Streaming services, cable TV and Primetime television are fighting for your viewership now more than ever. UNBINGED is here to help you weed through it all, with reviews of the latest shows that highlight what we love, what we hate and what we love to hate-watch, too. ‘Tis the season to be spooky, and this year, networks and streaming services are doubling down on vampires as the “it” monster of the season. After success with What We Do In The Shadows, the vamp tales for American Horror Story, Midnight Mass, Legacies, The Originals, and First Kill, just to name a few, more and more heavy hitters want a bite of the blood-soaked pie. This time around, they are going fangs out with properties that have already seen the light of day as books and movies: Vampire Academy, Interview with the Vampire and Let the Right One in. Will they rise again on TV? We sink our fangs into each.
Interview with the Vampire (AMC)
Meet Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson). Beautiful. Rich. And young. Forever young. And quite dead. Many years ago, a young man had the chance to interview Louis about his unique circumstances, but he screwed it up when his addiction got the upper hand. Now 50 years later, the “boy” (Eric Bogosian) has a second chance at the interview he was destined to write…
AMC’s Interview with the Vampire might have die-hard fans on edge with its deviations from the original text, but please, do not fear. The changes might be somewhat drastic, they are necessary to revamp the problematic vamp tale for the modern age. The adjustments also add a surprising amount of depth to both the story and its players.
While not for everyone, this version of Rice’s gothic bible is clever in its modifications, reversing issues that can best be deemed as thorny when viewed through the lens of modern culture. No longer a plantation owner, Louis is now a pimp whose world is destroyed after his “touched” brother takes his own life. In an effort to escape the pain, Louis falls into the awaiting arms of Lestat, now his lover. Together, the two raise hell, and eventually Claudia (Baily Bass), their vampiric child, now a teen rather than the precarious child she was in the book.
As an interview is only as good as its subject, this Interview is only as good as its performers, who are outstanding. In the original novel, Louis was a prototype for the mopey vampire that goth culture would later cling to an archetype. In this version, Anderson plays Louis as a monster with a story to tell and a determination to be heard. He removes any fallibility that might be in the character’s nature and by doing so, makes him all the more interesting.
But the good news here for Rice fans is that this is the best portrayal of Lestat they have ever received as Sam Reid breathes life into the French fop with fangs. Meanwhile, Bogosian holds the pace of the show steady while keeping the events set in reality.
Interview with the Vampire might go a little AWOL from Rice’s original work, but the changes help the story, and more importantly, they needed to happen. In the end, the narrative is enriched and helps evolve the characters beyond the brooding woe-is-me cliche that time has made of the paperback bloodsuckers. Though the series is not for everyone, Rice fans, vamp connoisseurs, and those looking for a good LBGTQ+ romance will find much to drink in.
Let The Right One In (Showtime)
Eleanor (Madison Taylor Baez) is a 12-year-old girl who needs constant care for the rest of her life because she is destined to stay a 12-year-old girl for the rest of her life. With wants and needs beyond the pale and cravings and yearnings that can lead to precarious situations, she’s a problem that any parent would dread. How would you solve it?
In the case of her father Mark (Demian Bichir), the answer is: become a slave to her every need. But for young Isaiah Cole (Ian Foreman), the girl is a figure of mystery and wonder– a possible friend who seems of similar age. A playmate. And eventually, a hero.
Showtime’s Let the Right One In is the third adaptation of the critically-acclaimed novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist. The 2008 film was nothing short of a masterpiece, while the Americanized 2010’s Let Me In was an entertaining but imperfect version of the vampire story.
Unlike previous versions, the series does not solely focus on the friendship between a vampiric “child” and a lonely little boy, but instead shares screen time to focus on the story of her heroic protector, a man who was originally somewhat evil in the novel. Now the duo partake in “wholesome” vampiric father-daughter outings…if one counts hunting drug addicts stricken with vampirism as wholesome activities.
In the series, Eleanor’s vampiric nature is now perceived as more of an “affliction” that can be cured, thus giving both Eleanor and Mark a new objective that was absent in both the book and the movies. Though it does give the story a new perspective and longevity enabling a series, it subverts some of the deeper meaning and weight of the original text.
But in the end, the series is a win for Showtime thanks to the powerful performances from Bichir and Baez, as well as Cole and Anika None Rose, who plays Isaiah’s mother, a police detective who discovers an uptick in homicides in her fair city. Though the story doesn’t reflect the brilliance of the novel or the original film, it has a fresh originality, a dark subtext with a bit of bite, and one hell of a cast.
Vampire Academy (Peacock)
Two years after Bella started mooning over a portentous 200-year-old high school student in Twilight, it became clear that moody monsters and temperamental teens made for big business. Thus Richelle Mead offered a whole school filled with fangs with The Vampire Academy books.
In 2014, a misguided effort to franchise Mead’s teen monster mash for the big screen flopped in a big way, as the film version attempted to compress the densely-packed story of the Dhampirs and the Morois into a popcorn pic.
Now almost a decade later, Peacock has resurrected the Academy, giving the story enough episodes to properly spread its wings. But will it help? The answer: only if you’re already a fan and/or open to uber-complicated supernatural world building.
There is no way around it. Vampire Academy is a very convoluted story that is difficult to latch onto unless you are already a fan of the book series (or of intricate creature features). It is broken up into the following: Morio vampires, the ruling class of vamps who hold the power; the Dhampirs, their guardians who are half-Moroi, half-human; and the Strigoi, the Deatheaters of this world.
In the series, we follow Vasilisa “Lissa” Dragomir (Daniela Nieves) and Rosemarie “Rose” Hathaway (Sisi Stringer), two besties who also happen to be a Moroi princess and her Dhampir. The two attend St. Vladimir’s Academy, the aforementioned Vampire Academy, where guardians learn to guard while the Moroi drink blood in impressively large dorm rooms while adorned in cocktail attire.
One tragic evening, Lissa’s family is killed in a car accident. As Lissa mourns, Rose trains and awaits for her friend’s return to the Academy to rejoin the fold. Together, the two face new political structures, power struggles, and romantic entanglements as Lissa must hold up her family name as the end of her line.
For the unindoctrinated, the mythos is…a lot. It’s a tremendous amount of information to retain for what is essentially a horny version of Monster High. For those who make the effort, the lore of Vampire Academy does begin to take hold, and like other entangled fantasy shows, it should nab steadfast viewers who pay careful attention to everything and have a deep-seated love for vampiric drama set in Oregon. Nothing about Peacock’s Vampire Academy is casual viewing. It requires your full commitment. But those who miss vampy, campy romances set on cloudy days with overwrought politics will probably be seduced.