Updated: Oct 15
Anne Rice's books are sacred texts to me. Her Vampire Chronicles are a master class in how an author can make readers feel what her characters do--sensually feel. If Anne Rice describes a character petting a dog, the reader can feel its fur against her palm. That's a real example. And it's the humanity of her vampires, not their special powers or monstrous traits that make them so compelling, so relatable... So real.
So real, I decided when I was first reading them, that all other vampires were fictional. Only Anne Rice's were the real deal. Interestingly, the filmmakers of the new series say something very similar in the Behind the Scenes Video I'll link at the end, which is a MUST SEE for anyone into this universe.
Going into this review, please note, I have only seen the first episode.
I'm unashamed to say it was Anne Rice's vampire novels that inspired my own. In fact, I dedicated my first vampire novel, Twilight Phantasies, released in 1993, to her stunning character Lestat. "To the young blond man on the balcony high above Rue Royale."
I remember when the film adaptation of Interview with the Vampire was released in 1994. First, I was skeptical. When they announced Tom Cruise as the lead, I was livid. (I read somewhere that Rice was, too, but I can't source that.)
I just watched it again.
This morning's fresh viewing, though reaffirmed my original notion that Cruise wasn't quite right for the role of the brat prince. But I think Pitt was outstanding as Louis. And Kirsten Dunst--I can't even! The acting she did at age 12 quite blew me away all over again.
So that's where I'm coming from with this review--as a passionate and devoted Anne Rice reader, who has devoured every story she wrote, but most especially her vampire tales. I was more than a fan, I was a student of her technique, and devotee of her vampire universe.
Now there's a series on AMC. When I first heard about it, I was partly overjoyed--because yay, more Anne Rice to feed my own preternatural hunger, and not only that, it was being made by the AMC people, and they know how to tell stories. Need proof? The Walking Dead. Fear the Walking Dead. Breaking Bad. Better Call Saul.
I was also partly dreading it, because I read a teaser quote that almost sounded as if the filmmakers thought they had improved on the story--they didn't say that, mind you, it just hit my brain that way. It felt as wrong as if someone said they were going to "touch up" the Mona Lisa.
So I went into it with a chip on my shoulder, but hoping for the best.
The AMC series is Interview with a Vampire. You'll notice the first difference in the title--a vampire, not the vampire as the novel and the first film were titled.
There are very mild spoilers from here down, so if you haven't seen episode one, watch it first and then come back.
THE SETUP At first, I hated it...
I wanted to throw something big at the TV screen within five minutes. (I came around, read on.) In the film, reporter Daniel Malloy, the interviewer from the book and film is older. It is clearly 2022.
Louis de Pointe du Lac has sent Malloy the old audiotapes that he made, the original "interview" that gave the book, film, and series their titles. The accompanying letter offers to finish "the work we never got to finish." Malloy meets with Louis to take him up on the offer. Louis tells Malloy, "You weren't worthy of my story back then," to which Malloy replies, "Maybe your story wasn't worth telling."
That's the line that made me want to throw things at the TV. It felt like those tapes in the box were being deemed unworthy, which meant that the novel itself must be unworthy, because the novel IS the interview that was on those tapes. So it immediately pissed me off, to put it mildly.
In those opening minutes, I felt like they were saying, Nothing that came before matters, let's throw it all out and start over. And THAT was not acceptable to me.
I had to see it through, though so I kept watching.
Fortunately the notion that the first interview had been in any way unworthy was never brought up again.
I reasoned, from an author's perspective, that they had to give Malloy and Louis a reason to revisit the interview. At the end of the first film, Malloy pled with Louis to tell him more and Louis answered that there was no more to tell, so clearly they had to come up with something. I just wish they'd come up with something better.
But I let it go and moved on.
And then I loved it...
I loved it so much I watched it twice and dreamed about it in between. Let's talk about why.
LOUIS de POINTE du LAC
Louis' entire backstory has changed, but he's still the tender and tortured Louis who seems to feel everything times ten.
Naturally, making Louis a young Creole man in 1910, rather than a white guy in 1797 would change his backstory. It wouldn't be honest to give him the same history as white Louis. I found this version of Louis' backstory fascinating in its own right. The tale of his brother's death, unfolding as it does in the course of the story, rather than off the page, is compelling. I could feel his heartbreak, and his devastation at his mother blaming him for it.
Moreover, his struggles with his sexuality felt authentic and honest. To be a gay man, much less a gay black man in that time and place, adds layers to Louis' powerful growth arc.
In the time of the first film's release, sexuality was not talked about as openly in our fiction as it is today--unless it was hetero. Rice's books did not shy away from that aspect in any way. It was right there on every page. She wrote with and about passion in myriad forms, and she did it unapologetically. But the '94 film glossed over the aspects of the novel that were referred to at that time as "homoerotic."
