It’s getting to be the Halloween season. And you’d think that means we’re breaking out the chills and thrills in an attempt to outdo each other. That’s not exactly correct. True, Required Viewing is a game with exactly one rule and very few conditions. And there have been occasions where we’ve settled on a time and snacks and watched whatever struck our fancy. But when it comes to the spooky season, Annemarie demands veto power. Suggestions such as The Devil’s Rejects and The Strangers are invariably squashed, but with enough attempts, eventually, a winner emerges.
This time, Interview with the Vampire came out on top. The 1994 Brad Pitt-Tom Cruise vehicle from Anne Rice’s iconic novel of the same name looms large over Brooke’s childhood and was given the stamp of approval given its lack of jumpscares and Annemarie’s fondness for the bloodsucker genre.
Annemarie, start us off. What’s your take on this tale that spans centuries? And the two mega stars that take top billing for their work as Louis and Lestat? You know what we’re looking for here.
A: Let’s start with the elephant in the room: the knowledge that I’m going to compare any vampire characterization to that of other vamps in pop culture. As you know, the pointy-teethed ones in Buffy are my gold standard. If we say that the vamps on Buffy are 10/10 on a scale of awesomeness, and the vamps in Twilight are a 0/10, I am pleased to report that overall, the vamps in Interview are a solid 7/10. There’s a bit of silliness, but mostly, they’re interesting creatures to be taken seriously.
There’s two reasons that Louis and Lestat don’t quite measure up. One, I found the levitating / flying maneuver that Lestat uses when biting Louis down by the waterfront to be kind of ridiculous. I also found it weird that they didn’t bring that move back again. And two, I think Louis had to be about the worst ever at being a vampire. Presumably, he doesn’t have a soul (or a conscience, whatever is in this version of the lore), so why is he so tortured over taking human lives? Mini vamp Kirsten Dunst doesn’t seem to have that issue, and neither does Lestat, so why is Louis so worried about it? Brooke, I’d like your thoughts, and I also want your thoughts on how you feel about the Interview vamps when stacked up against Buffy, Twilight, True Blood, and Dracula vamp mythology.
B: Let’s be clear here, Twilight does not even register on my vamp scale. I’m not here for teenaged vamps that go to high school and sparkle serving as the champions of chastity and romanticizing an abusive relationship. Nope. NO. Nope. You rightly give them a 0/10, but I’m going to go ahead and just oust them from the conversation altogether. To misappropriate a Karen Kilgariff quote, “Triflers need not apply.”
Now, as for the real creatures of the night. Anne Rice’s vamps were my first vamps. And her rules are quite often at odds with the rules we see in Buffy, so for me, the idea of stakes and holy water was quite an adjustment when I came to that world. Your Dracula, Nosferatu and True Blood vamps are all fine and dandy in my book, but if I’m looking for a fix, I’m always going to the Buffyverse or the Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles. And I suppose I like each of these versions for different reasons.
The vamps in the Whedonverse are out and out demons, they’re plentiful, storied and kept in check by an adversary of legendary power (the Slayer). They’re the antagonists, and for the most part, disposable. I’m sad to see them dusted, and the few who stick around break the rules. Angel has a soul and is the dreamy, older guy I only wish I had on my hip in high school. Spike is evil, but dominated by his passionate heart. He’s also a realist who would rather hang out and have a good time than try to destroy the world. These guys don’t struggle against time or big questions, they have their own society and history. They’re in good company, they are quippy and modern and fit right into a kind of darkly humorous Friends-type situation.
Things are very, very different in the world where Louis and Lestat live. Vamps are rare and misunderstood even among their own kind. We meet them in centuries past, wearing fine clothes and butting up against curious customs. They are sex and danger and everything the Victorian world feared. But they are isolated, mythical, and at odds with everything.
