Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)

interview with the vampire IMDb

I recently reviewed Inglourious Basterds and said that Brad Pitt is an underrated actor and too often thought of as just a pretty face. Movies like Interview With the Vampire keep this ‘pretty boy and nothing more’ image alive. Pitt needs a good director or he will revert back to dumb jock mode, which is what he does here in one of his earliest roles. I was disappointed with him here, he seems a little one dimensional as a sullen vampire tricked into being turned by the wicked Lestat (Tom Cruise)

Pitt plays Louis, a vampire giving the account of his life to an interviewer (Christian Slater). He recounts the tale of how he was tricked into being turned into a vampire by Lestat, and eventually trained by him how to stay alive now he is a member of the undead. Eventually Lestat also turns a young girl (Kirsten Dunst) into a vampire, and she and Louie form a strong bond, eventually plotting to kill Lestat.

The most impressive cast member is Dunst. She was so young here, but portrays a bloodthirsty vampire really well. You believe she is a mature woman stuck in the body of a little girl. Tom Cruise disappointed me though. He was trying to revamp his image, Cruise was known as a good guy leading man, which is not all that terrible, but I understand he would not want to pigeon holed and want to try something different. He fails a little bit here. I did not find Lestat threatening at all, and given that he is the main villain of the piece, this is a problem.

One interesting thing to note is the casting of Christian Slater as the interviewer. The role was originally intended for River Phoenix, who tragically died of a drug overdose just before the film went into production. Slater stepped into the role his friend was meant to play. I wonder how Phoenix would have played the role, because Slater is a little bit underwhelming in his small but important role. Brad Pitt looks pretty as Louis, I feel like he needs a really strong director to guide him in his roles. Many of Pitt’s best performances have been for directors who want him to be more than just a pretty face. If he is not given that direction, Pitt will revert to what he knows, which is being really good looking. Another example here is in Troy, Pitt plays Achilles and I feel like the director pretty much told Brad Pitt to be beautiful, something he does very well. It is a similar story in Interview with the Vampire. Pitt is a pretty face, but not much more.

Interview with the Vampire has the makings of a terrific film, but poor casting of Tom Cruise leads to a lackluster film that could have been so much more.

Rating: C+

Interview with the Vampire (which I did not realize had a longer title until I searched for it on IMDb) is a movie that I really like despite fully acknowledging that it is kind of shit. It’s a rare fun to watch drama that doesn’t revolve around romantic relationships (well, not traditional ones anyway). It’s the perfect movie to watch when I want something a bit more serious, but don’t want to start crying.

Vampire stars Brad Pitt as Louie, a young slaveowner in French Louisiana who becomes deeply depressed after the death of his wife and child. He is nearly killed by the vampire Lestat (Tom Cruise), but is instead turned into a vampire himself after asking Lestat to let him live. The two have a complicated and explosive relationship, with Louie constantly vexing Lestat by clinging to his humanity and thus rejecting his vampirism. Louie ultimately betrays and rejects Lestat, but loses his last bit of humanity along the way.

What this film does well is convincingly create the world in which its vampires dwell. The sets, costumes, and makeup in Vampire are excellent. I think it’s half the reason why I enjoy watching the movie so much. The other half is my interest in stories where the protagonist(s) can seemingly live forever, watching everything around them change in amazing ways. It’s the history buff in me that wishes I could travel back in time to see the world as it was, and the dystopian future fan in me that wants to live to be 200 years old just to see what’s coming. I’m not a fan of vampires, but this movie ticks those other boxes in an way that always leaves me entertained.

Now for the bad: aside from Kirsten Dunst, the acting is often quite atrocious. Tom Cruise has only recently begun to impress me, mostly because I’ve always found him to be arrogant and narcissistic and felt these traits bled a little too much into the characters he played. But it’s precisely those qualities are what makes him the perfect Lestat. Still, so many of his reactions feel over the top and I’m constantly reminded that he’s been much better in other films. Brad Pitt’s performance is wholly underwhelming. In a way it works, Louie is supposed to be the polar opposite of Lestat, but you can tell Pitt is not having any fun (a fact he confirmed in a 2011 interview). Dunst is by far the high point, which is impressive for a 12 year old. She really feels like an old soul trapped in the body of a child. It’s spooky and even disturbing at times how well she nails the personality of Claudia. I imagine people would have worried that she was due for a child actor meltdown after this movie was released, but happily she weathered her teenage years well.

Interview with the Vampire is not a great movie, but it’s one I always enjoy watching. For all its faults, it still manages to tell an engaging story of rejections and betrayals with just enough supernatural elements to make it something special. I completely see how this movie could be so much better, but sometimes good enough is good enough (though I acknowledge that fans of the books might politely disagree).

Rating: B-

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