It’s Halloween Week, and—appropriately and chillingly enough—today’s post marks my 666th consecutive post. Yikes! What better way to observe this unfortunately demonic milestone than with a review of 1994’s Interview with the Vampire?
The film itself is a frame story, with Cajun vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt) sharing his “life” story with a reporter (Christian Slater). Louis had intended on feeding on the reporter, but decides instead to grant him the interview of a lifetime—the titular interview with a vampire.
Louis’s story begins in colonial Louisiana, when it was a Spanish colony (the territory traded hands between French and Spanish rule). Louis’s wife and child died, sending Louis into a self-destructive spiral of risky behavior—drunken brawls, prostitutes, the works. All he wants is death.
Into this mix comes Lestat (Tom Cruise), a flamboyant, nihilistic, haughty, obsessive vampire. Lestat “turns” Louis, inducting him into the world of the living dead. Louis immediately recoils at the implications of this new “life,” particularly the feeding upon humans for sustenance.
He instead attempts to live on the blood of rats and other animals, but his slaves grow suspicious when their master stops eating, and cattle and other creatures end up dead. Lestat does not share Louis’s sense of restraint and humanity—indeed, Lestat is fascinated by Louis’s dogged persistence in maintaining what humanity he has left—and instead views humans as mere cattle. Louis finally breaks, feeding upon his loyal house slave, Yvette, and then encourages his slaves to destroy his mansion as he flees into the night.
Lestat, naturally, is enraged at the loss of their home and their wealth, but the two find new accommodations in New Orleans. A plague is sweeping through the city, and a distraught Louis stumbles upon a young girl trying to awaken her mother, who has died from the plague. In a fit of hunger and shame, Louis feeds upon the child, and leaves her for dead.
Upon returning to their shared flat, Louis is horrified to find Lestat with the young girl. Lestat feeds the young girl some of his blood, thus turning her into a five-year old vampire.
Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) becomes a voracious, childlike pupil of Lestat, and something like a daughter to both Lestat and Louis. They dress her in finery, give her piano lessons (she feeds upon her teacher at one point, horrifyingly and humorously), and generally dote over her. But as time marches on, Claudia’s mind develops, though her body is perpetually trapped at five-years old.
That perpetual childish body drives Claudia increasingly mad, as she yearns to be grow and develop into a woman. She grows to despise Lestat, who dresses her “like a doll,” and draws closer to Louis. Eventually, Claudia and Louis escape Lestat’s obsessive, controlling nature, and flee to Europe, where they encounter other vampires in Paris—with fatal consequences.
I won’t reveal any more of the plot there, but the film does an incredible job of creating investment in and sympathy for these characters. Louis never fully embraces the vampiric life, and yearns for his lost humanity—and mortality. Lestat is flamboyant—he reminded me a great deal of Milo—and wicked, even by vampire standards.
But the most interesting and tragic figure is Claudia, capably played by a very young Kirsten Dunst. Claudia is “saved” from death, but is thereby denied any chance at a real life. Her very existence is a travesty, and is considered by the European vampires to be taboo and dangerous. Claudia’s own mental deterioration and rage clearly illustrate why.
Vampires are interesting and terrifying figures in folklore, and they are inherently demonic: they represent a horrible inversion of Christ. Christ died for our sins and shed His Blood for our salvation. When we accept Christ, we are covered in His Blood, and our sins are washed away. There is redemption and new life—eternal life—in Christ’s Sacrifice.
But vampires offer a perverted undead—an “un-life”—through their blood. It is a form of immortality, but one that is entirely tied to this world, and completely separated from God. Thus, the vampire is an eternal nihilist. The implicit bargain of the vampire is a Devil’s Bargain: enjoy as much of the world as you want, but you can never truly leave it. The vampire is also damned—a common theme in vampire movies and books—and can only hope for Hell, or walking the Earth for all eternity, like Cain (who is often considered the father of vampires).
As for the film itself, I highly recommend it. Anne Rice’s books about vampires quite good, too, and the film does justice to the source material. It’s also fun seeing a pale Tom Cruise running around in flouncy eighteenth-century garb.
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