Louis is an anomaly because his mortal passion followed him beyond his grave. If you were to present most people (Lestat and Claudia and Armand, for instance) with immortality and the kind of powers that mean you live without rules, and they become the glamorous immortals of legend. Give Louis those things and he still hates himself. I don’t think there’s any kind of change in these vamps in terms of souls or no souls, and there’s not a loophole with Louis, he’s just so rich with feels! He’s an oddity, but he compels others of his kind who don’t understand how the world has changed around them. Anne Rice’s vamps don’t have a Slayer to fight, so their struggle is against time and self. This leaves our two brands of vamps open to quite different types of stories.
As for the flying power, that is classic vampire myth, and we see those types of powers nodded to again via the super speed and the burning Parisian vamps flying all over that wacky crypt while they die. I kind of love that the rules are unfair and befuddling, if only because it means we get to hear Lestat say things like, “Evildoers are easier, and they taste better.”
Okay, now that we’ve established where we’re coming from in terms of the lore, I want to hear your thoughts on this story. Do you like the idea of a vampire providing narration over centuries? Are there segments of the tale you liked the most? Would you rather hang our with Louis, Lestat or Armand?
A: You’re quite right that lacking a mortal human enemy, the vamps of Rice’s world are left to contend with their own personalities over the centuries. I took the death of the human while the vampire is birthed to mean that the soul dies too, but it’s clear that Louis still has a strong tie to the human world. Lestat and Claudia obviously relish in the bloodshed they cause, especially when we see them serenading and then massacring entire families in a single go. It also stands to reason that the New Orleans backdrop of the last 200 years must have been pretty gory if the vamp trio is able to get away with such mass murder without much of a trace.
I rather enjoyed Lestat and Claudia palling around, and I also liked the inevitable conclusion as Claudia destroys one of her two dads because of the crime of her transformation to vamp even though she was a mere child. (Sidebar. I get she’s pissed that her life was cut so short, but her mom was dead of the plague and she probably was infected as well. There’s little doubt in my mind that human child Claudia wasn’t long for this world regardless of her encountering Louis and Lestat.) I am curious about how powerful Lestat is if the bloodletting, swamp creatures and fire aren’t enough to kill him? What does it take to kill a vamp, besides sunlight, in the Rice world? Armand’s vamp cult seems to be vulnerable to fire, why isn’t Lestat?
For the record, I’d rather hang out with Louis any day of the week. First, he’s Brad Pitt at peak Brad Pitt attractiveness. Second, I feel like his tortured ass wouldn’t even try to kill me. And third, he is rich even though he burned down his plantation. Do Rice’s vamps steal from their victims? is that how Louis remains in luxurious furs?
B: To your first question about Lestat’s power and seeming invulnerability, it think it’s fair to assume that he’s one of the oldest and strongest vamps around. Early on he tells Louis, “The Dark Gift is different for all of us.” It’s a bit of a “Sorry, you’re not cool enough to read minds,” but it also suggests that like their human counterparts some vampires are just more successful. And though Louis will constantly complain that Lestat taught him nothing, he also tells Louis that vampires grow more powerful as they go along.
Given that Armand, the self-proclaimed oldest living vampire, had rubbed elbows with Lestat, we can venture a guess that they’re of a similar … generation, if you will. While Louis is an American boy, Lestat is all Old World snobbery, and I think that’s more a product of his human life than an affectation. All of that is a long-winded way of leading up to this statement: I think Lestat is particularly difficult to kill because he was so very old. Claudia pulled a good move slitting his throat, but it wasn’t enough.
Had she and Louis burned Lestat then, it probably would have been the end of their Father, but instead they took him to the swamp. And some creepy-crawly thinking Lestat would be an easy snack ended up with his first step back toward viability. He lectures Claudia that an alligator’s blood helped and that from there a diet of snakes and lizards and all the foul life of the swamp started to make him feel something like his old self. Now, he’s not in great shape at this point, but, he has an easy escape to the water when he’s set on fire.
