Queen Of The Damned review

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Want to know what eternity feels like? The slow grinding of interminable, inescapable, inexorable time? You could try being a vampire. Or then again you could just sit through Queen Of The Damned. The former might seem shorter though...

Michael Rymer's (Angel Baby) film is less a sequel to 1994's Interview With The Vampire than a stand alone adaptation of the third book in Anne Rice's series of pseduo-erotic bloodsucker novels - with bits of book two, The Vampire Lestat, thrown in when backstory is absolutely necessary.

After a century of lying around in his coffin, charismatic vamp Lestat (Stuart Townsend, taking on the Tom Cruise role of the original) awakens to the sound of thrashing new goth music and promptly decides he wants to become a rock star. Soon the leering, capering creature of the night is the lead singer of an eponymous band and gearing up for a huge concert to be held at Death Valley. But will the world's vampires stand for him giving away their secrets? Can he fight them off if they don't? And just what's going to happen if 4,000-year-old bloodsucker queen Akasha (Aaliyah) comes out of hiding to make Lestat her consort and take over the world?

Shrouded in mist and populated by a cast who all speak in drawling Mittel-European accents, Queen Of The Damned feels like the worst horror movie Hammer never made. Townsend has the looks for a vampire rock star - - buffed pecs, skinny midriff and leather trousers - - but he's about as charismatic as a cardboard box. Continually pouting, he turns Lestat from a magnetic sex god into a smug, eyelash-fluttering teen. You don't want to shag him - you just want to tell him to grow up.

The supporting cast is only slightly better. A roll call of C-list names, they struggle with underwritten parts (stripped of the depth and history of Rice's barmy vampire mythology, the film's events are blunt and abrupt). Vincent Perez emerges with some shreds of dignity intact as ages-old nightwalker Marius, but that's only because he has the sense to take this guff with a large pinch of salt. Everyone else sleepwalks through the material like grim-faced automatons. Everyone, that is, apart from Aaliyah, who single-handedly steers the movie off a fast track to One-Star City. And this isn't some not-speaking-ill-of-the-dead backhanded compliment (the singer-cum-actress died in a plane crash last year): she's genuinely appealing as the Vamp queen. Graceful, beautiful and the only member of the cast able to command attention with just her eyes, the action receives an excitement injection every time she appears. Though even she can't work up much enthusiasm for Lestat's brand of god-awful whiney goth rock warbling (songs written by Jonathan Davis of Korn). The only reason a vampire would rise from the tomb on hearing this racket is to make certain its purveyors never play another lick again.

Whenever Aaliyah leaves the screen, Queen Of The Damned will have you fighting the mad urge to stick your hands into the projector beam and make bunny shapes. Best left in the coffin.

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