The Lost Boys (1987)

28 Jan


Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

It’s always fun to see horror movies that use old-school elements and update them into fresh modern entertainments, and “The Lost Boys” represents an appealing, fun look at the definitive vampire stories. This movie has the traditional vampire elements—vampires stalk the night and kill for human blood, and for weapons to fight them off, wooden stakes and holy water always come in handy. Where “The Lost Boys” differs is the teenage outlook. The lost boys in the title are teenage vampires living in Santa Carla, California—they dress like punk rockers, ride through the beach on their motorcycles in the night, and live in a cavern (with a Jim Morrison poster on the wall). They just happen to grow fangs, fly through the air and attack people (and drink their blood).

Oh, and who do they have to lure people into their traps occasionally? They have a “lost girl” who looks stunning while the boys look threatening. The latest person that falls for this is a young man named Michael (Jason Patric). Michael has moved to Santa Carla (which is often referred to as the Murder Capital of the World) with his divorced mother (Dianne Wiest) and younger brother Sam (Corey Haim). While checking out the boardwalk on their first night in town, Michael sees the girl—Star (Jami Gertz)—at a rock concert and follows her until they stop for a chat. It’s then that the Lost Boys—led by David (Kiefer Sutherland)—introduce themselves to Michael and decide to let him join their crowd.

Sam, a comic book geek, visits the local comic store and encounters a pair of brothers who work there—Edgar and Alan Frog (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander). They warn him of vampires swarming Santa Carla and they’re the ones to wipe them out. They give him a special comic titled “Vampires Everywhere.” “Think of it as a survival manual,” one of them tells Sam. “Our number’s on the back, and pray you never need to call us.” This proves to come in handy, as Michael falls in with the Lost Boys after drinking a little wine (which could be blood) and joining in on their bizarre activities (such as clinging on to a railroad bridge while a train passes by). But Michael himself is going through some changes—he sleeps during the day, barely has a reflection, and is starting to crave his brother’s blood. Sam freaks out, “You’re a vampire, Michael! My own brother—a damn bloodsucking vampire! You wait ‘til Mom finds out, buddy!”

This vampire problem is more of a way of Santa Carla’s nuisance, among the weird locals, mainly youths, of the town (most of which we see in an opening montage as The Doors’ “People are Strange” is playing). With that said, who would believe that these teenage punks who dress in leather and spikes could turn out to be vampires? But when they ultimately make themselves known, they mean business. These aren’t teenagers merely having fun—these are vile humanistic beasts that slaughter without mercy, while having fun doing it.

But hey, it’s nothing that some wooden stakes, garlic, and holy water can’t fix, right?

“The Lost Boys” is far from a standard horror film. It has a nice serious-satiric edge that fits nicely with the teenage-vampire-horror elements. The idea of these vampires being teenage punks living in a cavernous hangout (did I mention the Jim Morrison poster?) is fun enough, but then they are found deeper in the caves, hanging from the ceiling while sleeping. “I thought they were supposed to be in coffins.” “That’s what this cave is—one giant coffin.” The funniest parts of the movie are with the Frog brothers, whom Sam of course calls to help kill the vampires and save his brother. These are two teenagers who pretend to be Rambo and have suitable game-faces for going into battle. What’s great about this is that it’s not played for laughs—it’s the way that both young actors play them, as serious as possible, that makes these two characters enjoyable.

But of course, they are just teenage boys fighting vampires. At their crucial point of battle, their lives are actually saved by a dog. How embarrassing for them.

“The Lost Boys” is an immensely entertaining movie with wild ideas, a nice comic edge, and good acting. It’s also great to look at. The movie was photographed in rich, dark colors by Michael Chapman, and as a result, “The Lost Boys” always contains that grimness that should come in a vampire story. The night scenes particularly look fantastic. But that’s not to say the movie doesn’t have its flaws. For one thing, it’s a little overstuffed, especially with elements of Dianne Wiest as Michael and Sam’s unbelievably dim mother (she’s too slow to catch on with the madness), and Ed Hermann as a video store clerk who dates her, and whom Sam believes is the head vampire. Actually, that’s necessary. But then there’s Barnard Hughes playing a caricature of an eccentric Grandpa (“Read the TV Guide, you don’t need a TV”). He’s funny, but at times very distracting.

Of the actors, Corey Haim is very likable as Sam, and displays good comic timing while reacting to most of everything around him. Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander steal the show as the in-over-their-heads Frog brothers. Jason Patric is merely adequate as Michael, but to be fair, I don’t believe the character was written properly. But the real standout is Kiefer Sutherland as David, the leader of the Lost Boys. Sutherland smirks like no other and has a natural menace within him. It’s a strong performance.

The final act of “The Lost Boys” features Michael, Sam, Star, and the Frog Brothers as they fight off the vampires who storm Grandpa’s house while the mother and Grandpa are away. While it is exciting and has its share of awesome and darkly funny moments (they fill a bathtub up with holy water and garlic so that a vampire implodes inside it, damaging the plumbing of the house), I have to wonder if there was some other way this could have gone. Maybe this could’ve taken the direction of a psychological or philosophical look at what it means to be a teenage vampire, for example. But that was just a personal preference. Otherwise, the climax is relatively electrifying and quite fun. And that’s what can be said of the whole movie.

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