4 out of 5
Created by: Rolin Jones
covers season 1
Have you seen the movie? Have you read the book? It doesn’t matter… mostly. That caveat is one of the TV version of Interview With the Vampire’s slight hitches, as it walks the thin line many remakes / adaptations / reboots must face between nodding to those looking for aspects of the source material or original versions, while not alienating those new to the material. And I’d say the premise for the show is excessively clever in this approach: allowing that the stuff from the past (the book, moreso than the movie) existed – in which vampire Louis (Jacob Anderson) allowed himself to be interviewed by journalist Daniel (Eric Bogosian) – and the latter has now been invited by the former, X years later, to correct mistakes told in his original tale. Daniel is skeptical of the ‘why’ but has also faced personal troubles since that initial event; the promise of moneys or health in return are alluring. At the same time, it’s not that simple, and while the main structure of the show is flashback, covering Louis’ history in 1900s New Orleans, with fellow vampire Lestat (Sam Reid) – and this setup allows Louis’ story to retcon anything he wants – our series’ writers never forget the framing, and constantly draw back our attention to why Louis would want to revisit this story, as voiced by Daniel, whose own motivations are also reinforced throughout.
For returning fans, this is quite a brilliant way to crack the story, and also update it, embracing the homosexual aspects of the original text in Louis’ and Lestat’s relationship, and also touching on race and class, as Louis (in this interpretation) is black, and his upward mobility in the 1900s is not… without difficulties. For new fans, while I think there could be an expectation of explaining more about Louis / Daniel’s original meeting, it’s definitely enough context to move forward, and the intense psychological back-and-forth of the two leads in the present and past is absolutely enough to immerse one 95% of the time, and forget any such expectations.
If it seems like tackling sexual and race and class politics alongside a vampire tale with some pretty complex lore seems like a lot… yes. This is even more true once the duo bring another vampire into the mix, teen Claudia (Bailey Bass), thereby giving the show a structure of coming-of-age for a few episodes; another list of heavy ideas to explore. And we never quite go deep on any of this stuff, honestly; it’s mostly conceptual, and tossed in to fuel the direction of characters’ decisions. This isn’t the worst thing, as it’s right to keep the focus on the bloody meat of the tale, but it’s also a bit distracting when the show swerves to highlight something, then doesn’t really have much of a followup to that. The same goes for where I started my critcism, in regards to fanservice nods. There are some odd wanderings in the story that feel a bit like bloat – even though at seven episodes this is pretty packed – until you realize we’re taking a sidestep to include some of the source material. And the show can’t always nail the new / old Interview balance: the ending, especially – a second season lead-in – relies on something that I can’t imagine has much impact to those without the context.
But the “95%” note above nonetheless holds true: Anderson, Reid, and Bass are all mesmerizing, and the push-and-pull of Louis’ / Lestat’s emotionally abusive relationship, as well as the combination of how the three approach vampirism – Louis prefers seeing humans as humans; Lestat sees them as minions; Claudia has, initially, a childlike sense of precociousness, then also begins to act with the rebellious tendencies against her “parents” of a teen – is utterly fascinating, all stuff drawn from Anne Rice’s source but absolutely reinvigorated with decades of ideas and evolutions. The gore is there at selected points for impact (and they don’t spare on this); the sexuality thankfully isn’t CW-ized, but the show also does not spare on eroticism, allowing us to understand the feelings and romanticism between Louis and Lestat; and this isn’t some modern “grounded” take on vamps, but the show’s strongest aspect is its balance: it rolls out the lore stuff at a slow enough pace so it feels important, and effective.