For as long as I can remember, Anne Rice’s iconic gothic book series The Vampire Chronicles has always epitomized everything I loved about vampire mythology. Perhaps even moreso than Dracula, anytime I see something vampire-related, I automatically compare it back to Rice’s golden standard. The last time her most famous creation, the vampire Lestat, was seen onscreen, he was played by Stuart Townsend in the very fun but technically flawed Queen of the Damned in 2002. Flash forward twenty years, and now Anne Rice’s characters are finally seeing new life thanks to AMC’s updated adaptation! Up until her untimely death, Rice was heavily invested in this version; judging by the first five out of eight episodes in the series, Rice’s involvement really shines through. Interview with the Vampire is a timely depiction of the vampire legend, updated with recontextualized time period aesthetics, racial politics, and full-throttle embracing of its queer text.
Just to get it out of the way immediately, Interview with the Vampire definitely takes some liberties by shifting the time period around from 1700/1800s New Orleans to 1910 New Orleans. In a way, it also serves as a semi-sequel to the story of journalist Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian of Uncut Gems and Law & Order: Criminal Intent) and his in-depth discussions with ancient vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson, Game of Thrones, Overlord). As the series begins, Molloy has just been sent a bunch of cassettes with a signed letter from Louis—the very tapes recounting their interview sessions from fifty years ago! Daniel still has the scar from the bite mark Louis left on his neck, but the proposal of revisiting their project once more may prove too tantalizing to resist. Though Daniel appears to have built up an illustrious career of investigative journalism and novel-writing, the story of Louis has never been completed. With Parkinson’s Disease tightening its grip over Daniel, completing the decades-long work he started with Louis seems vital.
If I wasn’t immediately sucked into the story by way of the pandemic-era present day of Louis and Daniel, the second we are plunged into 1910 New Orleans is a different story entirely. Louis oversees a sizable trust and sugar plantations, managing and operating enterprises as what basically amounts to a 1900s take on a pimp; Jim Crow has freshly “vanquished ideas of free men,” and the sole place Louis has grand standing is in the old red light district. As a black man with a sizable hand in the power of the time period, Louis often stuck out like a sore thumb at decadent parties with “almost exclusively Caucasian clientele.” However, this same type of place is notably where Louis first encounters Lestat (Sam Reid). Louis recounts his version of events as they happened, imploring both the viewer and Daniel Molloy to “let the tale seduce you as I was seduced,” lest one desires to rush immediately into the sexually-charged horror bits.
Once Lestat is in the picture, the two men fall for one another in a way that has yet to be depicted onscreen. For once, the tale leans into the overt erotic gay subtext only hinted at in previous film adaptations. Though Lestat is essentially colored as bisexual, exploring Louis’s journey as a gay black man in the 1900s is fascinating indeed. Of course, Interview with Vampire only emboldens what was already present in the first place—how can you miss it through one man literally sucking another? Entirely naked and floating together in erotic bliss, Louis embraces Lestat’s “dark gift” as if effortlessly unlocking the key to desires that were always floating in the back of his mind. The first few episodes focus on Louis attempting to balance his professional and family life with his newfound, bloodthirsty vampire status. Louis becomes a club owner by night, but he still answers to a white master—in this case, Lestat is his “mentor, lover, and maker.”
Kirsten Dunst left difficult shoes to fill in one of her first onscreen roles ever at just ten years old in 1994’s Interview with Vampire as the young Claudia. In AMC’s series, it takes until episode 4 for this version of Claudia to make her grand reappearance, now played by Avatar: The Way of Water actress Bailey Bass. Molloy gets access to Claudia’s diaries, and discovers just how sadistic and tormented she has become. Here, Claudia is eternally a fourteen-year-old girl, set to endlessly exist in perhaps the most frustrating corner of adolescence. The comedy of two queer men attempting to raise a young orphaned child is not lost on the writers here; furthermore, Claudia’s actions and misdeeds are just as horrifying as they were in other iterations. Though I longed to see more of Louis and Lestat interacting, every second Claudia is onscreen is gleefully exciting.
As far as the acting is concerned, I adored both Jacob Anderson and Sam Reid as Louis and Lestat, respectively. Their romantic scenes echo the authenticity of their relationship; it makes perfect sense why Louis is so attracted to Lestat. The supporting cast is deliciously great too—I especially loved Bass as Claudia, and Kalyne Coleman as Louis’s warm, welcoming sister Grace. Blood and gore comes in plentiful supply, featuring some particularly gnarly moments of carnage. The special effects are also potent and effective, utilizing cutting-edge technology in ways that simply were not possible previously.
Interview with Vampire takes big swings with its potent racial commentary and explosion of queer content. It is a move bound to alienate some viewers, and yet, this feels like the version of The Vampire Chronicles we have been destined to have all along. My love for the brand has been reenergized, beckoning me to pick up a gothic Rice novel to revisit a world I left behind over a decade ago. Perhaps Interview with the Vampire will mark a resurgence in popularity, coming at a time when the closest comparison is a limp reboot like Vampire Academy, or cinematically speaking, a cheesy PG-13 film like The Invitation. More exciting still, could we finally see Rice’s grand opus depicted in full? AMC has proven not to be shy about showering their flagship shows like Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead with innumerable seasons and spin-off shows, so why not the world of Anne Rice?
Interview with the Vampire takes a big bite out of a brave new world when its two-episode series premiere comes to AMC on Sunday, October 2nd, with subsequent episodes available one week early on AMC+.