Vampires are back, but given immortality, can they ever really go away? Last month saw the debut of Peacock’s Vampire Academy; What We Do in the Shadows continues to be one of the best and funniest shows on television. And in the early days of October, three more vampire series in very different flavors crawled out of their coffins and onto the small screen. Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire began Sunday on AMC; “Reginald the Vampire” premiered Wednesday on Syfy; and “Let the Right One In” is out Sunday on AMC.
All have literary or “literary” ancestry. Let the Right One In is from the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist; Reginald the Vampire is derived from Johnny B. Truant’s Fat Vampire series of novels; and Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire adapts, ahem, Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire. Material to turn stories into series, and on the Rice show, to turn its cursed protagonist from a 17th-century slave-owning plantation owner into a 20th-century person of color. (Seems smart.) What explains the vampire’s undying popularity? Unlike many other famous monsters of film land, they have agency and intelligence. They are usually hot and sexy, often sophisticated and well-read. They have their challenges – sunlight, stakes, endless years to fill – but when the sun goes down, they get around; You can mingle, go to a show, run a business, whatever. As characters, they have myriad possibilities, with “vampire” being a category and not, like Frankenstein or King Kong, an individual; and unlike many monsters, they are not particularly pitiable. Or rather, they’re romantic, their particular brand of social aloofness being a catnip for moody teenagers. In the 125 years since Bram Stoker published “Dracula,” and the century since director FW Murnau ripped him off for “Nosferatu,” bloodsucking tales have heaped of tragedy, comedy, arts and exploitation, pure horror and soft porn, Teen romance and cartoons. The undead come in all ages, shapes, sizes, colors, sexes and genders. They’re better and worse people, with vampires who are essentially heroic versus those who are just sociopaths. Broadly speaking, they’re killers, which isn’t a sympathetic trait, although some focus on “deserving” sacrifices – mortals, as any of these new shows will remind you, can be truly horrible people – and others get by on animal blood, though even that can lead to some nasty scenes. My favorite of these shows is Reginald the Vampire, which with its winning combination of comedy, suspense and likable characters feels like a sort of aural counterpart to Syfy’s great Resident Alien and has real feel. Created by Harley Peyton, whose TV career dates back to the original “Twin Peaks,” it focuses on Reginald (Jacob Batalon) manning the counter at Slushy Slack, where he is abused by manager Todd (Aren Buchholz) and a shy man has a crush on colleague Sarah (Emily Haine). He develops a friendship with a client, Maurice (Mandela Van Peebles), who encourages him to ask Sarah out and who we already know is a vampire. In order to save Reginald’s life, he also turns him into a vampire in an emergency. The bad news, but good news, is that vampirism only enhances a human’s natural abilities, so while Reginald will never be super strong or super fast, he does become super smart and develop a mental power that no other vampire in history has ever possessed. There’s an insinuation that his life will be better now that he’s dead, and “Reginald” is keeping it easy – vampires don’t have to kill their victims, Ding, for example, and Reginald is no less cute than he was when he was alive. Maurice, a bit of a rebel, is temperamentally at odds with his snobbish, rule-bound relatives, most notably Angela (Savannah Basley), the regional director of the Midwest Chapter of the Vampire Council of America. They have known each other since the 1970s when he was still mortal and they were campaigning for social justice. “This is not my first revolution,” she told him at the time, but she now adopts the stance that “perfection is what keeps our nation safe,” while Reginald, who, as the title of the book series suggests, is overweight, “Defective, grotesque, and an insult to our purity.” This puts a target on Reginald’s back. Adapted by Rolin Jones and the first product in a deal that spans 18 Rice novels — no surprise AMC has already renewed it for a second season — Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire proposes a sequel/retelling of sorts to Interview With the Vampire”, in which the main characters remain essentially the same while the details and context are adjusted. Eric Bogosian plays Daniel Malloy, the now older version of the unnamed “boy” who lived in San Francisco 49 years earlier, chronicling the life and afterlife of Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson). Here he’s more unruly — you’re not wasting nods of approval to Eric Bogosian — a former drug addict-turned-successful