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The Lost Boys
Tonight's Feature Presentation

THE LOST BOYS (1987)

Starring: Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Dianne Wiest, Jami Gertz

Written By: Janice Fischer, James Jeremias, Jeffrey Boam Directed By: Joel Schumacher

The Short Version

The Lost Boys is not just an iconic horror movie; it’s an iconic 80s movie.

Like its decade, this movie has style.

Sure, there are some flaws in this movie; do you care?

Comedy and horror have rarely mixed more evenly than they do here.

If you haven’t seen The Lost Boys yet, why not?  Go get it!  And the soundtrack, too!


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

CHEESE-COVERED BAKED PRETZEL.

I bet they sell these on Santa Carla’s boardwalk.  A hot, tasty snack, twisted and dripping with cheese and oh-so-yummy. Brings back memories, doesn't it?


Pairs Well With...

VAMPIRE VINEYARDS CABERNET SAUVIGNON.

Yes, it’s a real winery.  No, the wine doesn’t have any of Kiefer Sutherland’s blood in it.  As far as you know.

“Now you know what we are; now you know what you are. You'll never grow old, Michael, and you'll never die. But, you must feed!”


Every generation has its iconic movies.  Crossing all boundaries of genre, they are defined only by time, and their influence unifies even those who didn’t necessarily like said movies.  The point is that everyone who was around at the time saw them, and the only requirement for membership into the club is to have shown up.  The list of titles from the mid-1980s has proved even more iconic than most.  Back to the Future.  Pretty In Pink.  The Breakfast Club.  Top Gun.  And, of course, The Lost Boys.

No one at the time could have realized what impact The Lost Boys would have.  Even the people who made it were and continue to be amazed.  This was a vampire movie made when vampires weren’t “in”.  The young cast was mostly unknown.  Kiefer Sutherland had been around a little, but this was his real breakout role.  The Two Coreys?  That phenomenon also started here.  Sure, the people behind the movie really believed in it, but at the end of the day, a modest success was really the most anyone could have seriously hoped for.

That’s the thing about icons.  You rarely see them coming.  They didn’t see Star Wars or The Matrix for what they were in advance, either.

As you watch and listen to the opening, though, The Lost Boys might give you a clue.

Powerful bass beats drop over an in-motion view through the night sky.  In the distance are the lights of a boardwalk fairground.  The establishing camera shot here is a work of art, and those bass beats serve as the intro to Gerard McMann’s “Cry Little Sister,” one of the most amazing soundtrack pieces to come out of the entire decade.  (Almost predictably, it charted in Europe, but American radio didn’t get the hint, even though the soundtrack album sold well.)  The visual is beyond gorgeous, the camera technique is breathtaking, and the music really sets the tone of the movie.  It sounds simple, but this is easily one of the memorable opening shots of any movie that I’ve ever seen.

The story of The Lost Boys is also deceptively simple.  A newly divorced Mom (Dianne Wiest) and her two sons, Michael and Sam (Jason Patric and Corey Haim), move into a sleepy town, Santa Carla.  (Grandpa’s been nice enough to put them up.)  As the sons start poking around town, they discovered the disturbing fact that it’s the murder capital of the world, and that there have been a disturbing number of disappearances in the area to boot.  Soon after, thanks to chasing after a girl, Star (Jami Gertz), Michael finds himself in the midst of a mysterious group of teenage rebels led by the enigmatic David (Kiefer Sutherland).  After drinking some wine that David’s given him, Michael doesn’t feel so good.  Sensitivity to light, that sort of thing.  It turns out that David and his crew are vampires, and thanks to that wine, which had some of David’s blood in it, Michael’s going to be one soon, too…

As anyone who’s ever watched a vampire movie knows, Michael’s only hope is to kill the master vampire before he himself can finish turning.  For that, he’s going to need help.  That help comes in the form of one of the most memorable duos in vampire movie history: the Frog Brothers, Edgar (Corey Feldman) and Alan (Jamison Newlander).  Combined with Michael’s younger brother Sam, these guys represent most of comic element of The Lost Boys.

From the earliest days of horror films, writers and directors have turned to comic relief.  James Whale, director of the original Frankenstein movie in 1931, felt that a certain amount of comedy was necessary to lighten the load of an overall horror story for the audience, and few have chosen to contradict his viewpoint.  Even so, it has often been argued by critics and audiences that these comic moments, rather than simply lightening the load, have a tendency to actually kill the movies they’re meant to relieve.  Extending this, the true horror-comedy hybrid, though often attempted, rarely works.  One element or the other inevitably dominates, resulting in either a pure horror film with a few jokes or a pure comedy with horror elements.  The Lost Boys is one of those rare movies that manages to successfully walk that tightrope: its pervasive comedy element stands up well, and yet the creepy, stylish horror of the vampire story loses none of its edge in the process.

