The Vampyre Chronicles: Interview with the Vampire (1994)

Unlike Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire, the majority of vampire films (at least those that achieved any level of notoriety) have been presented solely from mankind’s perspective. F.W. Murnau’s 1922 horror classic, Nosferatu, wasn’t so much the story of the evil Count Orlok as it was that of Hutter and his long-suffering wife, Ellen, who found themselves suddenly coping with the threat of having to live across the street from a monster. Tod Browning’s 1931 version of Dracula possessed a dual personality, mixing in equal parts the tale of Mina Seward’s fight for survival with that of Dr. Van Helsing’s quest to defeat the Dark Prince. Despite the fact that the vampires themselves were usually the title characters, their existence in these films was little more than a means by which to challenge the human condition. This is one reason I was so utterly fascinated by Interview with the Vampire, a film in which the bloodthirsty undead finally take center stage. Mankind is barely a supporting player in this film. In fact, we’re little more than the main course.

Louis (Brad Pitt), a 200 year old vampire, longs to tell his story to the world. To this end, he grants an interview to reporter Daniel Malloy (Christian Slater), during which Louis conveys the dramatic details of his plunge into darkness. The year was 1791, and Louis, a New Orleans plantation owner whose wife had just passed away, decided, in despair, to take his own life. Before he has a chance to end it all, however, he meets Lestat (Tom Cruise), a vampire who, with a solitary bite on the neck, grants Louis the gift of eternal life. Shortly after his transformation, Louis begins to question whether such an existence is indeed a gift…or a curse. Plagued by the memories of his life as a mortal, Louis can’t bring himself to kill another human being, and chooses instead to feast on the blood of rats and other small animals. Lestat taunts Louis for his “misguided” morality, yet Louis never forgets what it was like to be human, leaving his ‘life’ as a vampire depressingly unfulfilled.

In Interview with the Vampire, Brad Pitt delivers an extraordinary performance as the monster who can’t escape the memory of his life before the darkness. His Louis despises the fact that he must draw the blood of innocents in order to survive, a direct contrast to Tom Cruise’s treacherous Lestat, who takes pleasure in the kill. When Louis lures a wealthy socialite (Lyla Hay Owen) out into the darkness with the intention of attacking her, he instead winds up murdering the woman’s two poodles, drinking their blood as his intended victim screams for help. While the failure to ignore his own humanity works against Louis at the outset, this very quality will eventually make him the envy of others of his kind, including Armand (Antonio Banderas), the leader of a band of vampires whom Louis encounters one year in Paris. Armand recognizes that Louis, despite his feelings of inadequacy, is, in fact, the perfect vampire; a being who has achieved immortality, yet continues to maintain a very mortal frame of mind.

When it comes to movie monsters (in particular any of the ‘classic’ creatures), it’s usually the pathetic ones, such as Frankenstein’s monster, that gather up most of the audience’s sympathy, while vampires, symbols of the true harbingers of evil, are reviled the world over. In Interview with the Vampire, we get to know these children of the night who were once, and not long ago, mortals just like us. We discover that the craving for blood does not entirely wipe away the guilt for having to spill it, and that, even among the eternally damned, there remains a glimmer of humanity, no matter how many hundreds of years may pass.

9 comments

  1. BY FAR my favorite Vampire film to date. Good choice.

    Tom Cruise, however unlikely as it may be, is perfect for the role of Lestat and kicks all sorts of ass in this role…

    "Claudia! You've been a very, VERY. Naughty. Little. Girl."

    Everything about this film is perfect. From the performances to the set design, to the dialouge to the costuming. It's sheer brilliance. The details bring it out for me too – the scene in which Louis first becomes a vampire is magnetic…

    "That morning I was not yet a vampire, and I saw my last sunrise. I remember it completely, and yet I can't recall any sunrise before it. I watched its whole magnificence for the last time as if it were the first. And then I said farewell to sun light, and set out to become what I became…. The world had changed, yet stayed the same; statues seemed to move but didn't… no words can describe it… no human can know."

    Let's not forget Dunst's only good performance of her career and just an overall tone and feel to the film that feels authentic. Fucking love this movie. I've thought long and hard on whether or not I'd like to be a vampire, and this is the film that convinced me I probably would not.

  2. What strikes me most Dave is that you've picked up on the major themes that run throughout all of Rice's work in a handful of words. Have you read any of the novels? Just curious.

    As for this particular film, it's one of my favourites because everything works so well. From the opening to the closing scenes, there's all sorts of greatness in small moments throughout and unsurprisingly, it was the first time I ever paid attention to a director – Jordan was the man for the job. It's sad that the franchise soured so quickly. If only "Queen of the Damned" – which is a vastly superior book – could have been adapted with such great care and detail….

  3. Dave Becker

    Marina: Unfortunately, I've not had the privelege of reading any of Anne Rice's works, but if Interview with the Vampire is any indication, I should do so immediately (especially with my curiosity now piqued by your claim that this one wasn't even the strongest story in the collection).

  4. Kurt Halfyard

    I thought that Interview was the best of the 4 Anne Rice vampire novels that I read. While I think the film is 'lesser-Jordan' (See THE BUTCHER BOY for him truly at the top of his game), I've not visited it since it's theatrical release, perhaps I missed a lot of what you all think is there. I didn't like Pitt as Louis or Cruise as Lestat, but I did dig Antonio Banderas and the preciously young Kristen Dunst in the film.

  5. Marina Antunes

    Meh, it's not the best of Rice's work. She did get better as the years progressed – though even I'll admit that by "Blood and Gold" she was suffering from lack of editing care of the publisher and it cause for serious reading induced headaches. She seems to have moved beyond that with her two most recent books but alas, she also seems to have moved beyond her vampires.

    My favrouite of her Vampire chronicles is easily "Queen of the Damned" followed closely by "Pandora" and followed closely with "Armand". I've never been a huge Lestat fan but "The Tale of the Body Thief" is a good story.

    I'd even recommend the Mayfair books. "Taltos" is pretty bizzare but otherwise, they're great generational stories.

    Sorry for the literary sidebar. As you can guess, I'm a big Rice fan.

  6. I think Marina and I briefly discussed this film on a Cinecast for MoviePatron way back when Kurt was away one time.

    http://moviepatron.com/blog/2007/09/07/cinecast-e

  7. Marina Antunes

    Nice. If I remember right…also reviewed "Halloween" that episode! :)

  8. Can't seem to get it to work though. That page is killing CPU. Had to restart Safari.

    Listen here:
    http://moviepatron.com/audiofiles/episode60.mp3

  9. I'm listening in to your cinecast now. Interesting bit of history…but your Herzog rant is tearing my heart out!

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