There are too many elements of Interview with the Vampire 1×05 “A Vile Hunger For Your Hammering Heart” that show a fundamental lack of understanding of the source material. No, an adaptation need not be 100% by the book — we’ve more than proven we love some of the changes — but it does need to honor that material in some way. It needs to understand, at the root, who the characters are at their core and, at least in this reviewer’s very strong opinion, stick to that core.
For three episodes, the series met that mark beautifully — and then some. In the fourth, not quite. But even with some of the missteps, Anne Rice’s Brat Prince and her beautiful, brooding Louis were still as much themselves as ever.
“A Vile Hunger For Your Hammering Heart,” however, crosses lines with both of them. And, even if we think about this series as its own entity, free of the constraints of adapting Rice’s genre-changing work, there are some pretty unforgivable choices here. Without getting ahead of ourselves or giving away future plot points, suffice it to say it’s difficult not to see this as the low point of the series’ first season. It all comes down to adding things to the story for shock value, without bothering to stop and consider the outcomes — the messages those additions may send.
Claudia’s Needlessly Traumatic Journey
The move from a child Claudia to a teenaged one had so much potential, even if it ignored Rice’s reasons for creating an eternal child in the first place. Unfortunately, that potential remains wasted. Not only that, but Interview with the Vampire 1×05 places a sick twist on the tale of this dysfunctional family of vampires. Or, rather, it creates a number of sick twists. But we’ll start with Claudia and work our way out to our vampire lovers.
It all starts with a diary entry. Admittedly, Lestat’s decision to read, and mock, Claudia’s diary entries is pretty on point. His go-to, after all, is to mock that which he doesn’t understand, to lash out at anyone who hurts him and make them feel even worse. And he’s never understood Claudia, much less Louis’ love for her and decision, in his mind, to repeatedly choose her over him. One could even argue that a teen girl’s worst nightmare is to have a parent, especially a less-than-kind one, come across her deepest inner thoughts and use them against her.
So, again. Potential. Started out well…ended horribly.
“Will my skin down there grow back like my hair does when I cut it?”
That’s an actual line that Lestat reads aloud, and the look on Sam Reid’s face, plus Jacob Anderson (as Louis) muttering “Jesus,” is about the only possible reaction. Somewhere in the story, Claudia even asks, desperately, who’s going to love her — who’s the Lestat to her Louis, or the Louis to her Lestat — and that, too, has its potential…which immediately gets ruined. She speaks of little boys and/or perverted uncles, like at the boarding house…and the question I’ve got here is just…why.
In the first place, the note about men watching her change is just out of place trauma dumping used as shock value and not really explored or given its due care. Not to mention, we’ve already seen that Claudia can convince people she’s an adult/older teen, so why little boys? And why, automatically, pedophiles? Then, she starts shrieking about who’s going to fuck her, prompting Lestat to make some sarcastic and weird joke about her being more Louis’ type than his…
…and no, this is not how a vampire child, created to try to save a dysfunctional vampire marriage, works.
If this were the worst thing that happens regarding Claudia in Interview with the Vampire 1×05, one could even forgive it as “a little weird but meh.” Unfortunately, unforgivably, that is not the case. When Claudia goes off on her own journey, the one other vampire she meets sexually assaults her. And while, thankfully, we don’t see the assault itself, there’s enough of a hint there. More than enough. Too much, even.
The more vivid description of what happened is absent, thanks to a missing diary page. That prompts the entire argument between Louis and Daniel about Louis’ refusal to “exploit” Claudia, and it’s an interesting enough conversation about trusting a storyteller and so forth.
But, as far as the question of exploitation goes, I’d argue that, because of the turn of events, it’s already too late. That character has already been exploited, in a number of ways. Even showing Daniel her diaries without her permission — which she is almost surely not here to give — is a violation. And when you add television’s nasty need to constantly do the assault story with female characters for “authenticity” to the mix…Yeah, we’ve long-since crossed the “exploiting her” bridge.
The assault is also the catalyst for her following Louis and Lestat, slowly working her way closer to going back home. This, too, is the worst sort of exploitation. Did this “teach her a lesson”? Is that our takeaway? Disgusting if so.
When she does return home, she’s greatly diminished. The wardrobe is muted. She’s much more the damsel in distress than the five-year-old version of the character would’ve ever dreamed of being…and, yet, rather than explore the effects of such a trauma, the series instead chooses to make Lestat crueler than ever. And to get into some other toxicity we’ll get into in a moment. “Unfortunate” doesn’t even begin to describe what happened here.
This is yet another case of the writing, not the acting, being the problem with Claudia. It’s also, again, a case of Bailey Bass doing absolutely everything to make bad storytelling work. And to her credit, the anguish when Claudia witnesses Louis’ final discussion with his sister is stellar acting. It’s also to Bass’ credit that it’s possible to care about this character at all at this point, given the mess that’s been made of her. And that…is a thing I never thought I’d say about Rice’s vampire child. Ever.
So much for the love story
Readers fell in love with Anne Rice’s vampires, not because they were the perfect heroes but because they were complicated. Lestat, especially, has always lived in the gray areas. He has his moments of pure sadism, but he also has the capacity for deep, true love. The Brat Prince lashes out when he’s angry, embracing his devilish nature, sure. But even he has his limits.
That limit is, has always been, Louis. (And Nicki, and Gabrielle…anyone Lestat loves. But read the beginning of the final section of The Vampire Lestat — Louis is the line. He is the love, far beyond those other loves.)
So, for Interview with the Vampire 1×05 to end the way it does…Quite frankly, it’s an impossible twist to swallow. And, much like introducing a sexual assault on Claudia, it serves no real purpose other than shock value. “Here’s a cliffhanger to end your episode on. Make sure to tune in, either immediately on streaming or with us on broadcast next week, for that conclusion!”
The relationship is already unraveling, with plenty of resentment, without the need for overkill. Louis already has plenty of reasons to want to leave, plenty of reasons to (probably) choose Claudia going forward. There have been problems all along, and nobody would ever claim otherwise.
In short, what Louis and Lestat had was never perfect. Not on the page, not in the film, and not on this series. But leaning in, intensely, to the concept of Lestat as an abuser doesn’t work — especially if there are plans to adapt the rest of the books, in which Lestat is the recurring protagonist for whom we’re supposed to root.
Putting “this isn’t faithful” aside for a moment — and make no mistake: it is not — there’s other harm here to consider.
While previous adaptations of this work merely hinted at the romance between these two men, this series promised to deliver on it. And deliver it did…until now. But how do you deliver on a gay male romance, while shoehorning a teenaged “daughter-slash-sister-slash-romantic-rival” into it as some sort of potential choice for one of those men? And then, on top of that, how…how do you lean in to toxicity so hard? How do you leave viewers with this graphic image of an abuser dragging his beloved by the throat, all the while lecturing him on how he’s doing this out of love, how he’s “controlled” his temper and “fought himself” until now?
Then, there’s the declaration of love, laced with all that longing and desperation, mid-air…after all of that? And before dropping Louis from the heavens, straight back down to an earthly hell?
One could almost envision Lestat’s violent attack on Louis as possible, especially given
he Rice once wrote that he didn’t blame Claudia for what she did to him because it was something he might’ve done himself. But. He knows Claudia hated him at the time, and Lestat is…not exactly telling Louis he hates him throughout this entire horror show of a sequence. So, it’s like everything that could justify the act…doesn’t, when you reflect on it.
Rice certainly wrote more than her fair share of questionable and problematic plots. To the extent it was possible, many of us tended to forgive those. But, at least for this reader and viewer, Interview with the Vampire 1×05 has crossed far too many lines.
If we look to Louis as the unreliable narrator, who’s now rewriting his story…this still doesn’t make sense. Earlier in the series, Daniel was upset with Louis for suddenly painting a much more positive picture of Lestat than he initially did. Now, out of nowhere, he’s worse than ever?
Make it make sense.
Is it believable that the situation worsened over the years? Certainly. Would Claudia’s connection to Louis have been a huge part of that? Absolutely. But would it have gone…like this? Even in this version of events? No. It does not, in fact, make narrative sense.
More on Interview with the Vampire 1×05
- “I’m trying to think of something more fucked up than this.” Is this how this episode came about or.
- …weird how Louis had such a feast on this Rashid dude, but he didn’t stumble all around when he got up like the last guy Louis ate in front of Daniel, huh?
- “They will scale the sides of this building, force their way inside, and paint the walls with his blood.” He also knows quite a lot about how harsh the other vampires out there are. But I guess that’s none of my business.
- “I care for him more than he cares for himself.” I can think of exactly three characters in the entire Chronicles who feel that way about Louis…but none of them are human.
- What I’m saying here is I’ve got theories. Still.
- Lestat and his piano. This is a recognizable Brat Prince.
- “Sounds like there’s a maniac on the loose.” And Lestat knows who she is.
- “You wanted her. You fix her!” The most Lestat thing to Lestat.
- “If you could find them — which you won’t — they will shred you to strips. Because you are built like a bird. Because you are a mistake.” Shred her to strips, put her in the sun…whichever. Just do it already. I’m tired.
- That awkward tension as Lestat and Louis get ready for bed on opposite sides of the room is so well done. Those shots of Anderson, in particular, are magic. More of this, less…whatever that last scene was.
- “Once you put it out there, they decide what it is. It can get away from you.”
- “You sound like every pompous Sorbonne student I’ve ever eaten.”
- Using powers against Daniel like that is more of a Lestat thing. That glare said quite a lot after Daniel slapped Louis, though.
- And uh…Rashid, magically able to calm Louis in that state? Hm.
- “It could be her. But I am the one who is presently standing in front of you. And unlike Claudia, I am a full blooded adult. With all the right appendages. So, if my considerable considerables continue to be squandered…” Weird, icky love triangle. No one asked for it.
- Gorgeous shot of the physical distance between the two to show how much they’ve grown apart, as Louis is on the balcony and Lestat is downstairs smoking, though.
- “God never talked back, so…”
- The way Louis doesn’t let go of his sister’s hand until the last second and then just…leaves it out like that. This is the type of pain and anguish we signed up for.
- Hot(?) take: Lestat can enjoy mocking Claudia. He can resent her closeness with Louis, and he can even hate how much he doesn’t *get* her. But shoving that in her face? He’d be more likely to rip the other vampire’s throat out. For what she meant to Louis alone, he would’ve taken it personally.
- “Started with Persia and Babylon, the old Gods who longed for blood…” That is correct!
- The “infant death” line, a direct quote of what we know Lestat called Claudia, in the midst of this awful scene. A slap in the face. (“What a picture he made of her, the infant death, he called her.” 104)
- “I have waited, Louis. I have patiently waited. In vain. For you to love me as I love you. Just say it. Say, ‘Lestat, I am never going to love you.’ It would help me a great deal to hear that from your lips…your quivering, hateful lips.” This is gross and manipulative. And notably, Louis never says what he asks him to?
- “Anything for you” versus “I do everything for Louis.” Well. At least there’s a damning sort of consistency there.
- For all its faults, that last scene was amazing with the non-story elements: the building soundtrack, the debris everywhere, Lestat’s hair blowing in the wind, the acting. Like, does Reid absolutely nail leaning in to Lestat’s monstrous side? Sure. But is it misplaced? Yeah. I didn’t even doubt they’d come to blows, especially over Claudia. Just…not like this.
- So, yeah. Done incredibly well. But it’s still a no from me.
Thoughts on Interview with the Vampire 1×05? Leave us a comment.
Interview with the Vampire airs Sundays at 10/9c on AMC, or you can stream ahead on AMC+.