He lights out of there (pun absolutely intended) and sets the whole French Quarter ablaze in the process, but did all of that in the name of the nearby water. (Those French vamps had no hope of escape.) At this point, he ceases his pursuit of Louis and Claudia, and when we see him next, many decades later, he’s still broken and lost. He’s survived, but he certainly hasn’t lived as the old Lestat would.
I can’t argue with your logic that Louis seems the least lethal choice of companion. And he does always seem to have plenty of cheddar. I tend to think that’s because he would eventually have come around to Lestat’s perspective that to do anything less than take possession of a victim’s riches would be an insult to their memory. I mean, there’s no Lyft in the time of this story, so it’s not like he can take the night shift and rack up the rent.
And although I couldn’t agree more about peak Pitt attractiveness (those flowing locks!) I think I would rather hang out with Lestat (assuming I was also immortal). He is full of sick burns, would be able to give me all the hot goss with his mind-reading abilities, plus there’s his taste for the finer things. I imagine Vampire Me would be quite happy to live in nice rooms and go to fancy restaurants and dine on evildoers. Eventually, I’d tire of society and we’d row, but given his propensity to laughter when people slam him into trees, I think he’d be a good sport about it, as long as I didn’t feed him dead blood.
Okay, we (read: Justin) had a pretty funny realization during this movie. Tell the dear readers what we learned about one of my favorite jokes to make during our Hills watching. And then give us your thoughts on Tom Cruise in this picture.
A: Ok, I buy that Lestat’s age has enabled him to accrue powers (or hone the powers he has) over the years. If Louis is 200 and change at the end of the film, how old do we think Lestat is? 400? I had kind of forgotten about his ability to read minds, but if you had that and levitating abilities, I’d think you would be kind of set and even more invincible.
I like the idea of Vampire Brooke palling around with Lestat, but it further delights me that you’re imagining your evil alter ego only killing evildoers. You’re taking a page from Louis’ playbook, and I think that’s also how I’d want to approach eternal life. It’s almost too bad that Claudia’s tactics take all the fight out of Lestat, and that he ends up a broken shell of a vamp who’s unable to cope with the changing times. I think that’s clearly the other big part of Louis’ success, that he’s able to become a modern vamp even with the rapid-fire progression that is our current society.
This isn’t my favorite of Cruise’s roles, I find I prefer him in both the original Mission: Impossible, Jerry Maguire and A Few Good Men to this film, but he’s having a great time here. It’s not scenery-chewing territory, but it’s close. His portrayal of Lestat actually reminds me a bit of Heath Ledger’s Joker in some ways. I don’t think Cruise disappeared into his character like Ledger did, but there’s an enjoyment in portraying such a vicious character that I find similar.
As for the Hills tie-in, we realized that the “vampire” music that was added as a commercial break outro is extremely similar to the music played as Lestat is carousing around 18th century NoLa, probably played on a harpsichord or pianoforte and it made us laugh quite a bit.
Brooke, tell me, why this is your favorite Cruise role?
B: I too love Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire. I’m incapable of turning that movie off anytime I see it on. He’s great as a guy who’s forced to reckon with everything he thought he knew about himself and his life, but I think he tickles me even more as Lestat because he’s clearly having such a great time. Lestat is big and brash and he can make so many choices without ever compromising the character. Lestat is a gift in that the can be the guy who says things like he doesn’t enjoy eating Yankees because their Democratic taste overwhelms his palette without ever stumbling into the ridiculous.
I’ve never made the connection before, but I think you’re right that there are similarities to Ledger’s Joker here. Both of them are full of gusto, but you always, always know that they are villains. There’s something particularly delicious in the way Cruise moves as Lestat, it’s gentle and kind of seductive, but very … deliberate? I can’t quite pin down what it is, but I always find him to be quite mesmerizing as a vampire. And I love his vocal range here too. He’s sometimes breathy and threatening, others loud and exuberant, but always the center of attention.
