Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)
Well, October is well underway and I haven't reviewed a single horror film all month, as I have been too busy reviewing Disney. However, I came across the book upon which this is based, and I enjoyed it so much that I had to check out the cinematic adaptation. Despite my saying that I enjoyed the book, there were some things that held it back, as Anne Rice is notorious for writing flowery romantic stuff and the flowery romantic stuff sometimes made it a hard read, and I have some issues with the main character that I will discuss in this review. However, it is entirely worth a read and I recommend the book for anyone who comes across it. But we aren't here to talk about the book, we're here to talk about the movie. Interview With The Vampire is an entertaining movie and one of my personal favourite vampire movies. However, I haven't seen many vampire movies so that title is rather insignificant. It doesn't quite live up to the book (but books are different from movies, so it is unfair to compare them), but this movie has an excellent story, excellent characters, and above all, excellent visuals (which actually won the Oscar back when this movie came out). Like the critics consensus said, it lacks some of the book's subtler shadings and suffers from some clumsy casting, but it benefits from atmospheric direction and a surfeit of gothic thrills.
Interview With The Vampire starts in New Orleans in the 1980's, where a young man named Malloy (Christian Slater) prepares to interview a man named Louis (Brad Pitt) who claims to be a vampire. It turns out that Louis is telling the truth, and he agrees to tell Malloy his life story. It begins in the 1700's in New Orleans, where we learn that Louis was a wealthy plantation owner that lost his wife in childbirth, which robbed him of his will to live. It is at this point in his life where he encounters Lestat (Tom Cruise). Lestat is a vampire, and he turns Louis and makes him into his companion. Louis and Lestat tolerate one another throughout the years but Lestat grows frustrated with Louis' reluctancy to feed on anything but rats.
One day, when Louis is walking alone, he comes across a young girl crying for her mother, who has died from the plague. This little girl plays a big part in the story, as she is taken to safety by Louis and Lestat and made into a vampire. Problem is, Claudia (the little girl, played by Kirsten Dunst) is five years old, and being a vampire, she cannot grow older. Louis and Lestat parent Claudia, Lestat being more of the father and Louis being more of the mother (at least in those times, Lestat being tougher and Louis being more nurturing). When Claudia finds out that she cannot grow up, and when she tries to cut her hair and it mysteriously grows back, she gets really pissed and a plan enters her head.
Claudia formulates a plan to kill Lestat, and this plan is successful, at least temporarily. She kills two boys and tricks Lestat into drinking their blood with full knowledge that drinking the blood of the dead will seriously weaken a vampire. She then slits his throat and throws him in the swamp. However, Louis and Claudia see a ghostly, scarred Lestat that is very much alive, albeit just barely (what with his skeleton-like visage and such). When he attacks, Louis and Claudia run away and catch the ship to Europe, where they had been planning to travel to, to see if there were any more vampires. This brings us to the part of the film set in Paris, where another vampire named Armand (Antonio Banderas) comes into the picture.
END OF SPOILERS
Armand is the leader of a troop of vampires who live at the Theatre des Vampires, where there are shows mosy every night (one which included stripping a female victim fully nude before killing her). Armand and his coven know about...what I mentioned in the spoiler warning... and Armand says that Claudia is in danger and she and Louis should part. It could be interpreted that Armand just wants Louis for himself, or he knows that his vampire coven is unpredictable and he knows that the one crime of the vampire (punishable by death) is to kill their own kind. Claudia thinks that Louis is going to leave her for Armand, so she plays the same trick that Lestat played on Louis by getting a woman for Louis to turn who would take care of her.
However, they are kidnapped by Armand's coven. Louis is sealed in a coffin and Claudia and Madeleine (the woman) are trapped in a prison cell with an open roof. I promised not to give away any more spoilers, so we'll leave it at that because I can't really say anything more without giving away the ending. However, you all know by the beginning that Louis survives the whole affair. Needless to say, Interview With The Vampire has a great story at its heart, and it's based off excellent source material. It is a very detailed book, so naturally it couldn't all be transferred to screen. The movie is what I would call a distilled adaptation, as the writers just cherry-picked what was important to the story and put it in the script. Things move fast in this movie, much faster than in the book, and while it sometimes doesn't work in the film's favour, it can't be helped.
One of the most notorious things about this movie is the casting, because the two main stars of this movie were the big Hollywood heartthrobs at the time, Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, who were chosen for pretty much their marketability, as it appears to the naked eye. They both look utterly ridiculous as vampires, Cruise as Lestat more than Pitt as Louis, but I was actually surprised as performance-wise, they were both pretty good. However, the huge surprise for me was Tom Cruise, and this is from someone who is hardly his #1 fan. Tom Cruise gave a great performance as Lestat, and even though I could imagine many other actors in the great role (actors such as Jeremy Irons and Rutger Hauer were considered for the role, and Stuart Townsend played the role in Queen of the Damned), I was thoroughly entertained by his performance and found it to be the second-best in the movie.
Brad Pitt was slightly less ridiculous looking in his role as Louis, but my enjoyment of his performance was hampered by the fact that I don't much care for the character. Louis and his whining got a bit tiring after a while (although he is much whinier in the book), and his whole self-pity due to the fact that he has to kill to live starts to get old fast. Don't get me wrong, Brad Pitt was good as Louis, I just don't care for the character so I liked his performance less than that of Cruise and Dunst. Speaking of which, I really enjoyed the performance of Kirsten Dunst as Claudia, who got a Golden Globe nomination for her performance. This was her big debut as a child actress and it was a damn good one. The character of Claudia is, for the most part, an adult in the body of a child, and Dunst embodies that, being very articulate for her age and being able to hold her own against Pitt and Cruise. Needless to say, her performance was probably the best in the movie, and that's something to say for a child actor.
The rest of the performers include Antonio Banderas as an entirely believable Armand (albeit also slightly ridiculous looking), Stephen Rea as a villainous vampire named Santiago, who is a large part in the climax of the film, and Christian Slater as the Interviewer (a last-minute replacement for River Phoenix). They all give pretty good performances, nothing Oscar-worthy but nothing terrible. Out of the three performances mentioned, I would say Banderas was the best. The only problem that I really see is that Banderas wasn't in the movie enough, as Armand was in the book much more. Slater wasn't bad, and Rea wasn't bad either, but Banderas was the best.
The acclaimed elements of the film, however, lie in the visuals. This film got Oscar nominations for art direction and costume design, and rightfully so, because both elements of the film are spectacular. The use of visual effects is also well-done except for one aspect. In my opinion, they messed up the vampire teeth, and it was part of what made Cruise and Pitt look ridiculous. They looked okay on Dunst, but still weird. Another thing, fair warning to those who are squeamish. If you are squeamish around blood, then some parts of this movie will be awkward for you, because there are a lot of gory deaths, some more than others. However, for those comfortable around gore, this should be an entertaining watch.
Don't get discouraged by the unfortunate glut of vampire movies coming out, Interview With The Vampire is a worthwhile watch, especially around this time of year. It may be flawed, but the film has a lot of things going for it. It has splendid performances, spectacular visuals, and despite lacking some of the subtlety that the book had to offer, an excellent story. I also recommend giving the book a read, but like I said, this movie is a distilled adaptation, so you don't need to read the book before watching the movie to understand it as the basic plot elements are still there. It may not be straight-up horror so much as romantic vampire fiction, but it's better than Twilight. It's much better than Twilight. You have to give it that. So in short, I recommend Interview With The Vampire, especially to doubters of vampire movies.