The internet is abuzz after the release of the new “Interview With the Vampire” series on AMC+, based on Anne Rice’s 1979 novel. It draws heavily from the 1994 film starring Brad Pitt as Louis de Ponte du Lac and Tom Cruise as the vampire Lestat de Lioncourt. The film was praised for its representation of an implied homosexual relationship, yet was criticized in the same breath for queerbaiting.
The relationship between the two main men is shown as highly volatile and somewhat cold, despite the parallels drawn between them and a typical married couple. The new series draws attention to this allusion instead of playing coy with it and further expounds on a number of aspects that made the original film great.
Louis’ Origin is Southern Gothic Goodness
First and foremost is the setup, how the characters and setting have been altered, and how that changes the overall story. The main character Louis, played by Jacob Anderson, is a young black man living in early 20th-century New Orleans. Not only is this a significantly later starting point than the original, but the time period adds dimensionality to Louis’ life as an African American in the Jim Crow south.
The show by no means pulls its punches in portraying Louis’ daily trials as a man of color in this time. He is acknowledged only for his wealth and intelligence, and even then is mocked and patronized by his peers. Louis’ ability to find success in this time tells the audience plenty about his character: he is stoic, sharp-witted yet mild-mannered. He loves his family and wants to be a good person. There is far more dimensionality to his origin story than in the ‘94 film.
Alongside his personality, Louis’ origins are equally expanded upon. The show takes advantage of its hour-long run time to fully flesh out the scene, and the rich Southern Gothic set is lively and dark. Like the film, there’s an old-world fashion of religious zealousness that possesses the culture. Louis finds himself at odds with it, a force representing the moral expectations of a logical world.
Lestat, the Beautiful Monster
His counterpart, Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid), has also been injected with greater humanity than the Tom Cruise iteration. The latter Lestat was fiendish and fun, but ever in a cold, aloof manner. Any semblance of human emotion usually came in the form of murderous delight or rage, and it would not be difficult to argue that he was primarily an antagonist.
Following the other modern tweaks made to the story, Reid’s Lestat comes to know Louis through a brief courtship, rather than their relationship beginning when Lestat attacks Louis. The familiar traits of lust, selfishness, and loneliness are present. But the writers hint that there is much lying beneath this vampire’s mask, something implied in the film but never explored.
Owning Its Themes
Elaborating on a more defined introduction between the characters allows both of them to make their motivations known, but they are still opaque to each other after the inciting incident. Louis is vulnerable to Lestat’s influence, and the unbalanced power dynamic is established. Nevertheless, there’s no queerbaiting here– the romantic attachment is made overt early on, adding greater intrigue to their dynamic. As the two are entwined by circumstance, the audience must once again wonder if Louis is only a victim, or if he perhaps has more influence over Lestat than he realizes.
The very nature of the power imbalance gains dimensionality when applied through the lens of race, something addressed within the show itself. The series is at once present with its themes, not afraid to discuss them at length rather than parry them for the sake of a subtle nod to a deeper subject. In this, it both literally and figuratively continues what was started with the film rather than replace it outright.
The series begins with the interviewer Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian) revisiting tapes from the ‘94 interview and finding them lackluster in retrospect. Louis agrees, and so has him over to his new home for a redo. They’re as present in the series as they were in the film, Molloy a buoy to reality and the perceptions of modern society through which Louis’ story is processed. The ‘Interview’ aspect is fully realized, a conversation about Louis’ story, Molloy’s preconceptions, and the world at large shared with the audience.
Strap in For a Gorey Gothic Romance
Classic gothic monsters have been recycled throughout pop culture with consistent themes of bigotry, sexuality, and race. Vampires especially seem to encapsulate the pariah’s plight, and AMC’s “Interview With the Vampire” is honest about the allusions being made to homosexuality, race, and toxic romance. Nevertheless, the denizens of the internet absolutely adore stories about twisted love and are surely looking forward to where the future of vampire romance is headed.