CNN

A significant improvement on the 1994 film, “Annie Rice’s Interview with the Vampire” does more than add the late author’s name to the title, ambitiously updating the story, introducing a racial element, and offering plenty of sex and gore. Eager to replace “The Walking Dead,” AMC may have completed an unlikely baton pass from zombies to another type of undead.

Although the outline mirrors Rice’s gothic novels, the series simultaneously expands on them as if it were a sequel of sorts and reinvents certain aspects, all while upping the ante on sex and violence most premium-TV fare occupies. In that sense, it seems that at least AMC+ is designed with linear network AMC in mind.

Jacob Anderson (saying and getting more than Gray Worm in “Game of Thrones”) stars as Louis de Pointe du Lac, telling his story to a now grown-up journalist (Eric Boghossian) whose sarcastic, sarcastic attitude flirts with fangs for memories. seems to be

Meeting in a plague-ravaged future, bringing extra resonance to the story, red meat still exists in flashbacks to Louis’ past, with Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reed), the suave vampire who made him; And then there’s Claudia (Bailey Bass), a slightly older (again) child vampire whose perpetual state of adolescence captures the tragedy of her arc in a slightly different way.

Louie and Lestat meet in New Orleans in the early 1900s, a time and place where such interactions are possible but the racism of the era is clearly expressed and a constant element of the story.

With opening episodes directed by Alan Taylor (“The Sopranos”) and adapted by Rollin Jones (HBO’s “Perry Mason Reimagining”), there’s a palpable tension in Anderson and Reid’s performances, with the former looking sad and scared and confused in the future. , sad and sometimes happy in the past. As framed, there is also an interesting point as to what would motivate him to step out of the shadows to share his story.

The action, when it happens, is fast, bloody and brutal. Yet the series format offers significant latitude as a character study of this incarnation, including the immortal loneliness that would drive Lestat to make himself a companion, and Louis’s subsequent commitment to Claudia, with all the growing pains associated with it. The same goes for fleshing out supporting players like Louie’s mother (Rae Dawn Chong) and sister (Kalyn Coleman), as opposed to just relegating small roles to slaughter.

“Interview with the Vampire” will debut after the final season of “The Walking Dead” begins — in TV terms, an old-fashioned baton pass meant to secure additional sampling to launch a seven-episode opening arc.

Like its ageless characters, “Vampire” may not be worth it for the long haul, though AMC has already announced a second season, a fitting vote of faith based on its wildly promising debut. That’s good news for both viewers and the network, for whom — on the cusp of bidding farewell to its biggest hit — the stakes couldn’t be higher.

“Interview with Annie Rice” premieres October 2 at 10pm ET on AMC and AMC+.

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