A Daunting Task
Adapting Anne Rice’s sensual, sprawling and incredibly detailed novel, Interview With the Vampire, for the screen was a daunting task indeed. The production was a bit dark and stormy from the start, with Rice herself expressing her displeasure with the casting of Tom Cruise in the key role of Lestat. In fact, pretty much everyone was skeptical about this flick, and not just because of Cruise — it just seemed unlikely that anyone could really do the book justice.
You know how it goes. It’s a familiar situation when it comes to adapting popular books, and sometimes it does indeed end in disaster when the movie comes out and it’s the disaster everyone feared it would be. However, this was not the case with Interview With the Vampire (1994). Tom Cruise is actually awful damn good as Lestat. In fact, everything else about the movie is awful damn good, too. And who is this Kirsten Dunst girl? She gives a “Who is that?” performance on the same level as Natalie Portman’s astounding debut in Leon (The Professional) (also 1994).
True, Interview with the Vampire isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It’s high on atmosphere and low on scares. It moves a bit slowly, and sometimes you might want it to just cheer up a little. But despite what someone might think about the film’s supposed shortcomings, no one can argue that director Neil Jordan didn’t create a vampire movie like no other. Here are a few of the ways Interview distinguishes itself from the rest of the vampire flicks out there.
Vampire as Protagonist
Sure, True Blood tells a vampire’s story from the point of view of vampires. But True Blood wasn’t out in 1994. Interview was unique in that we were completely immersed in the vampire‘s world from the start. We were watching them live their lives (so to speak). Humans are the strangers in this story, and in their world; they are the “shadows” that lurk about in the fringes — almost an afterthought, hardly a threat, barely a presence. This is a vampire’s story through “vampire eyes,” as Lestat says to Louis after he’s first transformed.
Vampire as Family
Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark (1987) gave us a look at the daily (or, rather, nightly) lives of a nomadic vampire tribe, traveling from town to town, always on the hunt, with no destination in mind and nothing but time to kill. Interview takes this approach a few steps further, painting a portrait of what could be considered simply an uncommon but certainly not dysfunctional situation: two fathers (Lestat and Louis) and one daughter (Claudia).
These three live together. They hunt together. They host parties together (though they usually end up murdering the guests and drinking their blood). Claudia takes piano lessons. They go shopping. They do the kinds of things “normal” families do — sort of. And they need each other. Everyone needs companionship, and all the moreso when you’re dealing with eternal life.
The Excruciating Passage of Time
Vampires live forever. And it kind of sucks. This is nothing new to the vampire mythos, but in Interview we actually get glimpses of the different centuries through which Louis traverses — sometimes with Lestat and Claudia, sometimes just with Claudia, and mostly completely alone. With its careful, methodical pacing and attention to period detail (while still maintaining an overall “gothic” design), the film manages to give the audience an idea of what “time” is like to a vampire; the years — and, indeed, the centuries — go by astonishingly fast and maddeningly slow, somehow simultaneously. And yeah, it sucks.
It Ends with a Guns N’ Roses Cover of a Rolling Stones Song
“Sympathy For the Devil,” to be exact. How many other vampire movies have such an honor?
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