Friday, March 22, 2013

Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles

Skip to the end for a SPOILER FREE REVIEW

The film opens in a modern-day (but judging by the ponytails, really the early 90's) San Francisco, reporter Daniel Molloy (Christian Slater) interviews Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt), about his life as a vampire.

Louis discibes his life in Spanish Louisiana in 1791, where at the age of 24, he was turned by the vampire Lestat de Lioncourt (Tom Cruise). Lestat teaches him how to live as a vampire. At first, Louis rebels against hurting humans, drinking animal blood instead. He finally succumbs and kills his faithful house slave. Guilt ridden, he tries to kill himself by setting fire to his house; but Lestat rescues him and they flee.

Wandering the streets of New Orleans, a midst an plague outbreak, Louis finds a sick child in a house with her dead mother. He bites the girl, Claudia (Kirsten Dunst), whom Lestat later transforms into a vampire "daughter". Lestat teaches Claudia to live as a vampire and prey on humans. As thirty years pass, Claudia becomes a sadistic killer and closely bonded to Louis and Lestat. But, when she realizes she will never grow up, she is furious with Lestat and kills him. Claudia and Louis dump Lestat's body in a swamp; but he returns, having feasted on swamp creatures to survive. Lestat attacks them, but Louis sets him on fire and is able to flee to Paris with Claudia.

In 1870, Louis and Claudia live in Paris, but Louis is still bothered by the question of how vampires came to be. One night, Louis encounter vampire Armand (Antonio Banderas); Armand invites Louis and Claudia to his coven, the Théâtre des Vampires. Louis makes inquiries about vampires and learns that the greatest crime for a vampire is murder.

Claudia rightly accuses Louis of wanting to leave her and join Armand. As punishment for Lestat's murder, the Parisian vampires abduct them both; they imprison Louis in a metal coffin. When freed by Armand the next night, he learns Claudia has been executed by sunlight. He returns to the Theatre and avenges Claudia by burning the vampires in their coffins as they sleep. Armand arrives in time to help him escape and once again offers him a place by his side. Louis once again refuses, knowing that Armand choreographed Claudia's demise to have Louis all to himself, and he leaves Armand for good.

As decades pass, Louis explores the world alone, still grieving for Claudia, before returning to the United States. In 1988, he returns to New Orleans and finds Lestat, a mere shadow of his former self. Lestat asks Louis to rejoin him, but Louis rejects him and leaves.

At this point, Louis concludes the interview, claiming that his experiences have resulted in his becoming the "very spirit of preternatural flesh; detached, unchangeable, empty." Malloy is shocked by this statement and openly declares his desire to have had Louis' experiences as a vampire. He asks Louis to transform him. Louis is immediately outraged by Malloy's complete disregard for the pervasive suffering caused by vampirism outlined in the interview. Louis vanishes and as Malloy drives away he is attacked by Lestat.

The Good, the Bad, and the Gory

The Good
Have you ever heard of Philippe Rousselot? No? Well, have ever seen Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sherlock Holmes I&II, Remember the Titans or Planet of the Apes? If so, then you've at least seen his work. Rousselot is a legend of cinematography, having worked on some the most visually stunning movies in all of cinema. He has a style of extravagance and grandeur, while remaining grounded and believable.

Interview with the Vampire has exactly this feeling. It has many shots that are wide, used to create an environment  At the same time the furniture and set are very detailed and realistic. In a period movie it's essential to create a believable setting. No one is going to buy a period movie all shot on set or lacking in detail. If nothing else, this is a good looking movie.

I'm a traditionalist, I'll admit it. I like to try out new movie concepts, but at the end of the day I want my Frankenstein to have bolts, my werewolves to howl at the moon, and my vampires to be classy. Interview with the Vampire harks back to the classic motifs of Dracula(1931) and Nosferatu(1922). The idea that vampirism was sensual, elegant, refined as well as gruesome and torturous. Something about that contradiction appeals to the human psych  It fits in with our bad-boy complex along with James Bond and Italian Mobsters.

Whatever the reason, I love how vampires are shown as these tortured souls. The whole film feels dark and depressed. Juxtaposed the dark mood with the character's vain attempts to find happiness, and it creates a beautiful contrast.

