Plot: A sensuous, contemporary reinvention of Anne Rice’s revolutionary gothic novel, Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire follows Louis de Pointe du Lac, Lestat de Lioncourt and Claudia’s epic story of love, blood, and the perils of immortality, as told to journalist Daniel Molloy. Chafing at the limitations of life as a Black man in 1900s New Orleans, Louis finds it impossible to resist the rakish Lestat de Lioncourt’s offer of the ultimate escape: joining him as his vampire companion. But Louis’s intoxicating new powers come with a violent price, and the introduction of Lestat’s newest fledgling, the child vampire Claudia, soon sets them on a decades-long path of revenge and atonement.
Review: Anne Rice’s vampire mythology has long had a dedicated fanbase who chronicle the tales of Lestat, Louis, and centuries of the undead. When the 1994 film version of Interview with the Vampire debuted, Neil Jordan’s lush adaptation showcased Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, and Tom Cruise in roles unlike any they had undertaken before or since. Despite a standalone sequel (Queen of the Damned), Rice’s Vampire Chronicles has been dormant for a long time. Now, AMC’s highly anticipated series based on the first novel in the series debuts with a macabre and sexually-charged reinvention of Louis and Lestat that is far more faithful to Rice’s books than the 1994 movie while adding new layers to the story of a vampire reflecting on a century of change. It is a modernized retelling that restores a lot of what was stripped from the previous version and sets the stage for a broader universe of Rice adaptations to come.
Following the same core structure as the novel and feature film, the new Interview with the Vampire is set in the modern day and follows Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian) as he interviews vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson) about his life as a bloodsucker. Transitioning the story to the 21st century, the pandemic is a part of the overall narrative while the updated flashbacks shift the origin from 1791 to 1910. Louis is also now a Creole which adds the additional element of racism and bigotry along with the homosexual subtext of the vampires themselves. Lestat, played by Sam Reid, is still a debonair and foppish aristocrat who is a relic of the 19th century. It becomes immediately apparent from the outset that this version of Louis is not the same forlorn landowner that Brad Pitt played in his pre-vampire scenes. Anderson portrays his character as a pimp and hustler who works to support his family. When Louis meets Lestat, their relationship begins much differently than in the movie.
The first two episodes, directed by Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones), spend a great deal of time introducing Louis and his family members, giving us a more layered look at the character than the sullen and grief-stricken version played by Brad Pitt. Jacob Anderson lends different styles to his contemporary and flashback performances which accentuates the evolution of his character from man to monster. By aging up Daniel Molloy, Eric Bogosian is able to give a more mature performance as he asks questions of Louis who fawns over his love/hate relationship with Lestat. The series picks up over the next three episodes as the decades pass and we come to meet Claudia, played by Bailey Bass, who is an aged-up version of the child vampire made famous by Kirsten Dunst. The familiar relationship between Lestat, Louis, and Claudia is just as demented here as ever but somehow even more believable thanks to the bigger investment in developing the relationships in this series.
While Tom Cruise was initially panned when cast as Lestat, even Anne Rice came to praise his energetic performance. It is hard to imagine anyone but Cruise now, but Sam Reid plays Lestat as differently as Mads Mikkelsen played Hannibal Lecter compared to Anthony Hopkins. Reid has a deep sadness behind his performance that echoes the centuries that Lestat has lived his undead existence. His love for Louis is palpable with the two men exuding chemistry that was lacking between Cruise and Pitt. Reid often shifts from charming and seductive to frightening and the extreme violence, both verbal and physical, is not spared here. The blood runs freely on the screen as do some truly graphic kills. The series also does not skimp on the nudity, something I was not expecting from an AMC series. This is a damn sexy series and brings back the erotic side of vampire stories.
If you are a fan of the novels, you will be very happy with the world-building that this series does to set up not only the world of vampires but also Anne Rice’s other supernatural creations. While only the first five episodes were made available for this review, there is a lush fullness in this world that looks and feels grander than anything in the movie. Anyone unsettled by the queer undertones of this story is clearly not familiar with the source material to which this series is indebted and somehow manages to improve upon. Everyone in this show is better than in the film versions of Rice’s novels and topping Cruise, Pitt, Banderas, and Dunst is no easy feat. Director Taylor, Keith Powell, Levan Akin, and Alexis Ostrander all make New Orleans of the past and Dubai of the present look eerie and ethereal while never making this series feel anything but enticing and horrifyingly beautiful.
Playwright Rolin Jones serves as showrunner on Interview with the Vampire which accounts for the quality of the scripts. Anne Rice herself, along with her son Christopher, serve as executive producers on this series but did not have direct scripting involvement. While Rice passed away late in 2021 and did not get to see the finished results, I am sure she would have been ecstatic with seeing such a faithful take on her novel come to screen. Even with the substantial changes to time periods and characters, Interview with the Vampire works far better as a series than it did as a film. The casting is excellent and every scene is dripping with atmosphere. I had felt that vampires were played out but Interview with the Vampire proves that these stories are just as immortal as the monsters themselves.
Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire premieres on October 2nd on AMC.