We are invited to think grandly about the powerful notions of death by lust and the horror of immortality, and are submerged instead in a one-note movie: bites and necks.

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


"Interview With The Vampire" is a dark trip to hell. Neil Jordan's film of Anne Rice's book represents the elevation of grade B horror movies to grade A star vehicles. Not long ago, actors who took such roles were marked as twilight gods on the way to retirement. But with the likes of Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise dressed up in fangs, playing a grizzly has become a merit badge.

This big, expensive view of the vampire culture is filmed so skillfully that we fairly scream for light as we sink deeper into the dark world inhabited by beings who shrivel at the first sign of brightness and nourish themselves on the blood of humans who trigger their lust. Not content with a lavish production of a campy subject, the filmmakers reach for lofty metaphors that carry them straight into pretension.

We are invited to think grandly about the powerful notions of death by lust and the horror of immortality, and are submerged instead in a one-note movie: bites and necks. The primal appetites of homoeroticism, incest, and child sex infuse the unfolding relationships, but it's hard to pay attention to heady themes when each vampire meal is accompanied by lines like "Drink me," along with the amplified sound of slurping blood, quite like the last drops of a McDonalds' milkshake being sucked greedily through a straw. With excess as their mantra, the special effects people have relegated this film to camp status. The only thing we are spared is a stake through the heart.

Lestat (Tom Cruise) chooses Louis (Brad Pitt) as his victim/lover and hands him the awful gift of immortality that must be sustained by human blood. Louis wrestles with his innate humanity by confining himself, for a while, to dining on the blood of rats, chickens, and poodles--sometimes straight from the victim, sometimes, when the mood is festive, in crystal goblets- -while Lestat, released, favors fresh young girls--several each night.

When the happy couple creates a vampire daughter, she develops a a predictable lust for killing that adds a new enough twist to ensure that the second half of this movie will be as blood-soaked as the first. "You haven't fed enough," the solicitous daughter says, "I can tell by your color."

Within this questionable construct, Tom Cruise is splendid. Let no one doubt the man's versatility. Brad Pitt is too controlled, too bland, to create communicable lust. So the pairing never soars and we are left with a vampire feeding frenzy that escalates wildly when the scene shifts from New Orleans to Paris. Given a single stellar performance, the rest is silly ("I am hungry, the city beckons") and grotesque. With all its pretensions, the film does bestow one lasting gift: the next time your spouse, lover, child, or grandchild nuzzles your neck, you can be absolutely sure that your mind will hear the sound of a bloodsucker.


Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Word Count: 495
Studio: Warner Bros.
Rating: R 2h2m


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