The Acting
Interview with the Vampire boasts some big name actors, but two stood out in my opinion. While I'm no fan of Brad Pitt, he does a good job as the vampire Louis. The character didn't call for much beyond being depressed and one scene of outrage, but Pitt is able to bring a believability to the role which Tom Cruis clearly could not. I found myself actually feeling sorry for poor Louis.

The pre-teen Kirsten Dunst was easily the best actor on screen. Now, it's easy to hold children to the a lower standard of excellence because of their age, but in this case I think she earns the praise. It was great to see this little girl acting circles around Tom Cruise. Her role called for her to be both child and adult, and she is believable as both. 

The Bad
The Acting
Yep, in this movie you gotta take the good with the bad. I'm not much of a Tom Cruise fan, and am even less so after seeing this movie. Just visually, I thought he looked ridiculous the whole time. A 5'3'' vampire is neither scary nor intimidating. Watching him bouncing around in his wigs and puffy sleeves never looked quite right. His character almost seemed cartoon-ish with polarized emotions. It was like someone was holding up cue cards for what emotion he was suppose to be acting. Simplistic and uninspired.

I actually like Antonio Banderas. Evita was great, but he was lacking in this movie. I feel like the director said, "All I want you to do is whisper your lines and show no expression." He had a cool character as the most ancient vampire, but he doesn't add anything to it. I know vampires are dead, but jeez, add a little emotion.

The Pacing
I know that this movie is an adaptation of Ann Rice's book, and such adaptations are bound to have some trouble with pacing, but they should have tried harder on this one. Interview is told using mostly flashbacks, and I wonder why they flashed back on some things and not others. It feels like we are stuck in New Orleans far to long. By the time we get to Paris the movie isn't left with enough time to do anything cool. There were plenty of times I wanted a blue-uniformed cop to pop up on screen as say, "Alright, move it along. Nothing to see here."

The Point
There have been several novels that I have enjoyed which took long, meandering routes with no particular destination. There are very few movies I've enjoyed with the same structure. And I get it, this is suppose to be look at the internal turmoil and suffering of the vamperic world, but give me some story please. This was like reading memoirs  There is no true villain, no true hero, no dynamic characters, and no resolution. I feel like there are three different parts to the movie, Louis's transformation, Louis and Claudia, and Louis in Paris. All three have different plot objectives, but none of the three are strongly connected. 

The movie ends with the end of the interview, and Lestat lively as ever. Nothing was resolved, nothing was accomplished, and the interview was pointless. I was just left saying, "What was the point of this movie?" 

Ok, started sending in your hate mail and calling me homophobic, I'm still gonna say it. This movie is gay. Any good vampire movie should have sensuality in it, but watching Brad Pitt and Tom Cruse suck on each other's necks was gross. Everyone in the movie had huge wigs of long, pretty-pony hair, two inches of make-up, and European clothes. It is hard not to acknowledge the homosexual air around Lestat and Louis relationship. Vampires can be suave, but should stay manly. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to have Tom Cruise carry around a Chiwawa and a Prada bag. You'd get the same product.

For any Lonely Island fans, enjoy this mash up.

The Gory
There is a good deal of blood in this movie. Throats ripping, goblets of blood, and lots of red faces. The effects are well done and the deaths via sunlight and scythe are very cool. Vampire movies are generally high on the gore scale, but that shouldn't be taken as a negative at all

My Take on it All
Interview with the Vampire is an often held classic in the vampire sub-genre. I picked it up because it was on the list of "Must See Vampire Movies." And in the end, I'm glad I did, just to have a better understanding of the genre, but this was not a movie I enjoyed.

The poor acting and homo eroticism throughout the movie was off putting. And while this movie did a good job at creating an environment and mood (most because of the superior cinematography), that wasn't enough to over come the plot. This movie seems to meander through different plot lines, with no clear direction. It ends up with an unsatisfying conclusion that left me wanting back my hour and fifty-seven minutes.

If you are a die hard vampire fan, it is a must see simply because of the prestige it holds in the vampire sub-genre. If you are a horror fan, it worth a watch on a slow night. If you are just a movie fan, don't bother (unless you like Tom Cruise as a gay vampire).

Interview with the Vampire is the life story of a vampire coming to understand the intricacies of his new dark life. As a big budget movie the film brings in great visuals, sets, and effects. It's biggest appeal is it's big name cast (Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt), but don't be fooled. Most of the acting in this film is poor. Add to this a disconnected plot and poor resolution, and it makes for a frustrating watch. If you really love vampires in all their suave  sophisticated glory, then this is a good pick your you. If you are simply hoping for a good flick to watch, then I'd say pass on this one.