I do have some very good news for you AM. I too, am always sad to see the downtrodden Lestat. I practically cheer when he shows up in the Interviewer’s car to claim his new apprentice and neg Louis for going on about his feels. It’s fantastic. And though it never made it to the screen, the Lestat of the page has quite a resurgence. If you read The Vampire Lestat you’ll learn much, much more about him, but even if you never do that, I want you to know that Lestat enjoys fame as a glam rock god for a period of time. I don’t think I need to tell you that his panache and attitude make him perfect for the gig.
What other thoughts do you have? Do you agree with my assessment of the film as decidedly “not scary?”
A: I suppose I prefer Cruise in other roles precisely because I do find his performance veers into the ridiculous at times. Perhaps no more so than in his introduction to us as he bites and lifts Louis above the water. I mentioned my gold standard for vampire lore and behavior, and this violates that standard. Don’t get me wrong, Cruise is still a fantastic vampire (as are Pitt and Banderas), and I actually blame ’90s filmmaking techniques as more at fault here. I just can’t imagine Angel or Spike levitating and so therefore, my brain has decided that’s nothing a “proper” vamp would do.
You were right, this film was not scary, even by my strict standards. It was decidedly gorier than your average Buffy ep, but it was about the same level of boo. I probably should have looked away once or twice to miss some bone-deep and body-slicing cuts I’m not fond of seeing, but all in all? I wasn’t scared to walk across a dark parking lot afterward.
I would absolutely give Rice’s novels a try, I am almost always fonder of the books than the films/shows, so we should add that to our book club list.
One last question to wrap us up: what was your favorite of the places that Louis chose to live? Which one evoked the best vamp-y atmosphere? And we’ve discussed this before, but which of the timeframes would you want to inhabit?
B: It’s on the list. I’ll answer your questions, but I have one for you before I do. What do you say to the fact that Buffy’s Dracula got all of these powers, and then some? That guy had fancy dirt in a coffin, made it rain when he arrived in town, had bug-eating minions, a vampire chick pit, had thrall, could turn into a bat, a wolf and fog. Oh yeah, and he could come back after being staked. What say you?!
I think I most like the elaborate spot Louis, Lestat and Claudia have on the waterfront in New Orleans. I’m sure their Paris flat is lovely, but I rather like the idea of vampires prowling around in the humid heat of the new world. That said, none of their hideouts really feel vamp-y, at least by your measuring stick. Only the Paris vamps have a proper crypt going on. But that roommate situation is decidedly crummy. I’m going to stick with my classic answer that I want the Victorian era, but ONLY if I get to be rich (and ideally not vamp food). I guess if we’re talking about vamp Brooke, I can always get rich. WOOT.
Alright, AM. Closing thoughts.
A: Yeah, yeah yeah. There is the one appearance of Dracula on Buffy. You’re right, I think my issues with the vamp magic stem from the classic Dracula powers. Now that I’ve thought about it more, I’m really just being nit picky about the ’90s production quality, not the powers themselves. I actually have read the original Dracula novel by Bram Stoker, and it’s interesting to see where Rice picked up some of the lore and where she went off in her own direction. Regardless if some of it now seems kind of silly or far-fetched, it’s amazing how this undead demon-human hybrid has fascinated us for centuries.
I gotta go with Paris. I found New Orleans in present day to be pretty delightful, but I don’t know that I could deal with that humidity for eternity. And if I’m going Paris, I think I’ll go with when Louis and Claudia were palling around the City of Lights, so roughly late 19th century? Elegant gowns, fancy parties (because of course I’d be rich in this scenario too), and best of all, if the vampire thing didn’t work out, I believe that’s roughly the timeframe and location of the Phantom of the Opera! Another tragic villain we can all root for, and I’m all on board.
Friends, we’re still plugging away at our Hills coverage, but we do promise, this is the final time! Join us for the last installment as we watch and discuss seasons 5 and 6.