The Frog Brothers are just plain nuts, but actors’ Rambo-inspired portrayal (thanks to a suggestion from Director Joel Schumacher) makes it all work.  It works because the characters themselves don’t think to laugh at their own jokes, because they don’t know they’ve made them.  They’re just as happy to poke fun at 80s pop culture…

“Just scoping out your civilian wardrobe.”

“Pretty cool, huh?”

“For a fashion victim.”

…as they are to turning pop culture references against the vampires in their midst.

“Just like one big, happy family. Your boys, and my boys.”

“Great!  The Bloodsucking Brady Bunch!”

Only once does this comedy routine ever strike a wrong note: the dinner date sequence wherein the Frog Brothers and Sam have purposely doctored a meal with garlic to try and expose a suspected vampire.  That scene is too far over the top, and feels incredibly forced to the point of being obnoxious. 

But that’s the other thing about icons: people tend to forget their mistakes.  At the end of the day, people just remember that the Frog Brothers are funny.

Just as they remember that David – or more properly, Kiefer Sutherland, since that’s the name that tends to stick more – is scary.

Kiefer Sutherland’s David is without question one of the most memorable vampires in movie history.  This is made all the more remarkable by the fact that he doesn’t have a lot of dialogue.  His memorability comes almost exclusively from the strength of his physical presence and the intensity of his facial expressions.  When Sutherland gives a staredown, he might as well be giving a smackdown.

And yeah, he does look good with the spiky hair and the jacket.  Hey, contrary to what the Frogs say, fashion’s huge in the 80s.  It’s all about style.

But here’s a question for everyone who grew up loving The Lost Boys.  What else do you remember about David, or anyone else in his cadre?  Fashion and physical presence aside, what’s their story?

You don’t know.  I know that you don’t know, because the movie never actually bothers to tell you.  These guys have no backstory aside from the fact that they fell in with a certain other character.  You don’t know how.  You don’t know when.  David could be the 20 years old Kiefer Sutherland really was at the time, or he could be 80.  He has no past.

Does this make the characters thin, or is it a clever extension on the film’s title, which itself refers to the Lost Boys of “Peter Pan” – children who never grow old?  If you never grow old and have an endless future, do you really need the perspective of a past anymore?

Does any of that matter when you’re cooler than the hero?

That’s the other thing about The Lost Boys.  Whether or not he’s ultimately calling the shots, Kiefer Sutherland’s David is the primary villain here, and despite his lack of dialogue, he’s still much more interesting than Jason Patric’s Michael, the primary hero.  Not only isn’t the big hero more compelling than the villain, be he’s not even more interesting than his own side’s supporting cast.  He’s less of a champion than he is a catalyst for the film’s plot and a fashion model for sunglasses.  In theory, he has a damsel in distress to save, but in practice, he’s his own damsel, and that other damsel’s main purpose is to make him interesting.  Sound twisted enough yet?

Again, though, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t even matter that Jason Patric is the least compelling member of the primary cast.  This is the 80s, and style means everything in the 80s.

The style here extends far beyond the cast and what they’re wearing.  Joel Schumacher’s direction is sharp and damn near flawless.  That’s backed up by some of the most incredible cinematography you’ll ever see in a horror film, or any film.  That opening shot was just a taste; the same art is present throughout.  Especially cool is the use of camera perspective to suggest the flight of the evil vampires.  They fly throughout the movie, but until almost the very end, you don’t actually see them do it.  Rather, you see things through their eyes as the camera does the flying.  Also as with the opening sequence, the movie is backed by an excellent soundtrack, both with its lyrical tunes and with its score.  Stylistically, The Lost Boys is pretty much perfect.

But style alone didn’t make The Lost Boys into an icon we all fondly remember, nor is it the only reason we forgive it when it takes a misstep.  We remember that opening; and even the people who didn’t buy the soundtrack and couldn’t come up with Gerard McMann’s name to save their lives still remember where the song is from.  We remember Kiefer Sutherland as the most stylish vampire we’d ever seen, and as a scary one.  We remember the goofy Frog Brothers.  We remember The Two Coreys.  But more than all of this, we remember how The Lost Boys makes us feel, even when many can’t exactly say why.

I remember that The Lost Boys has been fun every single time I’ve seen it.  I remember that The Lost Boys is indeed stylish as Hell’s Own Boutique, and that does count for something.  I remember that ass kicking soundtrack, with “Cry Little Sister” and Echo and the Bunnymen covering the Doors and Roger Daltrey blowing an old Elton John tune out of the water.  This and more I remember, and every time I watch the movie again, I’m pleased to see that my memory has not betrayed me.

Bottom line, whatever flaws it may have, The Lost Boys is one of the truly iconic films of the 1980s, a classic of the vampire genre, and one of the few movies to actually succeed in performing that balancing act between horror and comedy.  If you don’t own it already, get it, and if you don’t already own the soundtrack, get that, too.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, October, 2011


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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