Long before vampires sparkled tamely and the mythology of the feared bloodsucker was diluted by all manner of tempered fiction and films, Anne Rice wrote about the deadly and indulgent Lestat. The undead heart of her Vampire Chronicles stories, Lestat was a Gothic anti-hero; a vampire that took who and what he was seriously, and who explored the world he inhabited with the wonder and opportunism of an apex predator.
The 1994 film superbly realises the source novel's sense of horror and intrigue primarily through the vision of director Neil Jordan. A filmmaker always prepared to take risks, taking on the predominantly period set Interview with the Vampire was still a bold move. Fans of the books, and initially Rice herself, were vociferous in their objection to the casting of Tom Cruise in the lead role and the author also worried about the homosexual subtext in the relationship between many of the male vampires. Both remained, and to great success. Cruise’s intensely unrestrained performance as the foppish Lestat contrasts perfectly with Brad Pitt’s more contemplative Louis, and a supporting cast that includes Antonio Banderas and Stephen Rea offers more brooding menace than you can shake a wooden stake at.
Over 20 years later Interview stands out in a genre now filled with mediocrity. The lavish splendour and bravado Jordan instils into his film harks back to a time of cinematic indulgence, when hammy overacting and sets so grandiose as to be characters themselves were commonplace. This is a film of lavish eccentricity but despite dripping with poignant sentimentality in places there is enough callous horror to show vampires for the true evil they should be.
Released as part of Warner Bros. horror collection, Interview with the Vampire is simply a darkly beautiful film. It is a blood-filled horror-opera that casts a caped shadow over many of the recent so-called vampire films, full of heaving bosoms and dark-hearted dandies. This is a film worthy of the genre and one that demands to be revisited this Halloween season.