journalist-turned-Parkinsonian. At the beginning of the series, he receives an invitation from Louis, which takes him to a minimalist penthouse in Dubai to “revisit the project that boyish youth prevented us from completing.” As in Rice’s novel, Louis becomes the immortal companion to the vampire Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid), a long-haired Frenchman who has turned up in New Orleans. (The words Louis uses to describe his transformation come directly from Rice: “The blood came first as a dull roar, and then as a pounding, like the pounding of a drum, getting louder and louder, as if some giant being were passing through you dark and strange forest…”) Eventually they will be joined by Claudia (Bailey Bass), more of a tween than the novel’s 5-year-old girl who, unlike Louis – who has qualms about killing harmless strangers – is prone to vampirism like a bat to a bat cave. Almost everything else in the episodes up for review is new or reinvented, and Jones incorporates the idea that Louis’ original narration – which the character dismisses as “a fever dream told to an idiot” – might be unreliable. The story now begins in 1910; Louis, who manages the Family Trust – “funds raised from sugar plantations and the blood of men who looked like my great-grandfather but didn’t have his reputation” – also runs a number of brothels and is of economic importance as a black man. He mingles with patronizing white businessmen and politicians who find him useful as long as he knows his place. (Louis will tell them “Yassuh, suh.”) The new casting allows for lessons in the history of race relations and adds a new wrinkle to the couple’s power dynamic while making the homoerotic subtext explicit: “You could be a lot of things in New.” Orleans, but neither of them was an openly gay Negro.” More of a historical romantic melodrama than a profound tragedy – no sin and more likely to draw viewers in – it’s well done with some good performances and impressive settings. (One reason your story is set in the French Quarter in the early 20th century is that it survived.) There’s as much domestic drama as vampire deals, and the series has a welcome touch of comedy, especially when Claudia comes into the family . There’s also tap dancing and a scene I consider a homage to Back to the Future in which Lestat, sharing a piano bench with Jelly Roll Morton, “improvised the tune for what would later become ‘The Wolverine Blues.’ should .’” What “Let the Right One In,” created by Andrew Hinderaker, retains from its book and film iterations is the friendship between a teased 12-year-old boy and the forever 12-year-old girl who moves in next door. Everything else in this New York City-set version — and there’s plenty more involving detectives, scientists, and drug dealers — is additions and revisions. Here’s the boy Isaiah (Ian Foreman) who enjoys doing magic tricks, which only makes a negative impression on his peer group. His parents are separated; Mother Naomi (Anika Noni Rose) is a police detective busy investigating “a wave of brutal murders” that has swept the city while a powerful new high hits the streets; Father Frank (Ato Essandoh) is with Narcotics Anonymous and hopes to return home. Moving in next door is Mark (Demián Bichir), whom Isaiah and Naomi encounter with a large suitcase that, you guessed it, contains Eleanor (Madison Taylor Baez), his daughter. He finds himself on a decades-old, single-minded, morally-compromised, unworldly quest for a cure for Eleanor’s vampirism, which the show sees as a virus, with the idea that whoever infected her might hold the key to the cure. It doesn’t make absolute medical sense, nor does Mark rush into dangerous situations without doing much, but it’s a fantasy after all. Meanwhile, dying scientist Arthur (Željko Ivanek) has the estranged scientist’s daughter Claire (Grace Gummer), who arrives at the family mansion and lab to find that her brother Peter (Jacob Buster), whom she had thought dead all these years, is a vampire was. Like Mark, perhaps the series’ most tragic figure, Arthur has been trying to cure his child — with science — and wants Claire to take over when he leaves. These seemingly parallel storylines, which are responsible for nearly all of the show’s violent and otherwise over-the-top scenes, will eventually twine around one another. Regardless of the mayhem and creepiness that’s exactly what some will come for, the adult storylines can feel kind of pedestrian and uncooked, especially considering how much screen time they take up. But by maybe letting Eleanor be a normal kid again, you allow them. (She’s about 22 chronologically, but as a character she’s very likely 12, albeit a fat 12.) Still, the show is at its most interesting when the kids are the focus; everyone has what the other needs. Foreman and Baez are real and touching, and it’s easy to invest in their story and keep your fingers crossed for a good outcome. Horror without hope is just horror and you can have it.