Friday, 5 October 2012

Interview with the Vampire (1994)

Hindsight is 20/20. I used to really love Anne Rice, and now I recall the teenaged summer I spent in a black broomstick skirt reading The Vampire Lestat with bemusement. Similarly, it might once have seemed appropriate to cast Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise in a movie that demanded they be taken very seriously, but now all you can see when you look at them is Brangelina and the Sea Org. Finally, it might once have seemed like a good idea to re-imagine vampires as mopey navel-gazers, but we all know how wrong that can go.

Very, very wrong.
Today we're not talking about Twilight (thank god). We're talking about Interview with the Vampire (Neil Jordan, 1994). That means fewer sparkles, but the same amount of whiny existentialist bullshit.

"Louis... am I pretty?"
The titular interview is conducted by one Daniel Malloy (Christian Slater), who stumbles upon the palely brooding Louis (Brad Pitt), decides the dapper stranger must have an interesting life story, and plops him down in front of a tape recorder. Louis doesn't disappoint, obligingly revealing that he is a vampire and recounting his sordid tale. It mostly revolves around Louis' twisted menage a trois with his pouty sire Lestat (Tom Cruise) and their pint-sized progeny Claudia (Kirsten Dunst). The three vamps are amusingly horrible to each other until Lestat is burnt extra-crispy in a New Orleans house fire and Claudia is shut outdoors by snobby European vampires to die a horrible death of lethal vampire sunburn, leaving Louis the last vampire in the ring. Malloy is very impressed by Louis's story and suggests that Louis make him the latest recipient of the honor of vampire-hood; Louis refuses, sulking out into the night and cuing a Guns and Roses cover of Sympathy for the Devil.

Half the problem with Interview With The Vampire is the casting. It's never gratingly wrong, but it's seldom more than competent. It may be a miracle of its own that Cruise didn't butcher his character, but can anyone get exciting about a performance that is just... okay? Kristen Dunst, similarly, is out of her depth here. An adult vampire trapped in a child's body, Claudia is motivated by her pent-up sensuality, but in Dunst's hands she never convinces as a frustrated adult. Claudia seems to desire Louis in exactly the same way she'd desire an ice cream sandwich or a pony. This was a Dakota Fanning role back when there was no Dakota Fanning, and Dunst just isn't up to scratch.

The other half of the problem is that this movie takes itself way too fucking seriously. Louis is a yawnworthy hero, constantly fretting over the mystery of his existence; since his moral quandaries are never resolved, they become tiresome. Lestat and Claudia's machinations are entertaining in a sort of undead soap-opera fashion, but they don't get enough narrative weight to rescue the film from its milquetoast protagonist. I also wish that more had been done with Christian Slater, who feints at having a personality in the first couple scenes but is reduced to a one-man Greek chorus by the end.

I'm not even going to take the cheap shot and be all like "well at least my generation's vampires didn't sparkle". Let's face it, that's way too fucking easy. Louis and Lestat's incessant, gratuitous posing and moping paved the way for Cullen and his ilk. It's a damn shame, because movie vamps never used to be such wimps. Where's Max Schreck when you need him?

Preparing to EAT YOUR SOUL, that's where.
Best dressed person in the room? You're darn tootin'.
SCENE STEALER: Thandie Newton as Yvette, a slave on Louis' plantation and, briefly, his reluctant confidante. Yvette gets very little screentime and mostly appears opposite undead all-powerful vampires, yet her carefully chosen words and enigmatic expressions suggest that she's probably the most interesting person in the room. I probably shouldn't hold my breath for that tie-in novel at this point.

1 comment:

  1. This keeps coming back to me as the place where America went wrong with Vampires. I've been tempted to blame Angel from Buffy, but I always come back to Louis.