Halloween in December: “Interview with the Vampire”

For December, I had an idea to watch a horror film every day for a movie marathon I’ve dubbed “Halloween in December”, as a sort of play on the Nightmare Before Christmas. I came up with a list of films to watch for every day of December, and first up is Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire. For clarity, the majority of these entries won’t be full reviews, but rather a collection of thoughts in most cases.

This is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Anne Rice, who also wrote the screenplay (also a strategy that Fincher used with Gone Girl). As expected, there are multiple changes to the source material in a way that remains completely faithful to its original purpose and spirit. The use of music and visual imagery in the film is done in a way that simply can’t be done in a novel, and the selection of each piece of music and staging is deliberately so. There are multiple points that reveal each character’s true intent, such as Claudia’s poisoning of Lestate with the use of blood from humans whose hearts have stopped beating, despite claiming ignorance of her history and memory, and it being one of his earliest lessons to her.

While there are some curious choices of practical effects, such as the use of wiring to propel bodies like when vampires are fighting each other, it honestly helps to add to the otherworldly feeling of the vampire world, as though the laws of humanity and the “real world” do not apply. “Vampires pretending to be humans pretending to be vampires” and all. Most of the face paintings of vampires may not look overly pleasant in 2020, it does add a visual separation between vampire and human, and the performances of the main cast are all fantastic, whether it be Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Antonio Banderas, or Kirsten Dunst, who is great even as a child in this film.

Unfortunately, while there is a multitude of great qualities this film can offer, there are also plenty of negative qualities in kind. This film’s pacing is, at times, slow even for a slow burn. While it’s only a shade past 2 hours in length, there are times when it feels as though 3 or more hours has passed, mostly due to how prolonged many of the conversations are. There are so many aesthetic touches that it can interfere with the pace of the story and the presentation of its themes. Even for 1994, much of the sound design is rather blunted or stock, and it can grow wearisome, though it’s not terrible. Many of the fights that take place later are also… weak, and poorly coordinated, such as when Claudia and Louis are being separated by the Theatres des Vampires performers and the final fight between Louis and Santiago. One of my biggest complaints is the use of lighting, which is inconsistent at times as when there is supposed to be no sunlight, yet there are rays in places where there could only be sunlight (as candlelight would not be nearly as illuminating, and there were no artificial lights as of yet).

To be honest, I have many issues with this film, but its aesthetic and appeal is right down my alley. Its themes of humanity versus immortality, of morality, causality, the search for purpose, the overwhelming complications of existence, of tradition versus modernity, old against new, it’s all here, but it doesn’t quite get fleshed out enough to make it a great film on its own. Louis’ personal tale of the rejection of his parasitic mentors, of those who stand to gain more from his remnants of humanity than himself, it’s the central point, but this story had much more potential. There was likely a plan to turn this into a series of films as Anne Rice’s continued writings on Lestat had gone on, but it was not meant to be.

I can understand people’s overall obsession with this film, but there are personal limitations for what I can excuse for personal preference. I love this film but am more than willing to acknowledge it as a flawed movie with plenty to find fault with, most prevalent being its mostly unexplored themes outliving the central premise. It’s too bad we never got to see much of an extension past this singular experience. I still give this film a 7 out of 10.

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