of 20 to 30 other vampires. “Was she really that evil?” I thought to myself now. “And why?”
The trailer also introduced Stuart Townsend as Lestat (previously played by the superstar likes of Tom Cruise) and I thought about how interesting Queen of the Damned is timeline-wise. In terms of high-profile vampire movies from 1994 to 2008, QOD falls right in between Interview with a Vampire, Blade, Underworld and Twilight, making it the middle child of vampire movies of its era.
And after watching it again, I can safely say that, in other ways, it truly is the middle child of all vampire movies.