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From Buffy through to Twilight, the tortured vampire has long been established as a stock character in TV and movies. Where early depictions painted the blood-sucking undead as decrepit monsters (Nosferatu) or seductive but straightforwardly villainous demons (Christopher Lee’s Dracula), these days it’s become much more fashionable to portray vampires in a more sympathetic light. They may still kill you, but there’s a fair chance they’ll feel badly about it afterwards.
Much of this trend towards brooding, tormented vampires can be traced back to Interview With The Vampire, the 1994 movie based on the bestselling novel by Anne Rice. The movie (and novel) is told from the perspective of Louis de Pointe du Lac, a bereaved 18th century plantation owner turned immortal night walker who thirsts for human blood, but is also repulsed by the notion of harming innocent people. Played with requisite tortured smoulder by a young Brad Pitt, Louis is very much a proto Angel/Edward Cullen.
Unfortunately, much like those two characters, Louis’ endless moral struggle makes him kind of a morose drag in the movie. The best vampires on screen are always going to be the ones who make an eternity of murder and mayhem seem like fun – which is why, just as Spike was infinitely preferable to Angel on Buffy, Tom Cruise and Kirsten Dunst’s twisted father-daughter duo walk away with Interview With The Vampire.
Interview is a surprising movie in many ways. For fans used to Tom Cruise as the tiresome star of increasingly laboured franchise movies, it’s a revelation to see him on such deliriously entertaining form here. It’s not that his performance here is massively removed from his work in his other major movies – he’s always had a tendency towards high volume flamboyance – more that, as in his deservedly Oscar Nominated turn in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, Cruise’s schtick just works better when he’s actually supposed to be the villain of the piece.
Another surprise on revisiting the movie is just how unabashedly homoerotic the relationship between Cruise and Pitt’s characters is. The scene in which Lestat transforms Louis’ is shot with the breathless sensuality of a love scene, and their relationship only appears to deepen as they become undead life partners and co-parents to Kirsten Dunst’s fabulously creepy child vampire Claudia. In fact, there are no serious female love interests in the movie at all, with Louis later finding himself the object of the barely concealed affections of Antonio Banderas in the movie’s final act. Even today, you’d struggle to find a popcorn movie with this much gay subtext beneath the surface.
If the movie has a major flaw, it’s that Cruise’s performance so enlivens the first two acts, that his absence from the third can’t help but bring the movie down a little. There are memorable scenes towards the end – Stephen Rea’s ballet routine and Claudia’s disturbing death scene chief among them – but you can’t help thinking a whole movie told from Lestat’s perspective would have been much more fun. Perhaps that’s where our sequels should come in…
Harry’s Pitch | The Vampire: A Dark Universe Movie
John’s Pitch | Interview With The Vampire 2: Fangs for the Royalties
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