It’s no secret that the Twilight movies have given vampires a bad rap. Edward Cullen has single-handedly turned the mysterious, sophisticated bloodsuckers of Dracula and Nosferatu into sparkling, romantic wusses. But, in between the suave vampires of old and the compassionate wimps of today, there existed a meaner spirited, in-it-for-themselves creature of the night. Cinema Fearité has already discussed the tribe of nocturnal bloodlusters in Near Dark, but that same year, in 1987, a more popular movie celebrated the evilness of the vampire, and did it with humor as well as horror. That movie was The Lost Boys.
The Lost Boys is about a recently divorced mother named Lucy (Dianne Wiest from Edward Scissorhands) who moves to the town of Santa Carla, California, to get a fresh start on life with her two sons, Michael (Rush’s Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim from Silver Bullet). While exploring their new neighborhood, Michael meets a stunning young woman named Star (Less Than Zero’s Jami Gertz) who, in turn, introduces him to a shady group of youths led by a hood named David (Kiefer Sutherland, who has been in everything from Stand by Me to Pompeii). Michael’s new friends happen to be vampires, and after a little teasing, they turn him into one, too. Meanwhile, at a comic book store, Sam meets the Frog Brothers, Edgar and Alan (Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter’s Corey Feldman and The Blob’s Jamison Newlander, respectively), who claim to be fearless vampire killers, despite their tender young ages and relative lack of experience. The Frog Brothers are all Sam has, however, once he discovers the truth about his own brother, and the boys must band together to destroy the head vampire and save Michael from a life of evil and darkness.
Legendary director Richard Donner (The Omen, Superman) was slated to direct The Lost Boys, but scheduling conflicts with his work on Lethal Weapon forced him to take on a producer role and pass the directorial duties to the equally legendary Joel Schumacher (The Incredible Shrinking Woman, Batman Forever). The screenplay was written by the odd trio of Jeffrey Boam (The Dead Zone), Janice Fischer (“The Golden Girls”), and James Jeremias (his only produced credit), so it’s no surprise that the film is a crazy combination of comedy and horror. What is surprising is how The Lost Boys went on to become a generation defining movie for those viewers who were in high school when it was released.
The hip vampires in The Lost Boys both subvert and reinforce the typical vampire mythos. The film subscribes to many of the normal vampire tropes, like keeping out of the sun, not casting reflections, and having to be invited into homes before they can enter, but it also focuses on different aspects of vampirism. In one famous scene, David causes Michael to hallucinate that he is eating maggots and worms when he is, in fact, only eating regular Chinese rice and noodles. In another scene, Michael is shown trying to control his newly discovered power of flight by floating around outside of Sam’s window in a sequence that, intentionally or not, pays tribute to another revisionist vampire film, Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. The vampires in The Lost Boys are not typical vampires, but The Lost Boys is not a typical vampire movie.
The Lost Boys is neatly divided into two movies, but they occur simultaneously, and they intersect perfectly at the climax. Michael’s story of meeting the vampires and being seduced by them is the horror side of the story, while Sam’s adventures with the Frog Brothers provides the comic relief. Sometimes the comedy outweighs the horror – one of Sam’s classic lines is “my own brother, a goddamn, shit-sucking vampire…you wait until mom finds out!” – but it’s always clear that there’s a horror movie at the root of it all. Like Fright Night or An American Werewolf in London, the comedy only serves to disarm the viewer, setting them up for the scares that will inevitably follow.
There is a lot of star power within the cast of The Lost Boys. The film was the first movie to feature the “Two Coreys,” meaning Corey Feldman and Corey Haim, a cinematic tandem which would carry both actors through the next decade or so. The other leads – Kiefer Sutherland, Jami Gertz, and Jason Patric – were all “it” actors of the era, not quite Brat-Packers but always on the bubble of superstardom. But, superstars aside, there were plenty of other familiar faces in The Lost Boys. Lucy’s father, the boys’ Grandpa, is played by Barnard Hughes from TRON. Lucy’s boss and subsequent love interest, Max, is portrayed by Edward Herrmann (Death Valley). David’s gang of vampires includes Brooke McCarter (Trashin’), Billy Wirth (Body Snatchers), and Alex Winter (Bill S. Preston, Esq. himself from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure), and Chance Michael Borbit (Pumpkinhead) plays a young tribe inductee named Laddie. Even minor-league scream queen Kelly Jo Minter (The People Under the Stairs, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child) shows up in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her appearance (hint: she’s in the video store where Lucy and Max work). Big roles or bit parts, the cast of The Lost Boys is recognizable in all of the best ways.
The music to The Lost Boys is recognizable, too. Most of the soundtrack is made up of modern (for the time) groups covering older songs. For example, the big hit song from the film is an INXS/Jimmy Barnes version of The Easybeats’ “Good Times.” The opening credit sequence is set to an Echo & The Bunnymen performance of The Doors’ “People Are Strange.” Additionally, Roger Daltrey croons through Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” and even Run-DMC’s rap version of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” is included in the film. The soundtrack also helps provide one of the most cheesily iconic moments from the film; during a concert on the boardwalk, muscle-bound saxophone player Timmy Cappello (from Tina Turner’s band) pumps and thrusts his way through The Call’s “I Still Believe” while the crowd in front of him goes nuts. Tongue in cheek or not, the musical selections in The Lost Boys are a huge part of the film’s lasting legacy.
For audiences who were around in the eighties and were able to see it in theaters, The Lost Boys is an important film, but younger viewers are probably not as familiar with it. With a little luck, the new generation will discover the movie, because even without his boys, David could beat the hell out of a whole tribe of Edward Cullens with one fang tied behind his back.