Review: 'Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire' a Sharp-Toothed Reinvention

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Sunday October 2, 2022

The seven-part AMC series adaptation of "Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire" goes for the jugular, centering on the gay romance at the heart of the landmark 1976 novel and subjecting the original story to a major overhaul that addresses perennial themes of race in America along with alternative (or chosen) families, same-sex relationship dynamics, and, of course, the ennui of life everlasting.

The new series is set in 2022. The interview of the novel took place almost 50 years ago, in Los Angeles. When the original cassette tapes from 1973 suddenly show up at the doorstep of award-winning journalist Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian), the newsman is pulled into a "re-do" of his terrifying conversation with Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson), a chat that ended with a burst of vampiric fury. Daniel still carries the scar... on his neck, of course. The tapes come with a cordial letter from Louis inviting Daniel for a second interview in Dubai and, despite his misgivings, Daniel accepts.

This new version completely reinvents Louis. The Louis of the series adaptation is, before his transformation into a creature of the night, a Creole man and native of New Orleans. After the death of his father, and with the family's sugar business failing, Louis turns to the brothels and booze to finance his family's upkeep — a strategy that foreshadows an even more sinister turning.

Enter Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid), a wealthy French arrival to the city who only steps off the boat at the New Orleans port of call because he hears music in the air and likes it. Lestat's angelic beauty, and his diabolical charm, bring Louis' "latencies" to the surface, and their intense friendship eventually becomes something more. In 1910 New Orleans, that's transgressive enough, but there's more, of course — Lestat is a vampire, and he's decided that Louis will become his lover, protégé, and eternal companion.

Like the novel, the series is a story of fractious, dysfunctional love, torrid passion, secrets, and consequences. It's also a comment on the quotidian nature of even the most unholy matrimony. Marriage among vampires, as for everyone else, involves routine domesticity (side-by-side coffins by day, opera... and less refined pursuits... by night), and this take on same-sex unions doesn't shy away from frothy gay camp. Such outward normalcy makes for a striking contrast to the terrors of the undead lifestyle: Feasting on priests in a burning church, or, on quieter occasions, pouncing on hot-blooded lovers as they have sex in Model T automobiles.

But is this a tragic love story? Or a harrowing tale of manipulation and abuse? Louis told the tale one way in 1973, but he's spinning things a little differently now. Daniel, an old-school hard-nosed reporter who's brusque about pushing past prevarications and self-justifications, wants more than Louis' glossing over of the ugly details. Half a century ago, Louis' story was one of horror and domination; now it's a romance as dangerously overheated and swooning as anything Lestat ever thrilled to at the opera house.

As Daniel digs deeper and Louis gradually reveals more detail, new twists and insights complicate the narrative — as does a box of fire-scorched diaries that were once kept by Claudia (Bailey Bass), Louis and Lestat's adopted daughter who was left orphaned and homeless after a spasm of racial hatred that brings to mind the 1921 Tulsa race massacre. Claudia is, as Daniel bluntly puts it, "a Band-Aid on a shitty marriage," but she's also what keeps the series dramatically turbocharged. Her plaintive hunger and lethal exuberance is a match for Lestat's own mix of seductive charm and ruthless predation.

In the first five episodes that were made available for review, the story is riveting, littered with breathtaking moments, but the settings remain resolutely the same. The New Orleans sets have an appreciation for period detail, even if the same stretch of nightlife streets starts to feel a little repetitive. Louis' Dubai apartment, with its vast, mostly-empty spaces, is imbued with a sense of massive wealth, an impression that's bolstered by a staff of servants who double as snacks. (Daniel, it should be noted, dines on less alarming fare, though it's elaborately prepared and served in seven courses.) Louis refers to the apartment as his coffin, and the place does start to feel a bit airless, even claustrophobic. The book moved Louis and Lestat's story to Europe before Claudia came along. As the series progresses, you start wondering if the TV version is going to get there at all. Still, this season will only cover the novel's first half; there's plenty more to come.

What opens the story up are the characterizations and the cast. The show's dialogue is richly campy, especially in the flashback sequences ("Oh, come now, I don't bite," the pansexual Lestat coaxes a beautiful woman). Sam Reid, an Australian who sports a French accent here that can only be called voluptuous, embodies a reckless joie de vivre that only the damned can pull off: Petty moral concerns won't interfere with his fun. Seeing his take on the character, you realize anew why it was that Lestat became the star of Rice's literary series.

Louis speaks in a morose, poetic manner in 2022, and in a far more naturalistic way in the flashbacks. Anderson, a British actors perhaps best known for his role as Grey Worm in "Game of Thrones," manages both eras with smooth fluency, and his acting is just as accomplished. He's warmer and more human in the 1910s scenes, matching the show's lighting for that period, and far cooler, even detached, in 2022, fitting nicely with the chillier and starker look of those scenes. If not for Daniel's spiky and confrontational style — Bogosian sells us on Daniel as a hard-shelled journalist who is also a closeted gay man, at least for a good part of his life — the contemporary portions of the narrative would feel like dead weight, but the way Louis and Daniel spar carries a similarly energetic (if not as erotically charged) dynamic as that between Louis and Lestat.

Anne Rice herself served as executive producer on the series before her death last year, as did her son, the novelist Christopher Rice. This is a profoundly different take on the tale, but one that still feels authentic to the source material. As such, "Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire" charms, surprises, seduces, and sometimes transports the viewer... just as any good vampire story should.

"Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire" premieres Oct. 2 on AMC and AMC+, with new episodes following weekly.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.