The post Interview With the Vampire Review: AMC Delivers a Proudly Queer Take on the Anne Rice Saga appeared first on Consequence.
The Pitch: Vampires are back! Really, our bloodsucking undead brethren never truly go out of style, but it’s been a few years since the sparkly Twilight boom and it’s time for the original kings of the genre to make their way to the forefront. Hence AMC throwing a lot of money behind a lavish adaptation of Anne Rice’s multi-million best-selling gothic saga, The Vampire Chronicles — starting with her most famous work, Interview With the Vampire.
The late Rice essentially reinvented the modern vampire, turning them into baroque creatures of sensuality and emotion, and with it, she inspired intense devotion from her fans. It’s no mean feat for any creator to take on this saga for the big or small screen, given that it encompasses hundreds of characters, thousands of years, a total rewrite of the origins of God and man, body-swapping, haunted mansions, and even aliens. For now, showrunner Rolin Jones (HBO’s Perry Mason) has decided to focus on the book that started it all: Interview with the Vampire.
This Show Is In Fact About a Vampire Getting Interviewed: The interviewee is Louis de Point du Lac (Jacob Anderson), a troubled immortal who wishes to tell his story as a cautionary tale for those enticed by the promise of eternal life. The lion’s share of his story focuses on his maker/frenemy/great love, Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid), the brat prince of vampires, and a French aristocrat who loves causing trouble and screwing around with Louis’ life.
If you’ve read the book countless times like some of us, all of this will seem very familiar to you, but the series has made some major changes from the source material. Purists may feel nervous about this but never fear, for the results are truly worthwhile.
The first person we meet is Daniel Molloy, the journalist who once interviewed Louis in the past. Here, he’s much older and more profane than he is in the book (played by Eric Bogosian with grizzled glee), and it turns out that he got a bunch of stuff wrong. Years later, Louis, still young and beautiful (and dressed in a hoodie), wants another meeting — a chance to catch up and set the record straight.
And There’s a Lot to Learn About Louis: Louis’s story begins in 1910, when he owned a successful bordello — in the book, he was a white plantation owner, and the change to Louis’ race isn’t ignored, as the series contextualizes his pre-vampire life and family in a way that, frankly, the book never did with him being a literal owner of enslaved people. He’s a businessman of the underworld who the white customers are openly racist towards him, while his pious brother keeps trying to save his soul.
It’s genuinely exciting, as a long-time Vampire Chronicles fan, to see a sparky Louis, one with a morally grey center who has so much to lose, long before Lestat introduces himself. He wants to be a respectable man, but his race and closeted sexuality leave him on the outskirts of a society that barely tolerates his existence, even with his riches. This is a Louis with swagger, and to see him sapped of it as he loses his mortality lands with a real punch.
Interview With the Vampire (AMC)
From the moment Louis and Lestat first meet, their chemistry is intense. Reid, mostly unknown prior to this series, proves to be an ideal Lestat, equal parts enthralling and aggravating as he plays a cat-and-mouse game with the man who is enticed and disgusted by him.
It’s a performance that feels directly taken from the novels, as opposed to the camp eccentric of Tom Cruise in the 1994 Neil Jordan adaptation: Reid’s Lestat switches between English and French, engaging in a peacocking display of power, masculinity, and sexuality that leaves all around him ready to hand over everything.
In one scene in Episode 1, Lestat plays poker with Louis and other gentlemen, and the furious passion between them is enough to make you understand why Louis can’t bear to abandon him as the season moves forward. And that’s before we’re introduced to Claudia, the child vampire played by a suitably eerie Bailey Bass, helping to form a very non-traditional found family steeped in guilt and death.
The Verdict: Fans will be relieved to hear that the show is <I>proudly</i> queer. Rice’s books were pioneering to many in their portrayal of fluidly sexual characters who often laughed in the face of rigid gender roles, but the film approached that theme with timidity that AMC eagerly casts off. Over the five episodes screened for critics (out of the seven that make up the first season), Interview‘s flashbacks tease out a vibrant, tumultuous, and obsessive affair between the men.
Lestat may love to screw around with Louis, but there’s real love beneath his giddy amorality, and it’s a surprisingly layered depiction, one that, like its characters, refuses to be easily labelled into terms like “good” or “bad” — at a time when it feels like many pieces of mainstream pop culture give into to trite preachiness with their themes, it’s refreshing to see Interview with the Vampire truly tango with what it means to be human and monster.
The genius of Rice’s novels are that they take themselves just seriously enough, unafraid to invest in the earnestness of their characters’ melodramatic plights, yet loose enough to have fun with their pulpy elements. It’s a tonal balance that the series, for the most part, understands. It wants you to believe in the dark gift of vampirism but also revel in its violence and lasciviousness.
Changes made to the books are developed beyond mere window dressing but there are enough Easter eggs to keep hardcore fans hooked (listen out for a mention of a certain violinist friend of Lestat’s). There are plenty of light moments amid the bleakness too, such as Louis dancing at his sister’s wedding in a moment of rare familial unity, or Daniel’s cynical asides to his subject’s storytelling.
Also, it’s hard not to be taken in by production values this lavish. 1900s New Orleans looks astonishing and will surely inspire a whole new era of Vampire Chronicles fans to pay pilgrimage to the city.
In a post-Game of Thrones world, every network and streaming service seems determined to create a vast universe based upon beloved IPs that will hopefully inspire the same level of worldwide devotion that Westeros did. Most of these have failed, from Resident Evil and Cowboy Bebop to Y: The Last Man, because they didn’t seem especially invested in the source material they were plundering for demographic-appeasing content.
That’s what makes Interview with the Vampire feel so special. It’s a startlingly good adaptation of Rice’s book but stands on its own two feet, bring new dimensions to a classic story and having genuine fun delving into parts that were only hinted at in the novel and prior film versions. The competition may be tough this season, but Interview with the Vampire stakes out a serious claim as one of the best TV shows of the year.
Where to Watch: Interview with the Vampire will premiere on AMC on October 2nd.