Today, prestige (or elevated) horror is synonymous with A24 (Green Knight, Midsommar, Saint Maud). When someone mentions an A24 horror movie, we think of quiet, understated psychological horror. But in the 1990s, Interview with the Vampire was prestige horror. And horror didn’t get any bigger than Neil Jordan’s adaptation of Anne Rice’s best-selling novel. With a $60 million budget and all-star cast, Interview with the Vampire was far removed from the DIY horror of the 70s or the introspective horror we associate with A24. It was big, lavish, and loud. From the outrage over Tom Cruise’s casting to they hype leading up to its release, the horror genre has rarely received this much attention from casual moviegoers. Nearly 30 years since its release, how well has Interview with the Vampire aged?
One evening a journalist sits down in a San Francisco apartment to listen to one man’s account of his life. The man, Louis de Pointe du Lac, who claims to be a vampire tells a story that spans centuries from New Orleans to Europe. His story begins in 1791 New Orleans where a vampire named Lestat turns Louis, cursing him to immortality.
Interview with the Vampire Balances Visual Grandeur with Near Camp
Few horror movies can claim the kind of prestige that defined Interview with the Vampire. An Oscar-winning screenwriter (The Crying Game) and nominated director in Neil Jordan. A whooping $60 million budget. For a vampire movie. And Interview with the Vampire looks every bit of that lofty budget. In terms of production values, Jordan’s adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel is a gorgeous looking movie. From the historic set pieces to the intricate costume design, few horror movies have matched Interview with the Vampire’s spectacle. Throw in Elliot Goldenthal’s Oscar-winning score and Stan Winston’s visual effects and this is a horror that still looks amazing. Occasionally, Interview with the Vampire’s story is as sweeping as its production values. More often than not, however, Jordan alternates between dull and unintentionally funny.
In terms of production values, Jordan’s adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel is a gorgeous looking movie.
Whether it was intentional or not, Interview with the Vampire sometimes veers towards campiness. Jordan saturates some scenes in such high melodrama that new audiences could be forgiven if they confused the vampire movie for Downton Abbey. There’s no shortage of Gothic atmosphere and when Jordan delves deeper into the novel’s more horror-oriented material, Interview with the Vampire has suspense to spare. Claudia’s revenge on Lestat, for instance, doesn’t lack for tension. And Louis’ vengeance against the Santiago and the Théâtre des Vampires feels epic. Nevertheless, some of Jordan’s direction may inspire more laughs than scares.
Interview with the Vampire’s Casting Hints That Maybe Vampires Don’t Sleep All Day, Party All Night
Upon the announcement of Tom Cruise’s casting, the backlash was immediate and furious. Even Anne Rice would initially voice strong objections, though she later reversed course. But here’s the thing, Cruise’s Lestat is one of the consistently better parts of Interview with the Vampire. Yes, Cruise is often guilty of playing ‘Tom Cruise’. But Cruise’s personality and acting style work well with the character of Lestat. At the very least, Cruise is one of the few people having fun in their role. If anyone looks like they’re not having fun, it’s Brad Pitt. Though he’s a gifted actor, Interview with the Vampire woefully miscasts Pitt as Louis de Pointe du Lac. The miscasting only exacerbates Pitt’s portrayal of Louis as a sullen stick-in-the-mud who spends most of the movie complaining. Once Cruise’s Lestat disappears from the screen Interview with the Vampire loses some of its energy.
But here’s the thing, Cruise’s Lestat is one of the consistently better parts of Interview with the Vampire.
In spite of the fuss made over Cruise’s casting, it’s Kirsten Dunst’s performance that shines brightest. Critics justifiably recognized her efforts during awards season with the Golden Globes giving Dunst the Best Supporting Actress. It’s not just a great performance given her age; it’s a strong performance regardless. Some of the remaining performances are mixed. Like Pitt, Christian Slater just doesn’t fit well with the role. And Antonia Banderas looks either uncomfortable or embarrassed with the role. If there’s a standout in a small role, it’s Stephen Rea’s Santiago who looks like one of the few onscreen vampires whose having fun.
Interview with the Vampire …
Almost immediately Interview with the Vampire is incredibly dated but still a visually arresting example of big-budget horror. On one hand, Jordan’s interpretation of Rice’s novel often veers into unintentional humor. There’s a thick air of melodrama that hangs over the movie which often feels the opposite of what was intended. Some of the performances – Cruise and Stephen Rea, in particular – feel like they’re in on the joke. Other performances just double-down on some the movie’s worse tendencies. Yet Interview with the Vampire is a lush-looking movie whose visuals have aged quite well. Only a handful of movies since its release can match the grandeur of Jordan’s vision.