Interview With The Vampire

Review by Matt Williams

Tom Cruise as the Vampire Lestat? You've got to be kidding, right? Well, Anne Rice certainly thought so; until, of course, that now infamous newspaper ad stating that she couldn't have been more wrong about him. If she went to that trouble, then Cruise must be good. That's what I thought anyway before toddling along to see the film adaptation of one of the best vampire novels ever written. Tom Cruise/Brad Pitt, do your worst!

Interview With The Vampire is actually a splendid horror film. Not many genre films you can say that about these days. After the all flash and no substance disappointment of Wolf and Frankenstein, it came as a welcome surprise to see a film that lived up to its hype; that was, for once, actually scary. Brad Pitt plays the Frenchman Louis who has the misfortune to run into Lestat, a centuries-year-old vampire who feeds on the weak and the unfortunate. When Lestat is bitten he soon finds himself turning into a creature he comes to loathe, and it is the uneasy alliance between the two, plus their relationship with Claudia, a child vampire whom Louis creates, that forms the crux of this absorbing tale.

Rice’s novel is a highly sensual and erotically charged piece of writing. To transfer this to the big screen – essentially a purely visual medium – could have resulted in a loss of many of the experiences shared so intimately between author and reader. However, it is a compliment to Neil Jordan’s splendid direction and focused screenplay that one is never disappointed by the realisation of the text into celluloid. Individual scenes are almost always suggestive of something more sinister. When Louis and Claudia attempt to kill Lestat, we see the scene through Louis eyes and feel his terror; as the blood pools around a recumbent Lestat, the room seems to close in in proportion to the urgency of the situation. Similarly, in the staged performances of the Theatre des Vampires, we become aware of something colder and infinitely more cruel going on. These are monsters, relates a roving camera – in human guise maybe but monsters all the same.

There are many things that make this a horror film with a difference. For one, it seems to respect the source material. All your favourite scenes are convincingly rendered, such as the conversion of the child into a vampire and the terrible revenge of the Theatre des Vampires. The acting is of a high standard, with Cruise dominating every scene he’s in, even going to the lengths of losing weight for the climactic confrontation in the New Orleans townhouse. What’s more there’s plenty to engage one visually without swamping the movie with swooping cameras and headlong pacing. See this if you see no other horror picture this year.

Directed by Neil Jordan.

This review was originally published in 1995, in the March/April issue of the BFS Newsletter (#19.2).