Be Careful What You Wish For
The night before Hallowe’en, Neil Jordan’s once-anticipated foray into the spooky was screened. Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles figures among twenty-two films, augmented with imposing full-scale studio-built original set pieces, sculptures, drawings and large sketches in a half-year Museum of Modern Art and Luce Cinecittà Rome homage to celebrated multi-media set designer “Dante Ferretti: Design and Construction for the Cinema” and “Designing for the Big Screen.”
The Italian conceived of his work as “constructing space for the narrative . . . to stimulate the director’s imagination,” in the grand operatic fashion of his country’s classic cinema. His sumptuous Oscar-nominated sets, from Louisiana at the end of the eighteenth century to Paris the following one and on to plain contemporary California are, indeed, the sole reason to revisit this triple, at one point quadruple, mega-male-star fizzled wattage. The project was bedeviled by disagreement from the very inception of its reputed seventeen-year gestation, from the fatal miscasting of Tom Cruise as effete blond bloodsucker fop Lestat de Lioncourt to Christian Slater (as unnamed Daniel Malloy) as replacement for the late River Phoenix, to whom the movie is dedicated.
The inertia of the tale results from the Anne Rice script from her own successful novel, itself much atmosphere disguising a lame ending and spawning a series of glitzy, semi-sexual overblown Lestat-in-the-modern-world follow-ups along with mummies, witches and other horror heroes. The author later returned to her natal Crescent City and the Church, but from early on her writing and lengthy book dedications were pregnant with philosophical claptrap,
In the film, first of all watch out for the granting of wishes made in times of emotion, as happens to Lancelot aristocrat Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt), who is virtuously querulous for two centuries of story afterwards in two hours and three minutes of screen time, and also probably to mistakenly enthralled Malloy. Second, and essentially the backbone of the whole, is cynical evil, in Lestat, opposed to at-heart good, in Louis, the age-old biblical Miltonic struggle, with the devil’s side not all that unattractive on the surface.
Having lost wife and unborn baby in 1791, twenty-four-year-old narrator Louis despairs, plunges into sordid sin and courts the annihilation he cannot steel himself to self-administer. Already centuries-old Lestat notices and thus offers him death or, should he opt to drink the vampire’s blood, eternal life. The foolish mortal picks the latter and becomes immortal, only to discover that human scruples linger on. He drains rats and poodles but cannot stomach feasting on people. The two men adopt and “turn” orphan Claudia (Kirsten Dunst, twelve at the time), a disturbingly sensuous child-woman whose vicious appetites surpass even those of depraved Lestat.
This is flashback, all related in a bare room to fascinated naïve journalist Malloy, who has no idea where he is heading. As audience reminder, the pictured backstory is once in a great while punctuated by momentary returns to this frame of present narration and, at the conclusion, is rounded off by a contemporary, supposedly surprise ending.
Garlic, crosses and such are silly untruths, insists the melancholy narrator, although unfortunately coffins are necessary daytime beds. As vampires Louis and Claudia scintillate in Paris in search of any others of their kind, they are accosted by players of a Vampire Theater, in catacombs beneath which four-hundred-year-old honcho Armand (Antonio Banderas) rules his coven, philosophizes to Louis and falls in vampire-love with him.
At random, some of the undead can be hacked to pieces or have their throats slit, some dispatched by tainted food or hungry bayou gators, others torched like crispy critters by fire or sunlight while still others burn up but come back aged at first though soon once again young, feyly beautiful and thirsty. Visual atmosphere and pyrotechnics and all, however, this Golden Razzie Award-winner for Worst Screen Couple arrives dead and unmoving. And, mortal sin for the genre, it is not scary or campy.
(Released by Warner Home Video and rated "R" by the MPAA.)