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`Interview With the Vampire': Ghoulish Film With a Morbid Bite

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HORRORS! A new generation of movie monsters is stalking the screen - or rather an old generation, since most of the currently popular creatures come from the same venerable lineage as the original Count Dracula and Baron Frankenstein, whose exploits have spanned many hits, flops, remakes, and sequels dating back to the early decades of film.

``Interview With the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles,'' based on the first volume in novelist Anne Rice's best-selling series, comes hot on the heels of ``Mary Shelley's Frankenstein,'' directed by Kenneth Branagh with a manic energy that breathes new life into the old story. Both movies are clearly inspired by ``Bram Stoker's Dracula, directed two years ago by Francis Ford Coppola and still the best entry in the 1990s horror sweepstakes.

In terms of old-fashioned gothic horror, ``Interview With the Vampire'' is the creepiest of the three pictures. Coppola and Branagh load their movies with the free-flowing gore that's a staple of the genre, but distract our attention with cinematic stunts having more Tinseltown than Transylvania about them.

By contrast, ``Vampire'' director Neil Jordan plunges us into a dark-toned abyss of predatory evil, revenge, and misogyny, creating a persistently morbid atmosphere that's relieved only by an occasional outburst of unexpected camp. You may chuckle when the centuries-old antihero decides to take in a few movies, or when the story's final shockeroo is accompanied by a blast of cleverly chosen rock and roll. But you may feel outrage rather than cinematic chills when you notice how vicious the picture is toward women.

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