THE LOST BOYS, 1987
Directed by: Joel Schumacher
Starring: Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Haim, Jamie Gertz, Corey Feldman, Dianne Wiest, Edward Hermann and Barnard Hughes
Review by Sean McDonald
A recent divorcee and her two sons move to a coastal town in California, where they end up fighting a gang of teenage vampires.
Years before Stephanie Meyer had even an inkling of the teen vampire genre, Joel Schumacher created his own homage to classic vampire lore, setting the action in coastal California. Under the watchful eye of producer Richard Donner – who left the directing reins to focus on Lethal Weapon – the film honed in on the MTV generation and subsequently created one of the most recognised flicks of the 1980s.
From the opening credits, the film is immediately beguiling – as we soar effortlessly over the Santa Carla fairground in orchestration to the theme song, Cry Little Sister. We follow the ever reliable Dianne Wiest and her two sons as they move in with her father in Santa Carla – an area burdened with motorbike gangs and unexplained disappearances (in reference to the film’s title and J.M. Barrie’s fictional characters). One evening at a concert, the oldest son, Michael (played with aplomb by Jason Patric) falls for the endearing Jami Gertz, who hangs around with a group of ‘youthful’ vampires – led by a brash alpha-male, Kiefer Sutherland. Naturally, Michael is ‘initiated’ into the gang and wakes up the next morning, disorientated and sensitive to sunlight…
For the most part, the film concentrates on Patric (with a stylish leather jacket and ray-ban sunglasses) as he tries (and fails) to hide his involuntary transformation into a half-vampire. At the same time, his younger brother (Corey Haim) befriends a cocky pair of vampire-slaying brothers (including Corey Feldman) who offer their expertise and solutions to the problem: a stake through the heart. Refusing to do it, Haim and the brothers settle on an alternative method– identify and kill the head vampire in Santa Carla before Michael succumbs to the thirst. Uh-oh.
The young Patric and Sutherland bring appeal to their roles with the latter, quite literally, chewing on the badboy/antagonist stereotype. The two Coreys, then at the height of their success, handle their parts with swift enthusiasm whilst the Oscar-winning Wiest is criminally underused; though her seemingly minor story arc becomes an important part of the film’s denouement. Heavyweight actor, Barnard Hughes handles his short but eccentric screen time with memorable repercussions and Alex Winter (forever adorned as Bill S. Preston Esq.) shows up as one of Sutherland’s gang members.
Like the original vampire yarns, the film uses plenty of exposition to remind us of the “rules” when it comes to tackling the bloodthirsty undead. The classics such as sunlight, garlic, reflections, etc., are present and implemented to great effect without letting the film fall into satire. The union of horror and comedy also manages to work well: a scene involving Haim singing in a bubble bath while his bloodthirsty brother creeps up the stairs is executed perfectly. Though not as scary or gory as it could have been, Schumacher doesn’t shy away from amping the violence and horror when necessary – take the shocking campfire attack as an undiluted example of the excellent makeup prosthetics.
Albeit, the movie has its share of problems. Jamie Gertz struggles to transcend a manufactured romantic role and the end mano-a-mano showdown comes across as a little camp by today’s standards (unless you’ve seen 2006’s The Covenant). It is also difficult to believe that Dianne Wiest and her family seem to completely overlook the various ‘missing people’ posters that flypaper the streets of the sinister town. However, these faults are minor and like Schumacher’s previous effort, St Elmo’s Fire, the film is effortlessly nostalgic with an amazing soundtrack and eerie score by Thomas Newman (American Beauty).
At the heart of the film, there is no denying its original script and witty dialogue – “As a matter of fact, we’re almost certain that ghouls and werewolves occupy high positions at city hall.” It also offers some innovative visuals such as the dizzying aerial shots, POV camerawork and startling locations (the old hotel hangout and foggy railroad.) The film also sports an array of dreamlike sequences, from Michael’s hazy consumption of the wine and the timeless motorcycle race through the beach. And who can forget the final, if slightly predictable, twist and quotable closing line?
Though not as tongue-in-cheek as Fright Night or as serious as Near Dark, The Lost Boys pulls away as the most memorable with its clever deconstruction of the vampiric mould and adventurous storyline. It just beggars belief that Schumacher would go on to direct Batman and Robin.
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