AMC’s Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire is not Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire. There is a Louis and a Lestat, sure. But something is missing. Something as vital as the undead’s need for living human blood. The problem is not that AMC’s Vampire is almost completely unconnected fan fiction. That’s normally not a problem for me. (NBC’s Hannibal is probably my all-time favorite show and it is pure fan fiction.) The issue is AMC’s Vampire plays host to a howling void — a void that is nowhere to be found in both Jordan’s 1994 film or Rice’s 1976 novel. The lack in AMC’s Vampire is found in Rice’s signature talent: seduction.
“It was as if the empty nights were made for thinking of him. And sometimes I found myself so vividly aware of him it was as if he had only just left the room and the ring of his voice were still there. And somehow, there was a disturbing comfort in that, and, despite myself, I’d envision his face.”
That’s from Rice’s novel.
Sexy stuff indeed.
Where Rice’s and Jordan’s Vampire story is lean, dark, and sexy, AMC’s Vampire is bloated, aping passion, and overthought — definitely not the feeling that would put anybody in the mood.
Our 2020 Louis Dupont Du Lac is a black man that lives in a high-tech penthouse in Dubai. He dresses in a zip-up reminiscent of a California startup bro — not exactly the kind of gear that would turn anyone on. But, since we are talking Interview here, we’re also seeing his time as a pimp in 1910 New Orleans.
On paper, there’s no problem with this change — save for it’s a completely different Louis in every way. But the major issue is that there is no real sense of danger or lower status for our pimpin’ Louis (unlike say André Holland’s character Dr. Algernon Edwards in The Knick.) This Louis moves more-or-less seamlessly through white society. He is welcomed at an all white poker game. He makes business deals. Even if he does get the short end of the stick, he is making money. He is of the highest possible class for his racial stead. He’s the most popular guy on the block. And he’s rich.
Where’s the tension to this racial shift in character? There is none. Do we explore anything new or important? Not really. There could be, but there isn’t.
Our Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid) is played as serviceable as he is unremarkable. Standing up to Tom Cruise’s greatest performance (followed closely by his role as David Aames in Vanilla Sky — and, of course, as Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder) is nothing anybody wants to do.
I can’t help but remember Cruise’s 1994 Lestat say:
“Whiney coward of a vampire who preys on rats and poodles, you could’ve finished us both!”
“You’ve condemned me to hell!” Brad Pitt Louis with a blood-stained mouth exclaims.
“I don’t know any hell!” Lestat retorts without a thought.
Then a fight breaks out between them. It’s fantastic.
The scene ends with Cruise-Lestat walking away, into the darkness, laughing at the pathetic sadness of it all, declaring, “Life without me would be even more unbearable.”
This show does nothing like this. This show doesn’t know how to do something like this.
It doesn’t even know how to approach material this good. Or interesting. Or deep.
AMC has a property, and is dumbly playing and pandering with it to try and make all faux meaningful, and faux new, without doing anything truly captivating.
AMC’s Lestat character takes no amazing risks (that made the Tom Cruise version so memorable); it does nothing new — except for admitting his overwhelming, unestablished love for Louis right at the get — not the kind of cashmoney move one would expect at all from the Vampire Brat Prince. But that’s not Reid’s fault — it’s the writers’.
In a terribly cringe-soaked dinner scene, actor Steven Norfleet, who plays Louis’s brother Paul, attempts a snootily forced interrogation of Lestat’s religious affiliation — himself being a Christian street preacher (high-running indeed for the most detestable job in the world.) The scene is the painful barnacle on the face of the first episode of a show that is already plagued by all kinds of malformed ugliness. Vampire literature should never induce cringe, unless it’s What We Do In The Shadows, where the whole vampire dynamic is played up for gags.
When he later predictably dies, we are supposed to care, but of course, who could? It’s quite a relief to be rid of him for hopefully the rest of the series. Rice’s and Jordan’s Vampire is very much about the pain of death, loss, loneliness, futility, and grief. The death of the vampire child Claudia is probably one of the saddest deaths in any story. In AMC’s Vampire, you can’t wait for more characters to bite the dust.
In fact, no dies enough in this show. Fuck this show and its terrible characters.
We move from Christian dinner cringe to a casual afterhours threesome. It’s a hell of an accomplishment that even when Lestat hires a woman for a ménage à trois that becomes a one-on-one gay make-out scene between Lestat and Louis it ends up inspiring nothing. The lighting is there. All three actors are beautiful. The score is passionate. It should be a turn on. But there’s just something stale, something unexciting, something wholly lacking to the would be libido of it all.
No one screams, “Hear me now! This place is cursed! Damned! and Yes, Your Master is the Devil! Get out of her now you are all Freemen!”
This show does nothing that cool.
Interracial homosexual sex between a black pimp and a mysterious white Frenchman in 1910 New Orleans should be, I don’t know, hot? But it isn’t. The nuanced homosexuality of Rice’s book and Jordan’s film is far more potent and effective than the explicit homosexuality of AMC’s Vampire.
Neil Jordan’s film oozes sexuality and seduction and Rice’s work is famously all about that magnificent feeling of temptation, allurement, and enticement — even if it leads one to a strange feeling of guilt and damnation. That’s the marvelous thing about seduction: it is the feeling of being damned and relishing it. It is a damnation that reminds us that we are electrified with life, by life, and through others. Naturally, its the perfect stage for the modern sensual vampire. Somehow AMC’s Vampire turns all these themes into a dull experience.
In the show’s own words, “The vampire is bored.”
The 1994 film is one of my favorite films of all time. It’s a perfect movie to me. It’s the movie that made me love vampires. I even went as the San Francisco version of Louis one year for Halloween. That movie was sexy, lonely, brooding, and I loved it. If I had only seen AMC’s Vampire that would’ve never happened. None of the characters, dialog, costumes, or score in AMC’s Vampire capture the overwhelming hypnotic power of seduction.
What NBC’s Hannibal and the 1994 film as well as Rice’s novel have in common is this element of seduction. You want to be part of Lestat’s devil may care macabre joy. You even want to taste the exquisite pain of Louis’s loneliness. You want to be part of Hannibal’s aesthetic judgement, join him at the dinner table, and take a bite out of the rude. In AMC’s Vampire, you want to slink back into your coffin and forget you ever saw anything.
AMC’s Vampire suffers from what so much modern television and film suffer from: telling the audience you should like this character, you should hate this character, you should feel turned on, you should care about what happens. You should — you really should! That’s not good writing. That’s bad telling. And it tires the audience.
Frankly, The Underworld series is a much more fun ride on all fronts.
At about the thirty minute mark of the feature-length first episode our new Louis implores his interviewer (Eric Bogosian), “Please, Mr. Malloy, let the tale seduce you, just as I was seduced.” Needless to say, if you need to tell your audience, or tell your crush for that matter, to be seduced, to feel seduction, rest assured, it probably isn’t going to happen.
Either make something good, or don’t even try.
With all its passive progressive changes, openly gay interracial story, obviously expensive production, and absolutely labored rewriting of the original source material, AMC’s Vampire openly begs us like the immortal words of Jeb Bush, “Please clap.”