As Frock Flicks’ resident ElderGoth, I’m contractually required to watch the new AMC series adaption of Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire. So I’m dragging y’all along with me every other Tuesday!
Episode 7, “The Thing Lay Still”
Picking up the interview again, Louis describes how immortals can be killed: starvation, drinking blood of the dead, fire, and decapitation. He wonders though if the children could murder the father?
Back in the 1930s, we see an elaborate setup where Lestat is draining blood off some guy into a crystal decanter for him, Louis, and Claudia to drink.
A random guy comes to the house, trying to leave a letter. The vampires catch him, bringing him inside. The guy says he’s an “admirer” and he wants “help.” Lestat kills him but spits out the blood because it’s full of cancer. There’s a pile of letters, Bibles, dolls, etc., by the door. Lestat says they finally have to leave New Orleans because they’ve drawn too much attention. Of course, it’s Claudia who’s orchestrated all these offerings.
On the streetcar, Claudia plots with Louis about how to kill Lestat, except she won’t give him any details because Louis will spill the beans.
At home, it’s a vampire Christmas where Louis decks the tree and Lestat plays piano. They talk about what to pack when they leave town. Louis suggests going to Greece, and Lestat comments that it’s near Those Who Must Be Kept. The little nods to the entirety of the vampire lore from the rest of the novels is cool for us nerds.
Claudia critiques Lestat for playing Bach, calling it racist, I guess because Bach is German and this is during Hitler’s rise? Not like he’s playing Wagner though. She gives him some Dubussey, French music, and they play together. She’s trying to curry favor as she suggests the idea that they throw a party before they leave.
They’re at a movie theater, talking over a news reel about Hitler. Lestat compliments the Nazi uniforms, and Claudia comments: “Well-dressed tyrants, where have I seen that before?”
On New Year’s Eve, the trio look down from their balcony at partying in the streets. Claudia is still working on Lestat with her party idea. She notes that Mardi Gras is early that year, on February 6, so why not host a ball? That means this is 1940 — which makes sense given that, in episode 6, the radio played news of Hitler invading Poland, which was September 1, 1939. Thus, Claudia started working on her plan immediately after Lestat stopped her from leaving town.
I thought Claudia was wearing a blouse and skirt outfit here, but costume designer Carol Cutshall posted details on Instagram showing that the character is wearing satin evening pants.
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Lestat seems onboard with the Mardi Gras ball now and adds the idea that they should starve themselves for a few nights before. Also, he wants to be the King of Mardi Gras. Which means a visit to their old pal, Tom Anderson, who they did dealings with 17 years ago in the brothel business.
Tom is on the Krewe of Raj committee and can set things up for their imagined party, with the appropriate bribes, of course. He also shows picture of himself with Lestat and Louis in 1910, indicating that they haven’t aged. I think the show should have aged-up Chris Stack who plays Tom because I couldn’t tell that he was significantly younger in the photo or older than Lestat and Louis now.
Plans are afoot, with elaborate Mardi Gras costumes for the vampires and transatlantic ship bookings for them and their coffins. Claudia forms an overly elaborate system to “pin” special victims at the ball and then take them home to kill them.
Then she goes to the pharmacy and buys poison. She’ll make those victims appear drunk and feed them to Lestat.
Mardi Gras kicks off at city hall with Lestat performing a ridiculous fake baby-eating stunt.
At least partly, this schtick is a reference to the baby hidden inside a King Cake, the traditional dessert of Mardi Gras. Whoever gets the baby in their piece of cake is lucky. But to me, the costume and the act feel like a call-back to Lucy’s wedding gown and baby-eating in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). Within this story, the whole thing shows how over-the-top and callous Lestat is, like a big “fuck you” to the city as he leaves.
The folks gathered to watch are shocked, and Louis’ voiceover says that some decline attending their ball that night. But they’ll still have plenty of victims to choose from.
At the ball, the three vampires are the only ones in full costume, and they stand out in white. Louis and Claudia wear masks, but Lestat does not, since he has no human mask. On this one night, they come closest to showing who they really are as strange, unreal, inhuman creatures, either angels or devils.