Final Score: C-



  1. I can't really argue with your point. I loved the movie when I was young but when I watched it again to review it I didn't feel quite the same way. I still like the movie but more for nostalgia than anything else. I'd grade it a little higher but can't disagree with you despite that.

    1. Nostalgia is a seductive lair. - George Ball

  2. I loved the I couldn't watch the movie. Just couldn't see Tom nor Brad in those roles. Glad you reviewed it.

    1. thanks ellie. It is my greatest honor to shield the public for the evils of horror-mediocrity.

  3. I'm going to have to disagree with you on most of your negative points. This movie was, strictly speaking, the best vampire movie up until the 2000's when it was overtaken by films such as "Let Me In". In all honesty, this series of vampire novels is an acquired taste. Some people just do not approve. And that is fine, not everyone has the same taste, obviously.

    The issue of homo-eroticism. Sigh. It isn't about hate-mail, it is about the fact that people are too tied into sexuality and can't think beyond their own prejudices. Anne Ricean vampires do not have sex. Fact. And for this reason, they are free to love whomever they wish to.If someone is a homosexual, it implies that they engage in sexual activities with their own gender... Hmm.

    I do not complain that you are homophobic, because I believe that most people are. Just as I'm sure most people are racist, most men are misogynistic, women all want to be seen as equal to men but simultaneously be treated as wilting flowers, and just about everyone has bad debt. The trick is that we do not let other people know of our prejudices. In an environment that is trying to eradicate homosexual prejudice, it is worrisome that you criticise a movie based on these principles.

    Let me ask you, if it had been two women, would you have been as negative towards it?

    Perhaps you would like to take a look at this discussion:

    My suggestion to you would be to read the books, if you have not. It sheds light on a beautiful series, one that comes replete with classy vampires and graphic horror - the two things all vampires should be in possession of.

    1. I guess the big complaint about the "homo-eroticism" really doesn't even come down to the point of sexuality, as much as it does masculinity. Vampires represent a classical evil to me. Ancient creature created during eras of universal Christendom and personal purity. Back when men were manly and wanted their women to be dainty. I have trouble imagining them as effeminate or foppish. It's the Anican Skywalker effect (The dark, powerful Darth Vader was just a whiney teenager?). I want my vamps to be butch.

      But really that's more my issue than the movie's. Maybe the horror audience is more ready than I at accepting vampires of all life-styles and orientations. I'll continue my rants on your forums.

      And I would probably pay to watch girl vamp on girl vamp action. ;)

    2. Hahahahaha! That's what I thought ;)

      Don't get me wrong, though. I understand what you are saying. But I firmly believe that vampires are beyond the petty concerns of gender and the flesh - in the most carnal of fashions - and for that reason they do not discriminate from one type of food/lover/companion to another.

      But it is all really a matter of perspective and enjoyment :)

  4. Your review is really good you discuss your pros and cons with the film very well and of course everyone has their own opinion. I can see the bad acting from another person's POV and well I guess I mixed the homoerotic tone of both novel and film but I don't think you are homophobic by any means. And I agree the cinematography is beautiful!

    1. If you like good cinematography check out Brotherhood of the Wolf. I'll be reviewing it soon, and it is beautifully shot.

  5. Very good review. I agree with many of your points, especially around the pacing and Tom Cruise. To me, Vampirism is very sexual in nature. You have penetration and the sharing of bodily fluids and Vampires are quite often suave and charming. The relationship between Lestat and Louie did indeed have homo-erotic tones, it's almost impossible to tell this story without it.

    I don't think there is anything wrong with your assessment or not enjoying the movie based on that assessment. We're all entitled to our opinions and there have been movies I have reviewed that I didn't enjoy as much because of similiar tones (Nightmare 2 and Jeepers Creepers II), but I thought it was an important part of this story.

    I enjoyed reading your review and like the format that you use. I'll be back to check out more reviews. Hope to see you over at my blog soon as well.

    1. That's for the feedback, I'm glad you liked it. And you are right, Jeepers Creepers II was a huge disappointment in my book.

  6. Can't hardly wait for your review of Evil Dead. Are you gonna watch Hemlock Grove????

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