Like the novel, this new series does not shy away from it at all, and the passion Lestat feels for Louis adds layers and depth that we found in the book, but were lacking from the first film.
This version of Lestat is better in a whole plethora of ways, but let me get my picayune issues out of the way first. Lestat rhymes with "hot." Okay? In the first film, everybody said it as if it rhymed with "hat." That always bothered me. (I know, it's the little things, right?) In this series, they say it correctly.
The series was clearly sucking me in. (Vampire pun!)
But the scene that won me over completely, was when Louis' shows up at the church, in the night, in the pouring rain, pounding the door, pleading for help from the priests, screaming, "Help me, Father, he's in my head!" It is SO real. You feel that! That's powerful stuff!
LESTAT de LIONCOURT
This version of Lestat is better in a whole plethora of ways, but let me get my picayune issues out of the way first. Lestat rhymes with "hot." Okay? In the first film, everybody said it as if it rhymed with "hat. That always bothered me. (I know, it's the little things, right?) In this series, they say it correctly.
But onward, because holy crap is Sam Reid excellent. Phenomenal. The poker scene, the dinner scene, that scene in the church. He's brilliant. The charm, the charisma, the edge, the sexual energy, the predatory nature. He's perfect. Reid channels Lestat beautifully. He can be cruel. He is unapologetically a predator, a vampire, a killer. Her considers Louis' refusal to embrace his new nature a ridiculous waste that brings him unnecessary suffering. The disrespect Louis tolerates from lesser men makes Lestat insane. How much more powerful is that aspect now that Louis is a black man living in 1910?
Lestat does what he wants, when he wants, how he wants, without regret. This is entirely true to the character Anne Rice created, and the actor is just... I keep using the word channeling, but yes, that.
I believe what we create exists separate from us once created, and so in some form, Lestat is real. The energy that is Lestat can be tapped into, and I'm convinced Sam Reid manages that in this series, as does Jacob Anderson with Louis.
I believed him. I believed his portrayal. I felt that it was truer to the Lestat Anne Rice created than anything previously done. I cannot WAIT to see the swamp scene. OMG.
SETTING, COSTUME, EFFECTS
The setting, 1910 New Orleans is so rich and evocative that you feel like you're there. And the costumes are phenomenal. But it was only as I watched the Behind the Scenes feature (linked below) that I understood what an amazing thing the actors were doing and what attention to detail was given to the story's authenticity.
The vampires don't have just one set of fangs they have several, of different lengths. When they're about to attack, the fangs extend longer, and when they are in a calm state of mind, they are barely noticeable. The same with the contacts used to cover the eyes. In Rice's novels, the vampires' eyes seem to glow from within. So they didn't create one color contact for everybody. The contacts are different colors. Louis' are bright green. Lestat's are blue, and from the previews, Claudia's will be a gold/orange hue. And not just one set per actor, either. Their pupils dilate right before they feed, so they have extra contacts to show that.
The detail is amazing. And the attention to detail shows a caring and an honor to the novels that is well-deserved and essential.
I really expected no less from AMC. They have so much fun with the special effects in The Walking Dead and its spinoffs, I knew they'd enjoy painting New Orleans in blood. I mean, that fist through the head gag in the church scene, that was straight out of the TWD. Also, this insider info: they made the fake blood drinkable, and went to great pains to make it taste good. (I hope to God it's made of healthy stuff, because the actors have to drink a lot of it.)
I could gripe about them making Claudia older. She plays 14, according to what I've read. But I was wrong about other things I expected to take issue with, and in the previews I've seen she is phenomenal, so I'm going to give it a chance. The series-makers promise they will hit all the same major points of the novels, they just might take slightly different paths to get there.
There is one issue I had, and that was technical and probably partly my age. I have a helluva time with accents. I have surround sound so it's a good set of speakers, but I still had to watch the second time through with sub-titles on. I'm so grateful that's an option because the writing is so phenomenal I didn't want to miss a word.
I went in hopeful, but skeptical. Hopeful because it was AMC--skeptical because they tried to "improve" it. But what they actually did was tap in to the spirit of the novel, the living force of it. They tapped into the creative-stream of it.
Storytelling is a very metaphysical undertaking.
The energy I felt when I read the novels the first time is here in this series. It is familiar to me. It's like experiencing those novels all over again.
This series is my new obsession and if you're a fan of vampire fiction, I predict it will be yours, too.
I love vampire fiction. I am passionate about it.
But I honestly believe nobody, nobody, nobody has ever contributed to the genre the way the great Anne Rice did. So much of my life was changed because of her work.
There would be no Wings in the Night had there not first been The Vampire Chronicles.
is FREE in E To celebrate October
The entire, original WINGS IN THE NIGHT vampire series is relaunching with a title every other Tuesday from June 2022 until June 2023.
New stories will follow.
There's no better time to begin than the month of All Hallows!
The Great Wings in the Night Re-Launch So Far: