The Hunger

Austin Chronicle


REVIEWED: 11-02-98

In 1897, an Irish theatrical manager by the name of Bram Stoker published Dracula, a fictionalized account of Vlad the Impaler, a 15th--century Wallachian prince in Transylvania whose name most likely speaks to his terrible deeds. Given the darkly romantic nature of Stoker's gothic horror novel, about a suave, blood-sucking seducer, one can only assume the author took liberties with the legend. The better part of a century later, in 1976, a soft-core romance novelist from New Orleans named Anne Rice channeled the intense grief over her daughter's death from leukemia into Interview With the Vampire, an engrossing, highly imaginative contemporary facelift of Dracula. The paradigm shift that occurred in vampire mythology with Rice's ensuing fame and series of sequels, "The Vampire Chronicles," was as marked as the difference between the classic 1931 black and white version of Dracula starring Bela Lugosi and Francis Ford Coppola's stylized, psychedelicized Bram Stoker's Dracula in 1992. The jarring juxtaposition of color aside, Coppola's vivid, sometimes campy and often tedious retelling of Dracula, starring Gary Oldman having a field day in the lead role (as do Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing and Tom Waits as Renfield; Keanu Reeves just stands looking bewildered -- as usual), is by title alone more faithful to Stoker's novel than the original film, and remains one of the few -- if not the only -- modern vampire movie that doesn't use Anne Rice as its standard. The most obvious, again, if not the first film that should credit Rice but does not is 1983's perfume commercial gone goth, The Hunger. Starring Catherine Deneuve as a centuries-old vampire who promises her converts everlasting life/love ("forever"), The Hunger betrays its debt to Rice by using the device unique to the Southern novelist's version of vampire lore: that a victim must first drink from his/her maker before becoming a creature of the night. Actually, post-Rice, vampires are not necessarily slaves to the darkness, nor are they threatened by Christianity. The dead giveaway, however, is that Deneuve's Miriam Blaylock began as an Egyptian queen preying on her slaves -- prime-time Rice. Unfortunately, The Hunger is typically Tony Scott (Top Gun, Days of Thunder) -- more style than substance, and perhaps simply an excuse to get Denueve and Susan Sarandon, Miriam's post-Bowie love, in bed together. The always icy Deneuve as a stone-faced vampire doesn't seem like much of a stretch, but she is one of the better modern blood-suckers.

The always icy Catherine Deneuve as a stone-faced vampire doesn't seem like too much of a stretch, but she is one of the better modern blood-suckers.

Also released in 1987, Near Dark won the critical competition against its contemporary The Lost Boys, but not the commercial one. Director Kathryn Bigelow (Strange Days) has plenty style of her own, as well as a much better script (which she co-wrote), one that evokes Rice continually, particularly in the theme of a wizened soul trapped in a child's body. Like The Lost Boys, the film's use of leather and attitude reeks of rock & roll, with Lance Henriksen as the badass coven leader, Bill Paxton as a gleefully sadistic throat-ripper, and lots of gunplay. At the heart of it all, a young, beautiful Adrian Pasdar and an equally lovely Jenny Wright consummate a wholesome, Midwestern version of vampire love -- as opposed to the Eurotrashy pairing of Deneuve and Bowie in The Hunger. Like that film, Near Darknever utters the word "vampire."

Finally, there's Neil (The Crying Game) Jordan's adaptation of Rice's own Interview With the Vampire, not surprisingly stylish to the extreme, but winged in one fell swoop by the terrible miscasting of Tom Cruise as the vampire Lestat. High gloss, high goth production values, a terrific performance by Kirsten Dunst as nine-year-old vamp Claudia, and a yeoman's effort by Brad Pitt as Rice's Hamlet figure, Louis, but Cruise may just as well be Tom Hanks or George Clooney. That is to say, neither Stoker nor Rice's true vision of some creature lurking in the shadows waits to steal your life in this film. -- Raoul Hernandez

--Raoul Hernandez

Other Films by Tony Scott
Crimson Tide
Enemy of the State

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