Have you ever noticed how, these days, the majority of vampire fiction belongs more comfortably in the “erotic thriller” department than the horror section of the book store; romance novels thinly disguised with supernatural trappings? Anne Rice was, of course, at the dawn of that development, with her 1976 novel Interview with the Vampire beginning not only a series called The Vampire Chronicles (which, when I last checked, had reached ten installments) but the aforementioned trend as well. Somewhere along the lines, vampire fiction went from Nosferatu to “pretty guys making out” and it’s more or less all her fault.
Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles
Malloy (Christian Slater) is a reporter that’s in way over his head. He has just sat down to do an interview with a man named Louis (Brad Pitt) who claims to be a vampire. As Malloy hangs on his every word, Louis recounts his tale beginning in the late 1700s, when he was transformed into a creature of the night by the more-than-slightly bent vampire, Lestat (Tom Cruise). Spanning centuries, his story describes his love-hate relationship with his creator, the tragic birth and death of his “daughter” Claudia (Kirsten Dunst), his journey to Europe in search of more of his kind and all the guys he comes 2 millimeters away from kissing.
I’m, of course, taking the piss out of the movie just for the sake of a little fun. Interview with the Vampire is actually a pretty good movie. I’m surprised that I’m able to enjoy it, as it presents vampires in the way I despise most (sorrowful prettyboys who serenade their victims with extensive “woe is me” soliloquies in-between Linkin Park concerts and fingernail painting sessions). I’ll take Nosferatu over that, thank you very much.
But while I don’t really dig the “emo” approach to vampires, Interview with the Vampire makes up for it with its fascinating story, following the conflicted Louis as he blunders through the centuries, trying to come to terms with himself. Most vampire cinema before this was pretty straight forward and never really gave the bloodsuckers a whole lot of sympathy or character depth (at least not convincingly). The approach has been employed much more frequently since this movie’s release (Hellraiser: Bloodline tried to emulate it with catastrophic results), but it was fairly novel when Interview with the Vampire came out.
Interview with the Vampire is extremely character driven, with only about four primary ones to rope onto. Brad Pitt’s Louis is about as “emo” as vampires come, whining for two hours straight (which the film acknowledges and even cracks a few jokes at his expense). Still, it’s the story of his life and whiney or not, it remains interesting the whole way through. You also have Kirsten Dunst as Claudia, a child vampire cursed never to grow up. Dunst proves to be one of the better child actresses you’ll encounter, and while her character is supposed to be spoiled and bratty, she won’t get on your nerves as much as you’d expect. Unfortunately for Dunst, her acting chops actually seemed to erode the older she got.
If there’s one thing about Interview with the Vampire that might bother you, it’s that the movie has no clear antagonist. There’s Lestat, Louis’ creator, mentor and tormentor all rolled into one and played by Tom Cruise. He’s far more fun to watch than the crybaby Louis, as he actually revels in his evil acts and enjoys himself. While he and Louis do butt heads, they never come to truly loathe one another, so it’s hard to classify him as the film’s “bad guy”.
When Louis travels to Paris he encounters a theater of Old World vampires who don’t cotton to him one bit. They’re more cut and dry villains than Lestat, but lack any real depth. One vampire in particular seems to garner more hatred from Lestat than any other, but I don’t think they even gave him a name, much less any deeper motivation than just being a jerk.
The vampire effects for the movie were provided by the late great Stan Winston. There aren’t a whole lot of notable horror effects to speak of, honestly, as these are the most restrained variety of vampires. Lestat’s transformation after being betrayed by Louis and Claudia is nice and gruesome, though the scene is a short one. I think my overall favorite moment in the film has to be Louis’ revenge on the Paris vampires as he burns their crypt to the ground and picks off the survivors with a scythe. I do wish his showdown with the previously mentioned “jerk vampire” had lasted a little longer, though.
A sequel to Interview with the Vampire was eventually produced: Queen of the Damned. I still haven’t gotten around to seeing it, but since it was pretty much just a blatant vehicle for Aaliyah’s acting career (a career that ended before it even began due to her untimely death in a plane crash), I haven’t made renting it a priority.
When it comes to prettyboy crybaby vampires, Interview with the Vampire is the only one I can really stomach. I’m not entirely fond of it and don’t reach for it very often, but it sure beats the hell out of Twilight.