The human guests are all dressed in formal wear with face masks and sometimes costumey hats. I think there would have been more people dressed in full costumes, judging by period photos and the popularity of fancy-dress parties in general.
The guests are generally wearing late ’30s evening attire, though it’s hard to see or screencap much of it.
But I can also see how having all the humans in less flashy outfits works from a design point of view. The vampires stand out completely, which flips the Mardi Gras / Carnevale tradition of masking anonymity on its head. Lestat, in particular, is doing this to be seen. While he’s ostensibly leaving the city because they’ve become too noticed, his vanity loves attention and flattery. Older ladies at the party remember him from the 1910s when he was more out and about town. They fangirl him, and he laps it up.
Claudia introduces Lestat to the McPhail brothers, Mathew and Mark, her poisoned gift. The poisoned twins is a nod to the novel. But really, Mc “Fail”? That’s not very promising!
Meanwhile, Louis is falling in love with Lestat again, thinking, “I wanted him dead, I wanted him all to myself.” He and Lestat share a smoke out on the balcony, where Lestat ruminates on the city’s charms and has a sad about leaving. Then they enjoy a last dance before the feast, and oh my, is that a wonderful scene! This is a gift to all the queer vampire fans out there, thank you very much! Also not bad for anyone who enjoys tragic romance because you know this is their last beautiful moment before it all comes crashing down.
They’re alone on the dance floor as everyone watches. Some gasp and a few leave in disgust, a reminder that this is the 1930s in the South and homophobia is the rule, not the exception.
In Variety, Jacob Anderson, who plays Louis, said of this scene:
“They are not outing themselves as vampires, but they are being open about their relationship. It is this grand pronouncement of love, but it is a mutual one. There are a lot of things going on underneath it. There’s Louis guilt, there’s Lestat knowing he’s going to die. But I think that, in this brief moment, it is just the two of them — and it feels like when it was good.”
Claudia is just impatient and annoyed with Louis for getting so involved again. She cuts in on the dance and even bites Louis’ wrist to wake him the fuck up.
Back at their house, the vampires have their victims gathered around while Lestat tells a silly story about alchemy and immortality. Tom, having been chosen as a victim because he’s a dick, is drunk and wants to get to the point.
In an interesting bit of timeline management and storytelling, each vampire reveals their true ages:
- Claudia was born in 1903, was turned into a vampire in 1917, and is now 36 old.
- Louis was born in 1878, was turned into a vampire in 1910, and is now 61 old.
- Lestat was born 1760, was turned into a vampire in 1794, and is now 180 old, or will be in November.
Then they reveal that their guests aren’t here to become immortal but to be killed themselves. Tom is the first to go via Lestat, while Claudia gets police chief. Louis tears off another guy’s jawbone, and there’s body parts and blood flying everywhere. The other humans run, but of course the doors and windows are all locked.
Louis and Claudia find the McPhail twins and set one up for Lestat. He suspiciously smells something in the boy’s blood.
Antoinette shows up because Lestat made her into a vampire, and she’s been telepathically eavesdropping on everything Claudia and Louis were planning. Fangs are bared, lots of hissing, and a fight breaks out among the now four vampires. Antoinette tries to force Claudia to drink from the poisoned boy, while Lestat and Louis struggle. Then Lestat starts puking blood.
Claudia has the upper hand — she kills Antoinette, who she knew has been following her since Claudia tried to leave on the train. So Claudia secretly poisoned Tom at the ball, and that was Lestat’s first kill of the night, poisoning him.
Dying, Lestat tells Louis: “I have loved you with all my soul.” And Louis slices his throat open. Claudia uses Lestat’s blood to write in her diary, then they burn the bodies, except for Lestat. Claudia says they need to, but Louis refuses. Instead, he wraps Lestat’s body in a carpet, shoves him in a trunk, and puts it out with the garbage. Louis and Claudia leave the city on a cargo ship.
In the present day, Daniel points out that more of Claudia’s diary pages are missing, and he thinks she hated Louis for not burning Lestat. Daniel points out trash is taken to a dump where invariably there are rats, so Lestat could survive, and Louis knew it.
