Creatures of Celluloid and Flicker


There’s the kind of movie where a trio of estranged childhood pals rediscover the power of friendship. There’s the kind of movie where any car on the great American highway system could have three teen hotties in it. There’s the kind of movie that seems like a very extensive trailer for a music video coming soon to Total Request Live (in this kind of movie, Teen Hottie B is often played by a major pop star). There’s the kind of movie where you spend a lot of time thinking, “Hey, didn’t this director make Guncrazy?” There’s the kind of movie where, when the car breaks down, there’s always a big-money karaoke bar in the neighborhood (see previous note re Teen Hottie B). There’s the kind of movie where you spend a lot of time wondering what it would be like without the casting of the major pop star, because Teen Hottie A seems to be an excellent actress. You wish you cared even a little about Teen Hottie C. You wish there were either more or fewer scenes which contrived to put Teen Hottie B in underwear, lingerie, towel, or big-money karaoke costume. You spend a lot of time wondering, “Better or worse than Glitter?” You think if the projectionist cranked the volume a little you could actually sort of get into this. You realize this is the kind of movie where B, the valedictorian/virgin/big-money karaoke genius, discovers that the mom who abandoned her years ago is a star of Sex in the City, which is somehow much worse than how her dad is a Blues Brother. You marvel at the cruel and wonderful math of teen movies. With a family like that, you are thinking during the finale, as B auditions for the right to play herself on MTV, how could you lose?

Absent karaoke, a pop star can still be a problem solver; serial star-caster/pulp maestro Tsui Hark often bets on charismatic youth and frenetic sex’n’violence sequences to outweigh incoherent narratives. Queen of the Damned seems to have made the same wager. Aaliyah fans, as well as fans of charisma, sex, and violence, will be sorely disappointed. However, if you’re heavy into incoherent narratives, this could be the film for you. Stuart Townsend (done up like Chris Kattan playing Elijah Wood in Goth Talk‘s tribute to Lord of the Rings) plays our old pal Lestat, who has woken from a long sleep for the express purpose of fronting an industrial rock band; this summons Akasha, the title character, who appears rather late and just long enough to seduce Lestat as part of a scheme to rule the world. It doesn’t work out, perhaps because she tries the pickup line “You’re bold, like your music,” despite his looking like a depressed Hobbit. If you’re excited at the prospect of a theater full of pissed-off hip-hoppers—more or less guaranteed by the ad campaign’s Aaliyah bait’n’switch, the extensive goth metal, and no action—again, this might be your sort of thing.

As one of the most durable metaphors in cinema, the vampire myth has stood for perdition, carnality, queerness, communism, addiction, the hunger for fame, yuppie soullessness, and a host of AIDS allegories including the brilliant Near Dark. If there’s an allegory here, it’s incidental, but genius: The eternal half-life where nothing ever happens is the cineplex itself. Poor Aaliyah is the damned; no longer alive, she is preserved as a creature of celluloid and flicker, forced to endure a wearisome kind of immortality played out aimlessly in a series of darkened chambers.