The Lost Boys (1987)

Rating: B

Dir: Joel Schumacher
Star: Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Dianne Wiest, Kiefer Sutherland

Doing some research in advance of viewing this, I discovered it had recently been named the best vampire movie of all time by Empire magazine. This seemed ludicrous, yet having watched it again… Well, while it’s still not an opinion I’d agree with, it’s one I can respect. Despite some elements which have not dated well – Kiefer Sutherland’s hair being the most obvious – it stands the test of time considerably better than you might fear. Once Schumacher gets stuff like shirtless sax guy out of his system, the story and characters are solid enough to overcome the sillier elements. Most of these seem front-loaded, and let’s be honest, there are parts early on which are gayer than a Judy Garland fanfest. 

I mean, the basic concept is a bunch of young, leather clad, pretty boys, who hang out at night. sleep together during the day, and are united by having drunk the bodily fluid of David (Sutherland). Hello! /waves hand flamboyantly. The only woman in the group, Jami Gertz’s Star, is barely tolerated and clearly remains an outsider within the clan. Her admission into it feels like it was some kind of clerical error: either that, or they needed somebody to do the washing-up. The makers could have jacked up the Peter Pan elements (rather than going little further than the movie’s title), called her Wendy, and turned the character into a unwilling den mother. 

Yet, it’s not exactly a sympathetic portrayal of gay culture, despite Schumacher being well-known as an “out” director. David and his gang are highly predatory, their tastes extending to very young boys, as the presence of Laddie shows. One might go so far as to call them groomers. 🙂 Any kind of contact with the Lost Boys is fraught with danger and potentially lethal. It’s not hard to see a bleak metaphor for AIDS, considering this was made not long after the peak of the epidemic in the US, and this was a disease which had very much been on Schumacher’s mind. It’s in sharp contrast to the original concept, when the film was going to be directed by Richard Donner, and possessed a tone much more like his then recent hit, The Goonies, also starring Corey Feldman.

Putting all that to one side, this is still a nicely constructed modernization of the vampire mythology. It would be a good double-bill with Fright Night, which also brings the creatures of the night into suburban, teenage life, yet does so in a more retro way. This is relentlessly contemporary, which does have a disadvantage, in that much of what was hip and fashionable in 1987 is now… um, not so much. However, a lot of it still works, not least a very good soundtrack. Somehow, I never realised the included cover of The Doors’ People are Strange, was by Echo and the Bunnymen. And B.A. Robertson wrote and produced another tune, Power Play by Eddie and The Tide? You can’t get much more eighties than that.

It is more than just its songs, however, with a selection of interesting characters that you want to spend time with. Even David projects a powerful on-screen charisma, courtesy of Sutherland. Easy to see why the two Coreys – ok, you can’t get much more eighties than that! – became a thing too. Though subsequent events, with one now dead and the other borderline deranged, affect this with a certain creepy poignancy. Still, the Frog brothers, played by Feldman and Jamison Newlander, are awesome, delivering with dead-pan sincerity lines such as, “We’re almost certain that ghouls and werewolves occupy high position at City Hall.” When it comes to knowing vampires though, they’re spot on, operating like a pair of teen Van Helsings.

There’s a nice sense of escalation. An aborted attack by the Frogs, Sam Emerson (Haim), his vamped brother Michael (Patric) and Star, leads to reprisal from David and his crew, when night falls, and all hell breaks loose. In line with tradition, they need to kill the head vampire in order to revert the changes. Only, that isn’t quite as easy as it seems – which would be “not very easy” to begin with. Bonus points are, naturally, awarded for the Arizona connection, the Emersons having moved from Phoenix to “Santa Carla”. It’s a thinly-disguised version of Santa Cruz, since the city didn’t appreciate being called “The murder capital of the world.” Guess all the vampires must have subsequently decamped to Tijuana

This review is part of our October 2023 feature, 31 Days of Vampires.

[Original review] This is all over the place. Is it a horror film? A comedy? Teen romance? Homoerotica? A family adventure? It has elements of all these, and a startling lack of consistency in tone, yet some of the individual parts work very well. Two brothers (Haim & Patric) move to Santa Carla with their mother. The older falls in with the local bike-gang, who are vampires when, it would appear, not doing more important things such as getting 1980’s hair-dos or fixing each other’s make-up. So it doesn’t get too overtly gay, there’s Star (Gertz), a proto-vampire who’d really rather not be. The older brother falls in love with her, but his reflection is also vanishing, so it’s up to his sibling – complete with Reform School Girls poster on his bedroom wall – to save the day.

The Peter Pan elements are largely undeveloped, and Haim and Patric are never convincing as brothers. Luckily, the supporting cast is great: their animal-stuffing grandpa (Bernard Hughes) comes close to stealing the show, thanks to his use of window-cleaner as aftershave. However, comic-book geeks Edgar and Alan Frog actually do, thanks to their laconic approach to the situation, and interesting techniques for finding the head honcho (let’s just say the usual rules don’t seem to apply…). This kind of thing, and classic lines like, “My own brother a goddamn, shit-sucking vampire! Oh, you wait ’til Mom finds out, buddy”, ensure that despite inevitably being dated, this one resists the passage of time almost as well as its vampiric characters would.