Tuesday, 5 May 2015

May Sucks: Interview With A Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)

Interview With A Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)
Director: Neil Jordan
Starring: Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and Antonio Banderas
Running Time: 123 min

  I remember when this came out and I had absolutely no interest in watching this.  Similar to the zombiemania of the last few years, this whole big budget gothic vampire frenzy in the 90's was not really my thing and I still haven't read any of the Anne Rice novels.  Now, more than twenty years later and with the 2nd wave of vampire trend coming and gone again, I think I'm ready to see Tom Cruise be a bloodsucker, he now seems  a lot scary in real life.

  A writer, Daniel Malloy meets up with the vampire, Louis de Pointe du Lac, who offers Malloy the chance to write his biography.  Leary at first, Malloy makes a few jokes about the Louis being a "real" vampire, but after a few simple vampire tricks and scares, Malloy is on board and desperately recording ever word.
  Louis explains to Malloy that he was a wealthy plantation owner back in 1791 and he hadn't come to terms with the lost of his wife and young daughter.  He would put himself in risky situations, like cheating at cards, dating prostitutes and hanging out on the wrong side of the tracks, so that there would be opportunities for someone to give him what he wanted most and that was to die.  However, he wasn't expecting a vampire named Lestat to offer him a new way of life/death.  Louis chooses to become a vampire but he refuses to give up his humanity and kill people.  Instead Louis decides that he will satisfy his "hunger" by drinking the blood of rats and other animals, than to succumb to the will of Lestat.  In essence, he's a like a vegetarian vampire.  Unfortunately as time goes by, the slaves on Louis' plantation seem to be mysteriously dying and blame Louis' new friend Lestat as a harbinger of death.  When this is brought to the attention of Louis, by his most trusted cook/housemaid, Louis finally breaks down, has a cry and then feeds on her.  Racked with guilt and just before the angry mob of slaves equipped with torches and pitchforks arrive, Louis walks out to speak with them carrying the body of his beloved slave/friend.  He frees all his slaves and helps them torch his mansion.  Lestat is pissed because they have no where to live and the cat is out of the bag there but sticks around with his vampire buddy and the two of them search for a new home. Louis decides that he is back on his all rat diet and vows to never harm a human again, which infuriates Lestat.  Can Louis keep his promise and not dine on people anymore or will the hungry and Lestat be to much for him and pull him back to the dark side?

  I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this film and I'm a little sad that my preconceived notions about it stopped me from watching it so many years ago.  I still haven't read the books but the story is very good and Anne Rice creates some very interesting vampire mythos that has now become pretty common place in vampire culture.  Louis can get annoying with his humanity baloney but the character offers a wonderful conflicting view to his mentor and maker Lestat, who seems to have no conscience at all.  It creates an interesting dichotomy, it's like the odd couple if they were ruthless bloodsucking vampires.
  I was most amazed at the amount of big name talent in this film.  Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas, Stephen Rhea, Christian Slater and a very young Kirsten Dunst, who all really shine in different ways throughout the film.  However, I was startled with the acting skill of Tom Cruise (The Outsiders, Legend), in his role of Lestat.  It seems as though he actually tried to play the role and not just be Tom Cruise in a Tom Cruise movie, like he does now.  The cause of this might be that a lot of people, including Anne Rice, didn't feel that he was right for the part but for someone who hasn't read the books, I thought he did alright.
  Also, I thought that director Neil Jordan (The Butcher Boy, High Spirits) created a wonderful look and feel for this film.  Like "Bram Stoker's Dracula", Jordan captures the authenticity of the time with elaborate sets and costumes.  More importantly, he is able to prepare and execute some deliciously evil scenes of bloodshed to a wider audience.  Jordan sinks his teeth some very disturbing imagery and really captures the essence of what these vampires were experiencing back then.

  I thought that most of the film was good, but there were a couple issues that I had with it.  At one point our main characters move across to Europe in search of other vampires like them and at this point, I find the film gets a little muddled.  Antonio Banderas (Spy Kids, Shrek 2) plays Armand the king of the Spanish vampires and falls in love/like with Louis.  He wants to Louis to stay and ditch Kirsten Dunsts' (Spider-man 3, Get Over It) character Claudia, who Lestat and Louis created but Louis refuses.  What is confusing is that there is another leader of the Spanish vampires, Santiago, played by Stephen Rhea who wants to kill them both and stages a coo at one point.  It's weird and doesn't really connect properly during this second act for me.  Some thing go unpunished and one really wonders who the real leader is.  I just thought this could be done better.
  Also, I felt that there were missing elements in the story about the characters that were either intentionally left out or didn't get tied together properly.  Especially after Louis and Lestat create a Claudia and become my two vampire dads.  There should be a different kind of connection here between these characters that is kind of implied but never shown.  It's similar and a little more open later on with Banderas but again, maybe the 80's weren't ready for that.  

  However, even with those minor issues, I thought that this was a pretty incredible film.  It has an intriguing story with a a phenomenal director at the helm, marvelous visuals, in both the sets, costume and the bloodshed that ensues. Also, it has a very amusing ending that will leave even the most hardened horror fan with a smile on their face.  So, if your looking for a large budget vampire film to drain you of a few hours of your human existence with big time actors, then bite into this one, you won't regret it. 


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