I have to confess that I’ve never been a fan of Anne Rice’s novel Interview With The Vampire for the simple reason that when it was published in 1976, I had just read another vampire novel that immediately became one of favorite books of all-time: Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. As a twelve year-old reading Rice’s novel, I simply couldn’t get King’s novel out of my head.
And so when the movie version of INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE was finally released in 1994 I wasn’t all that excited to see it. Plus, I was not a Tom Cruise fan at all, and so with Cruise in the lead as the vampire Lestat, I was even less interested in it, and to be fair, I did not give this movie a fair shake upon its initial release. I was quick to dismiss it.
Recently, I decided it was time to give this movie another look. For starters, as Tom Cruise has aged, he has chosen more interesting film roles, and I’ve actually enjoyed his performances over the last ten years or so. Plus, after the TWILIGHT movies, I figured INTERVIEW would seem vastly superior in comparison.
I was right.
INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE has aged well.
INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE begins in modern day, where a young man Daniel Malloy (Christian Slater) interviews a vampire, Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt). As Louis tells his story, the time shifts to the past, to 1790s New Orleans, where Louis, distraught over the recent death of his wife and infant baby, wants to die. Instead, he’s turned into a vampire by Lestat de Lioncourt (Tom Cruise).
The story then follows the love/hate relationship between these two vampires. Louis hates being a vampire, and refuses to drink the blood of humans. Lestat seems to go out of his way to torment Louis, while claiming to be trying to help Louis survive. When Louis threatens to leave, Lestat turns a young girl Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) into a vampire so Louis will have another friend besides himself.
Eventually, Louis and Claudia escape from Lestat and travel to Paris because they have heard that other vampires reside there. They meet the vampire Armand (Antonio Banderas) who leads a band of vampires who live on the streets of Paris. Eventually, Lestat returns to reclaim Louis and Claudia, setting the stage for the film’s conclusion.
The biggest reason I’ve never been a huge fan of INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE is its high drama vampire plot. I prefer my vampires a bit more monstrous than the undead folks who populate INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE. While I do enjoy the individual struggles these vampires face, I don’t like the main story they find themselves in. I like watching Louis deal with his disdain for vampirism. I like watching Lestat’s manipulations and dramatic musings. I like watching Claudia’s bursts of teen angst and emotion. However, the main story arc here plays more like a soap opera plot to me than a vampire tale. It also doesn’t play like much of a horror movie.
So, what did I like better this time around watching INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE on Netflix Streaming twenty years after its initial release?
For starters, the acting is very good. I liked Brad Pitt as Louis, although at times he did seem a little less horrified than he should have been about his condition.
Tom Cruise probably impressed me the most, which I find ironic, since his performance probably turned me off the most when I first saw this movie back in 1994. He’s very good as Lestat. He doesn’t quite capture Lestat the way I imagined him from the book. I remember him being a darker character in Anne Rice’s novel, but Cruise infuses him with so much dramatic energy, at times, it was like watching Liberace as a vampire, and Cruise captures this essence without being comical.
A very young Kirsten Dunst is also exceptional as Claudia, and she steals most of the scenes she’s in. Likewise, Antonio Banderas was impressive as Armand, as was Stephen Rea as Armand’s fellow vampire Santiago.
I also enjoyed the look of INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE. Director Neil Jordan has created a very good looking horror movie. It’s all very atmospheric and hearkens back to the Hammer vampire movies of old. Jordan’s previous film before INTERVIEW was THE CRYING GAME (1992) which back in the early 1990s I liked much better than INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE.
Anne Rice wrote the screenplay, based on her novel, and it’s adequate as those things go. Again, the story has never wowed me.
Another reason I enjoyed INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE more today than when it first came out is the TWILIGHT series. Having had to suffer through those movies over the past decade, the way they reduced vampires to one-dimensional caricatures in a young adult romance, was one of the more painful cinematic experiences I’ve ever had to endure. One movie, okay, that’s not so bad. But an entire series of these clunkers? Ugh!
So, in comparison, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE is like the Mona Lisa, which by the way, is another movie title by director Neil Jordan, as he directed the well-received MONA LISA (1986) starring Bob Hoskins.
INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE has aged well. It boasts a solid directorial effort by Neil Jordan, and visually it’s very impressive. It’s well-acted by Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and Kirsten Dunst. True, it’s still not my favorite vampire tale, but it does have rich resonating characters who more than make up for the weaknesses in the story.