The Lost Boys
The ultimate teen vampire movie still washes redder than red, even at 16!
It's always a daunting task returning to a favourite film from childhood. More often than not it's best served by fond remembrance, since revisiting it will almost certainly result in disappointment. Not so, I am delighted to say, with The Lost Boys, Joel Schumacher's second major picture after St. Elmo's Fire. A lovingly remembered classic for many of this reviewer's generation, I'm pleased to say that it still holds up well to scrutiny today. It's the story of two brothers, Michael and Sam Emerson (Jason Patric and Corey Haim) who move with their divorced mother Lucy (Dianne Wiest) to Santa Carla; the seaside town where their grandfather (Barnard Hughes) stays that claims to be the murder capital of the world.
Lucy finds employment at the local video store run by Max (Edward Herrmann), a friendly chap who soon takes a liking to her, and Sam and Michael scope out the local talent along the beachfront. It isn't long before Michael spies Star (Jami Gerz), a young single mother who hangs out with a trouble-making local gang headed by David (Keifer Sutherland). As Michael finds himself gradually drawn into the group, young Sam runs into the 'Frog Brothers'; Edgar (Corey Feldman) and Alan (Jamison Newlander). The two misfits warn Sam to be careful, making the decidedly spurious claim that Santa Carla is crawling with vampires. Initially skeptical to say the least, a series of grisly murders and the wild behaviour of David's gang begin to make Sam and Michael suspect there might just be some truth in the Frog Brother's rantings.
Hailing from a time when teen movies were in their heyday, The Lost Boys is a prime example of 80's drive-in professionalism. As stupendously laughable as the central premise is, the movie works spectacularly well for a number of reasons. Schumacher's direction is spot on for this kind of fare, keeping the pace kinetic with the action and laughs blended in equal measure. As the story progresses, teen dramatics give way to schlock-horror antics of the highest order. About midway in, the movie wisely begins to lean towards the kind of narrative you might find in one of Sam's beloved comic books. Duped into drinking blood and becoming one of the vampires, Michael realises the only way to save him and his family is to destroy the Head Vampire.
Following some very shoddy reasoning, the Frog Brothers come to the conclusion that Max must be the leader, leading to a satisfyingly daft dinner scene where they try their best to lure Max into eating garlic and drinking holy water. Failing to achieve the desired result, they decide the only course of action is to head into the vampire's nest and take the blood-suckers out one by one, nicely setting up the suitably over-the top final act.
The movie culminates in the kind of bloodbath normally associated with a day at the abattoir, the shock value sensibly dampened by some blinding humour courtesy mainly of the Frog Brothers and some cracking one liners. With teen horror movies, it's important to 'off' each bad guy in a suitably unique and inventive way, and The Lost Boys shows exactly how it should be done. Cue an impromptu dip into a bath of holy water, a messy interface with some decorative antler-adorned stuffed animal heads, and the one and only "death by stereo" scene that remains a firm favourite with millions of viewers, myself included.
That the film still works so well today is testimony to everyone involved and the wickedly black humour that courses through it's veins. In many ways Jason Patric is the odd one out, since the dramatic weight of the movie lands squarely on his shoulders. Almost everyone else gets to have a whale of a time, especially Feldman, Haim and Newlander who must have thought Christmas had come early in 1987. Dressed in commando clobber complete with face paint and Uzi-shaped water pistols, the Frog Brothers and their new vampire-slaying recruit are a comical sight to behold, and their presence helps the movie no end. Jami Gerz manages to be slightly annoying, and the presence of her son Laddie (Chance Michael Corbitt) is decidedly irksome, detracting from the flow of the movie rather than providing any kind of emotional grounding. Still, considering their screen time is fortuitously limited it's a minor crime easily overlooked.
Watching a bunch of outcast teenagers coming to terms with their lives has never been so much fun. It was another 6 years before Schumacher made anything this good again (1993's Falling Down), managing to produce such pap as the risible Cousins, the semi-tolerable Flatliners and the downright offensive Julia Roberts vehicle Dying Young inbetween. Thank God he seems to have found his footing again recently with such gems as Tigerland and Phone Booth (let us for now pretend Bad Company doesn't exist). Despite recent acclaim, however, for many twenty-something folks the globe over, The Lost Boys will remain the greatest thing Schumacher ever did, and who am I to disagree?
Craig Disko has sucked 4 out of a possible 5 pints from this movie.
Corey Haim (Sam Emerson)
Keifer Sutherland (David)
Corey Feldman (Edgar Frog)
Jamison Newlander (Alan Frog)
Dianne Wiest (Lucy Emerson)
Edward Herrmann (Max)