A feast of gothic horror and queer bloodsucker melodrama, AMC’s Interview with the Vampire (★★★☆☆) might take some getting used to for those feeling loyal to the Louis and Lestat of Anne Rice’s esteemed novel, or from Neil Jordan’s 1994 film starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise.
The eight-episode series, created and executive produced by Rolin Jones (HBO’s Perry Mason), hews close to the characters and terrain mapped out by Rice, but it’s no slavishly faithful adaptation.
The show charts a pointedly altered course through the tortured liaison of Louis de Pointe du Lac, a rogue prince of early 20th-century New Orleans, and Lestat de Lioncourt, the former French nobleman who makes Louis a vampire at the age of 33.
First of all, this Louis — played by Game of Thrones vet Jacob Anderson — is Black, which should strike terror in the hearts of cranks who cry “woke” at the sight of any non-white person popping up in fiction. Rice’s Louis owned a plantation. This Louis is a pimp running brothels in the red-light district, a different kind of exploiter of human flesh.
And the show, in a brief line of dialogue, even accounts for earlier generations of de Pointe du Lac’s who passed as white — before the family’s fortunes turned, and the city turned on its lights.
As sumptuous in its production and costume design as it is layered in historical detail, the series immerses itself in a mostly nighttime New Orleans dense with danger and mystery.
It’s an ideal playground — and hunting ground — for a vampire. Lestat’s ruthless efficiency as a predator is indeed part of his horrible allure, and he’s depicted here as a superhumanly strong, speedy, psychic, and cunning killer.
He’s messy, too. The directors and effects team show off with some eye-catching kills — in one scene, Lestat punches a man’s brains out — but all that blood and gore drastically undermines Lestat’s pose of utter discretion. He is otherwise every inch the dapper gentleman he appears to be, and which Sam Reid embodies so seductively in his performance.
Reid and Anderson’s chemistry as the tempestuous duo — part dewy romance, part dom-sub affair — covers for many complaints. Reid’s Lestat enacts a potent seduction of Anderson’s self-reliant but still pliable Louis, paired with a cruelly effective campaign of alienating his prey from the loved ones in his life, like dear sister Grace (Kalyne Coleman) and preacher brother Paul (Steven G. Norfleet).
The story, and Coleman’s and Norfleet’s poignant turns, posit Grace and Paul as the light Louis must leave behind to march forward into the abyss of immortality. His attempt to fill that void with a new love, the child Claudia (a vibrant Bailey Bass), whom he and Lestat make into their vampire sister, eventually sparks the pair’s downfall.
On the other side of that downfall is the show’s framing device, the titular interview in which Louis recounts his life to investigative reporter Daniel Molloy, played with the snark turned up to eleven by Eric Bogosian. Louis summons Molloy to his chic flat in pandemic-era Dubai, wanting a do-over of their first interview session nearly 50 years prior, so he can set all the records straight about him and Lestat.
Episodes give way to long stretches of Louis’ interview narration. Anderson, switching from Louis’ Big Easy drawl in the past scenes to his more urbane monotone in Dubai a century later, can’t sell the most stilted passages, but he makes music from some of Louis’ dramatic declarations.
Lestat was “my murderer, my mentor, my lover, and my maker,” Louis tells Molloy, who never drops his hard-boiled reporter schtick. Louis wants to convince Molloy and himself that he isn’t a monster like Lestat was, but the reporter ain’t buying it. Molloy’s skepticism is reasonable but relentless, and it grows tiresome, due in part to Bogosian’s unsubtle portrayal.
Perhaps the reporter has another note to play somewhere in the season’s final episodes (only the first five were available for review). Louis is on a path to earn the redemption he seeks through “truth and reconciliation,” and his odyssey may extend decades or centuries into the future.
It’ll last at least into a second season, as AMC has already announced that their Vampire Chronicles will return with new episodes in 2023.
New episodes of Interview with the Vampire air on Sunday nights on AMC, and are available for streaming on AMC+. Visit www.amcplus.com.
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