I finally got to 100 film reviews so I’ve gone in back in time for this film back to the heady days of the 90s when this adaptation on Anne’s Rice’s novel got the Hollywood blockbuster treatment with plenty of money spent on it and a big name cast.
The story doesn’t really have plot since it is the biography of a fictional character Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt) who is telling his story to writer Daniel Malloy in the present day. He was wealthy plantation owner in 18th century Louisiana when he became a vampire. Grieving over the death of his wife in childbirth Louis was wandering around New Orleans aimlessly hoping that someone would do him a favour and kill him. Just as he’s about to get what he wants he gets ‘saved’ by Lestat de Lioncourt (Tom Cruise) who kills the whore and her pimp who were just about to kill and rob Louis. Lestat offers him the choice he was never given between death and eternal youthful life, feeding on the blood of the living. It is no surprise what choice he makes since he’s telling this story in the present. There is problem here because I don’t see how the film got from wanting to die to choosing to live forever. The book was full of the the fear Louis had about what happens after you die but the film didn’t really show it that much which is strange since it seemed to be behind almost every choice he makes in the book.
Lestat moves into the plantation house and teaches Louis what he has learned about living as a vampire but he is no better able to answers the questions Louis has about life death good and evil, heaven or hell than Louis is. At least Lestat has come to terms with what he is while Louis is having trouble with the idea of killing people. Louis is full of guilt about the deaths they cause and when he discovers that they can live without killing people he tries it but it is difficult and painful. Louis tries to survive on the blood of animals but it does little to satisfy hunger and his slaves are getting increasingly nervous about the unexplained deaths. Louis tells them they are right their master is the devil and they are all free to run away, then he burns the plantation house to the ground in a fit of madness and self-pity.
Lestat rescues Louis from the flames and takes him to New Orléans where Louis wanders the streets depressed and when he gets warned away from a plague-infested slum drags his weary whiny ass straight to it. He hears a child sobbing and finds her next to the corpse of her mother. Louis offers the child some comfort and then he feeds on her. Just then Lestat turns up laughing at Louis attempt to pretend he’s some sot of merciful angel of death. Louis flounces off and Lestat tracks him down in the sewers by following the trail of dead rats. he tells him he has a surprise for him. Back at his house he has the child Claudia (Kirsten Dunst), near death after Louis fed on her but not yet dead. Despite Louis objections Lestat opens his wrist and drips blood into Claudia’s rnouth. Claudia grabs his arm and feeds hungrily on his blood. she dies and then comes to life animated by a supernatural glamour.
Lestat is open about creating Claudia to chain Louis to him by their mutual responsibility to care for her. She is very quick to learn how to use her innocent appearance to ensnare humans and is every bit as ruthless as Lestat when on the hunt. Time passes quickly and after 30 years of still being a cute little girl with golden curls Claudia realises she will never be growing older. She freaks out and takes out all her rage and frustration out on Lestat. She tricks Lestat into feeding on a dead boy she poisoned with laudanum and the corpse blood poisons Lestat then she slashes his throat and watches him fall down apparently dead. Louis just stands there watching her kill Lestat. They dump his body in a swamp and Louis arranges passage for both of them to France. However Lestat is not dead and he attacks them on the day they are due to leave but Louis sets him on fire and they escape onto the ship for France
Once in Europe they travel around looking any sign of other vampires but all they find are stories. It is only when they get back to Paris that other vampires find them. Armand (Antonio Banderas) and Santiago (Stephen Rea) are based in an old church that has be transformed into a Grand Guignol type theatre where the performers are vampires pretending to be humans pretending to be vampires.
Armand and Louis are drawn to each other. Louis hopes that Armand has answers to the big questions he insists on bothering himself with, while Armand knows that vampires need a contemporary companions to give them a link to times they live in. Claudia senses that Armand is drawing Louis away from her. She chooses herself a companion, a woman who lost her own daughter and emotionally bullies Louis into turning her.
The vampires at the theatre suddenly invade their rooms led by Santiago and drag them off to be punished for their crimes. These vampires have stagnated into a cruel parody of human society and even have their own set of laws. Claudia’s very existence as a child vampire is an offence to them so she and her new mother are sentenced to death while Louis is sentenced to be locked in a steel box and walled up. Claudia and her mother get locked a small cell whose ceiling is open to the sky and when the sun rises they die wrapped in each others arms. The following night Armand breaks Louis out of his captivity. Louis returns to the theatre later to take a revenge on them all by setting them on fire while they lie in their coffins.
Louis doesn’t stay with Armand but instead has taken to wandering the world on a fruitless search for answers to his big questions. He recently returned to New Orléans and discovered that Lestat is still there, reduced to a pathetic creature scared of the changes around him and surviving on the blood of small animals. Louis finished his story and Malloy complains about the ending. He wants to become Louis’s companion, his link to the present and in reply Louis just disappears having failed to conivice Maloy that his life is a curse.
Malloy is driving home from the meeting and he is very excited about the material he has recorded. Just then Lestat drops into the back seat of his convertible and he’s more than willing to offer Malloy what Louis refused him.
I did enjoy this film when it came out but I suppose it a strange choice to tell a story from the point of view of the party downer but that is what this film does. Louis is miserable when he gets turned and stays miserable, meanwhile all other vampires around him are having great time. Cruise is really great as Lestat throwing himself the larger than life role. Kirsten Dunst is amazing as Claudia considering her age when this film was made. Pitt mumbles morosely through a part that really isn’t too much of a stretch. If you are after horror this is not the film for you, bu if you’re looking for a sympathetic look at vampires that isn’t Twiglet you’ll probably like this.