Louis and Daniel argue about Louis and Lestat’s relationship again, until Rashid interrupts. He floats up to get a book which has Theater of the Vampires memorabilia. Because Rashid isn’t really his name and he’s not Louis’ familiar — he’s the 514-year-old vampire Armand, and according to Louis, “The love of my life.”
Thus ends season one with a bang! I’ll admit I was surprised that Rashid was Armand — yes, there were hints that he was somebody not quite a generic familiar, but pulling in Armand (who is my next-favorite Rice character after Louis!) right now wasn’t what I expected. He and Louis were together for a while, on and off, but for many of the later novels, Armand has his own little coterie of proteges, and Louis is a solitary wanderer. Of course, Armand is also the one who eventually turns Daniel Molloy, so there is a neat little connection in having him show up now.
But mostly, Armand, and more importantly, Louis’ labeling him as “The love of my life,” is there to further round out Louis’ character in this series. What I’ve loved about this show, this season, is how Louis is centered in the story. Of course, he has to be since he gives the interview and he’s telling the story. That’s the first book’s point of view. But the show runners wisely didn’t take the later view of Anne Rice’s vampire novels where Lestat has stolen the show. When she revisited the concept nine years after Interview, she focused on Lestat and built him into a vampire superhero who became the star of the next half dozen or so novels. Lestat ruled the vampire world and could do no wrong, or any “wrong” he did was glorified. Louis faded into the background, getting a few tiny mentions here and there, always rather derogatory. After Interview, Louis was depicted as the vampire who did not enjoy being a vampire, the sad sack, the killjoy, barely tolerated by the rest of vampire society. Louis was done dirty by Rice after that first book.
And yet, Louis is the reader’s entry into the vampire world. He is us, the human eye into the world of darkness. His view is how we understand the complications and nuances of turning into a vampire. Louis shows us that it’s not just an undead party filled with blood and roses. Interview With the Vampire is the best of Anne Rice’s novels because she’s exploring human feelings about life and death and mourning and loss. Her later vampire novels are pure fantasy — fun dark adventures, but not very emotionally complex.
This TV series takes a deep-dive into that first novel and explores everything that was said and hinted at. Louis is given his full range of feelings, first as a human, and then about becoming a vampire. The implications of his change are shown, both how he feels and how he has to move through the world afterwards. Making him into a 1910s Black man actually emphasizes the difficulties he experiences changing from human to vampire — he’s othered more obviously and his place in the human world is more clearly tenuous. This Louis has heart and soul, he’s not just a mopey mess. He’s a grand figure in a tragic romance, and his losses are gut-wrenchingly familiar. First, he loses his family, bit by bit, and then he loses his new vampire lover or is forced to.
Similarly, Claudia is more fully formed in this TV series. In the book, she’s a sketch of Anne Rice’s dead daughter who will never grow up. But this series takes that conceit — the growing woman trapped inside a young girl’s body — and more fully explores it. The novel doesn’t touch on Claudia’s sexual desire at all (perhaps the grieving mother as author couldn’t go there), but a 14-year-old girl would already be full of raging hormones, ready for first crushes and mad loves and sexual exploration. So turn that teenager into a vampire and keep her stuck at that physical age, what then? Changing Claudia’s age just these few years from the book enriches the story and shows the more tragic consequences of creating a child-vampire.
The TV Lestat is more of the first book Lestat rather than the later books’ Lestat. He’s a typical sexy bad-boy — totally alluring and totally terrible for you. His love is abuse, and it makes us question whether that’s because of his vampiric nature or just Lestat’s character.
Series creator Rolin Jones said in Variety that season two (which has already been renewed by AMC) will definitely cover the rest of the first vampire novel. He also noted that: “Books 2, 3, and 6 really inform all the decisions we made in Season 1, and a lot of the decisions we are making in Season 2.” So if you’re like me, you’ve been flipping through the novels and comparing notes! We can glean where it’s going, but how it gets there promises to be a new and exciting journey. I can’t wait!
What are your thoughts on the first season of Interview With the Vampire?