[Review] Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)

cast: Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, Antonio Banderas, Christian Slater, Thandie Newton
director: Neil Jordan

” Evil is a point of view. God kills indiscriminately and so shall we. For no creatures under God are as we are, none so like him as ourselves” (Lestat)

20 years have passed since Neil Jordan’s take on Anne Rice first Vampire Chronicles book was released. It made me take a stroll down memory lane to a night way back in 1996. October 31, 1996 to be more accurate. Now picture this little scenario. My knowledge of German language is slim to none existing yet I watched a movie I could barely understand a word and got trapped into a little universe spun by a dear lady born in New Orleans. That’s all I needed because the next day, I got my hands on a series of novels part of the Vampire Chronicles Universe. Before I share my thoughts on the movie I want to say a few things.

Thank you Anne Rice for feeding my hunger for knowledge. You took me on an insane ride and for the last 18 years I’ve used the knowledge in every day activity. You made me excel in French, devour literature, eat history for breakfast and develop an even stronger love for movies. I used your universe well. It helped me through high-school and Anne, love, you made me write some of my finest essays. If evil is a point a view and life can be extinguished with a flick of ones wrist, you’ve made me love life and love every piece of knowledge that you served me and served me well. With arrogance and wonder I look back and recall the night it all started. I recall the days, the years that followed. I remember those nights I read your books. Past midnight, school day ahead and I couldn’t put down your books. Did it help me? I say it did. Quite a lot. And it wasn’t the lure of immortality although quite frankly, who the Hell would refuse the Dark Gift? It’s been quite a ride my dear lady and tonight I celebrate 20 years since the first movie based on your tales saw the limelight. I have to thank Neil Jordan as well. The movie made me want to know you Anne. I feel no shame about it. First, I saw the movie and then I read the books. Tonight, after I leave my thoughts on this website, I’ll begin reading ”Prince Lestat”. Merci ma chere.

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”Interview with a vampire” was blessed to be helmed by Neil Jordan. Why? Take a look at what he’s done before and after, movie wise. The man feels what the tone and atmosphere of a movie should be and lures you into the story. Let’s settle some facts. Anne Rice wasn’t a happy camper when Tom Cruise was cast as Lestat. The good woman penned her book thinking of Alain Delon as Louis and hoped for Rutger Hauer before settling on Julian Sands for Lestat. Tom Cruise had the influence, the star power and let’s face it back in the day he could make or break any project. Hauer was too old at that time and Sands wasn’t bankable. Anne wasn’t shy to speak her mind. Believe me, before I saw the movie, Cruise was for me the wise ass from Top Gun and A Few Good Man. Sure, he struck a chord with “Born on the 4th of July” but I hadn’t seen him portray a villain.

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Now let’s be quite frank, Cruise with blonde locks and a dodgy accent might be funny but he came, he chewed the lines, he made you love him while despising his bullying of poor Louis and he stood confidently in front of Rice to the point the good woman wrote her praises of Cruise’s performance in Vanity Fair. Nice work Tom Cruise. Lestat remains, together with Vincent from Collateral some of the best performance in my book for the happy go lucky Cruise.

Cruise Lestat was witty and arrogant. A bully who showed glimmers of what we knew about Lestat from the books. We saw the loneliness, the fear, the fear of letting his guard down, his destructive, abusive relationship with his dark, demented family. Rice poured her life and misery into a tale of vampires, alienated souls who stay together although rhyme and reason say they should part ways and avoid each other. Lestat does the opposite and delivers a kid to Louis. If I can’t have you, we’ll raise a brat and pretend, act, force ourselves to be a happy little family.

Claudia was perfection for the first years. Unfortunately the child’s mind grew into the wicked, sad and vengeful woman trapped in a little girls body. Dunst was and remains a revelation in the part of the little demoness. To this days, talks of who could play the parts of the Vampire Chronicles characters are present and since we’ll eventually see a set of movies based on Rice’s universe, we’re left hoping that any child actor who might portray Claudia, will raise to the level set by Kirsten Dunst.

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Now, here comes the character back then I loved to hate and feel sorry for. Sorry ladies and gents but I loved Brad Pitt because as much as he loathed his job, he gave us the whining Louis plain and simple. Yes, Rice made some changes with his tale and instead of the whole brother debacle, she simplified his misery with the tale of the dead wife and child. Pitt wore a pair of green contact lenses, his hair was flawless and his attitude and mood were the best one could ask for Louis. I loved to hate Louis. I loved to hate his humanity, his cowardice, his lack of spine and holier than thou attitude. Brad Pitt proved in 1994 he was meant for more than  the hunk roles, showing his abs.

If I went and spoke about the best let me rant about the worst. Now, I understand when changes are made from the pages of a book to the movie version but Antonio Banderas as Armand aka the teen with the face of an angel was a little too much. Don’t get me wrong, I saw the movie before I read the book but even with the lack of know how, Banderas was a little too much for the atmosphere. Armand became a mix of an European seducer who looked you in the eyes and before you could say ”ay mi morena de mi corazon” had you on your knees gasping. Raven long hair, a cane, looks to thrill and a strong latino accent was too much and not what we needed.

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Christian Slater came in to take the role designated to the late River Phoenix and although he was streetwise and cheeky, that subtle sensibility Phoenix could convey thought a brooding and arrogant facade was what I’ll always want from Daniel. But hey, he wasn’t that bad, I did trashed on Banderas, didn’t I?

Being a Romanian, one gets used to the same old same old, vampire, Dracula and type casting, now if you blink your eyes or battle your eyelashes, you might miss Marcel Iures among the gang of vampires performing in Theatre des Vampires. No worries, I had to develop some serious VCR technic skills to get a good look at him back in the day.

Neil Jordan had some extra bonuses, not just a great cast even though Cruise and Pitt got a Razzie for their dynamic duo – hey, you can’t please everybody. Stan Winston vampire effects were dazzling, Elliot Goldenthal’s music, breath taking, Dante Ferretti’s set decorations, sometimes life isn’t fair, especially at the Oscars.

Fact. The movie became a classic. The word on the street was Jordan wanted to take on the sequel aka The Vampire Lestat but the project had so many ups and downs and setbacks, everybody rushed when the rights reverted to Rice to bring forth ”Queen of the Damned”. The hellish, MTV approach of the novel. Years went by and even Robert Downey Jr was attached to The Tale of the Body Thief adaptation but no movie. This year,Universal Pictures acquired the rights to Anne Rice novels, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci were placed as producers and Rice’s son, Christopher is said to have already delivered a script. Who knows what we’ll get in the future but I’ll always remember one stormy night when I saw a movie, in German and got hook on a set of books.

Edge and Back: 9/10

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