Interview with the Vampire: Movie vs Book

In 1976 millions were taken on a journey throughout the life of a 200 year old vampire. The novel Interview With The Vampire, written by Anne Rice, captivated readers with its language and portrayal of human emotion (and lack thereof). This made it only natural for a movie version of the book to come out in 1994 by the same name. People were charmed all over again by the vampires in the book; our melancholy main character, Louis (Brad Pitt), the immortal demon child, Claudia (Kirsten Dunst), the cruel and overdramatic anti protagonist, Lestat (Tom Cruise), and the kind yet problematic love interest, Armand (Antonio Banderas) along with dozens of others.

The movie became a classic, frequently played on TV, and bought on DVDs to be broken out close to Halloween. In many ways the movie stayed true to the book, but there were still big parts that were left out or changed that altered the characters and plot. As good as they both are, once you look at the details and plot points, one definitely outshines the other. In both versions, the story takes place in 1977 New Orleans where we first meet Louis, a young plantation owner, depressed and yearning for death, yet unable to do it himself. The movie version still had him attacked by Lestat and talked into becoming a vampire, but both of their motivations have changed in transition from the page to the screen. Originally Louis was suicidal because he felt guilty for the death of his younger brother and had a hard time facing his family and servants after words.

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This shows us how much he values life and others which explains a lot of the events later on. But the movie paints him much more grown up and not as emotional when they say the cause for his depression is the death of his wife and child he never had in the book. The same character alterations go for Lestat. In the book he had reasons for turning Louis into a vampire; first, for his money and land which Lestat always had a weak spot for, and second, so that his sick and disabled father could move in and get the proper attention he needed. When this was taken out in the movie, it gives Lestat no good reason for attacking Louis and makes him seem even more cold-hearted. For the scenes in the Rue Royal, when the pair moves to a different part of New Orleans, the film stayed very true to what was written.

Lestat still brought home two drunk women and terrorized them before killing them in front of an appalled Louis. The book includes chilling descriptions of the cruelty Lestat exhibits when draining the blood from the women and daring Louis to get involved. The movie reflected this very well with enough, but not too much, blood, clothing that fit the time and suggested what was to play out, and acting that made the character’s personality clear to the viewer. The scenes where Louis went out to kill rats was just as chilling and the introduction to Claudia and her mother was just as heart breaking. Pitt and Cruise did a great job bringing the satire and horror of this scene to life. The only difference however, was the way Claudia came to join their family.

Louis spoke many times of leaving Lestat in the book until Lestat finally tricked him into “finishing off” Claudia where he swooped in and turned her. In the movie it’s implied that Lestat does this a precaution and not as a final resort. Claudia herself remained just as cruel and unapologetic but the events that take place after she cuts ties with Lestat and kills him are very different. In the movie, her and Louis get on a boat and go directly to Paris. It makes sense on the screen, as the actors rush to the boat and show no remorse in leaving America, but this change in the story cuts out the entire mystery of European vampires that the book sets up.

Originally Louis and Claudia go to East Europe first to the many villages and towns that believe in and are terrorized by vampires. They learn all that they can from the townspeople and other travelers before going to see these monsters themselves. These parts are very crucial in setting up the environment of Europe. The undead in these areas aren’t at all like Louis and Claudia. They’re mindless, hungry creatures that attack their own kind.

It sounds like they would make great monsters for a movie, but on the screen the story skips straight to the action in Paris. Because of that, the introduction to Sebastian and Armand is less thrilling and unexpected. While the mockery Sebastian performs in the book has the audience on the edge of their seats, not knowing what could be stalking Louis, the one in the movie is more comedic and anti-climactic than anything. The biggest and most surprising difference between the book and the movie was the scene when Louis finds out Claudia and Madeleine were killed. At this point in the story the audience is almost certain that Lestat is dead and hasn’t thought about him since the introduction of Santiago. They’re so concerned with Louis being left for dead and wondering why no one is attacking him when he comes back that everyone is taken off-guard when it turns out Lestat was the one behind all this.

There’s no explanation as to how he survived or got to hold power over the group of vampires, but it almost doesn’t matter because of how much he’s pleading for Louis to come back to him and how scared he is as he does it. This scene really makes the cogs in the audience’s heads turn as they try to make sense of it all yet understand why everything’s taking place at the same time. When the movie cuts this reveal out completely, this part of the story loses some of it’s power and doesn’t justify Louis’ later anger and actions later on as much. All in all, while the movie version of Interview With The Vampire is chilling and captivating, it changed a lot of things from the book which took away from the story and characters. There were major things that stayed the same like setting, appearance, and personalities, but the jaw dropping, fear inducing, smaller events got changed or cut out entirely. I wouldn’t say that the movie did a bad job of telling the story, in fact I would recommend watching it sometime, but if you could read the book before or even instead of seeing the film, you may be better off and get a much more rich version of the journey Anne Rice takes you on.