By David T. Valentin
Just the other day, my publisher asked me whether or not I had ever read or watched Interview with a Vampire. After I told her no, she quickly handed me over the 1994 film adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel Interview With a Vampire along with a copy of the book. Of course, on top of wanting me to analyze the film through a 25-year old Queer lens, she always told me that I would very much enjoy it.
So, that’s what I did: I sat down today for three hours and watched the 1994 film adaptation along with the 2022 TV series adaptation that started just last week, and let me tell you it was certainly an alluringly sexy experience that left me wanting more through both adaptations. I will preface this piece by saying I have yet to read the novel, so this will largely be a comparison between the movie and the newest TV series, however, I certainly do intend on reading the novel.
After watching the 1994 adaptation starring Brad Pitt as Louis and Tom Cruise as the infamous vampire Lestat, I found myself wrapped in a mystery that only made me crave more. The film is tense, from the beginning to end, and the very few happy moments are riddled with the shroud of darkness that is either Lestat or the underground vampire world in which Louis finds himself ensnared.
It is this tension that kept me interested, despite the expository nature of the film. After all, it is an interview, but I do not make that observation in thinking it is a weakness of the film. On the contrary, it is perhaps the only form fitting for the story told as we travel through the years with Louis, his angst and the suffering he endures.
It is also this tension that adds to the monster within the film–the alluring vampire who ensnares their victims through undeniable charm and their lavish and luxurious lifestyle.
It is a return to form, I think. An older form of the vampire whose humanity is close to a human’s but almost ethereal, divine and at the same time filled with suffering. A vampire, to me, is not terrifying because it can drink your blood. Though, that is quite terrifying. What makes a vampire terrifying is how they play to their victims desires and warps that desire to convince said victim they want what the vampire wants, even if it is not within the victim’s best interest as we see with Lestat, and even the seemingly kind and caring Armand, introduced toward the end of the film.
From a Queer analysis, that tension takes on a double meaning, not only functioning to ensnare the viewer in what Louis feels for Lestat and his lavish lifestyle, but the forbidden nature of their love for each other. Despite us coming a long way from 1994 to 2022, I almost prefer the subtlety of Louis and Lestat’s relationship because it gives vampires a Queer meaning, the same way many Halloween monsters are used as metaphors to the Queer experience. It is simply why the gays absolutely love Halloween–to use the guise of Halloween to play as a “costume” when it really is a representation of their true self and desires to be who they wish to be and become.
In comparison to the 2022 TV series adaptation of Interview with a Vampire the romance is much more obvious and on screen. What would play off as a brush of the hair, the tightness of a hand around the waist, is played in full view as full on sex scenes away from the view of the public eye of the other characters. When once Louis and Lestat’s relationship and their subtle interactions were a nod to Queer audiences, both emotionally, romantically and sexually in the 1994 film, within the 2022 TV series those subtleties are played out in privacy between Louis and Lestat. In a way, there is less that the audience of the TV series has to bring to the table when viewing these scenes. What would be interpreted through personal experiences and Queer coding is now on full display. While Louis and Lestat’s relationship is still forbidden within the context of the show, their onscreen sex scenes are a testament that this story was, and still is, for the gays. Those uncomfortable with gay sex scenes, or even just simply gay romances played on screen, will be turned away utterly by the TV series.
This, however, is also not a weakness. In an age where there are still pieces of media that are somewhat Queer coded but much more on the nose, and where some audience members might deny that Queerness, the 2022 TV adaptation of Interview with a Vampire embraces that Queer angle, thus making vampires really for the gays.
Even more so, it seems the TV adaptation plays on this. Louis, within the TV series, is presented as a family man, a pimp of sorts and somewhat of an underground boss of a red-light district. Louis is presented as masculine, an American man with a dream in the early 20th century, very different from the somewhat hallowed and significantly less fleshed out Louis within the 1994 film adaptation. The TV series gives him personality, shows us his wants and desires so that when Lestat shows up to exploit those wants and desires, we understand why Louis is so enticed with Lestat. This Louis is not so much one that just wishes for death because of the death of his wife and stillborn child. This Louis, the TV adaptation Louis, not only wants the dark gift of immortality, but the luxury that comes with it. More nuance is brought to that by making Louis a Black man living in 1910 New Orleans.
While I did find the tension between Louis and Lestat enticing in the 1994 film adaptation, the 2022 TV series makes the couple’s relationship so much sexual and sexier. Where in the 1994 film adaptation the appeal of their relationship is knowing the true, sexual nature of their relationship and the couple flaunting it among the aristocrats of New Orleans, the appeal of their relationship is the sexual tension building within the scenes where the two are in public and that release of giving in to their desires is a triumph and a release. The thrill and appeal, in a way, is the conflict between Louis wanting to live a heteronormative life while also wanting more. He knows to get more he can’t play by the rules, and why should that not also apply to his sex life too?
Both the 1994 film adaptation and the 2022 TV adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel Interview with a Vampire have their merit, and I would say neither is better than the other. Both are a testament to their times and the limits of censorship within those times. Even so, the 1994 film adaptation is incredibly gay despite said censorship and in a way that stands as almost a political statement against the times. In that same way, the 2022 TV adaptation will also serve as a political statement. As the vampire represents unbountiful and uncontained desire, the blatant and unapologetic sex scenes in the TV adaptation serves as a political statement in today’s time that Queer desire, whether that be platonic, romantic or sexual, like the vampire, cannot be contained, controlled or subdued and the attempt to do so will only lead to anger and more release of said desire.