The Lost Boys (1987)
The Lost Boys is an excellent vampire film that perfectly reflects the time it was made in. The witty humor, the fearsome horror, and the amazing pop soundtrack create a purely 1980s vampire film with a lot of style. Director Joel Schumacher and executive producer Richard Donner hit it big with this film. It had everything going for it including a solid cast of amazing young talent, and has been a classic of the genre for a quarter of a century. Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire.
After a divorce, Lucy Emerson (Dianne Wiest) moves her two sons, Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim), from Arizona to Santa Carla, California. They move into Grandpa’s place (Barnard Hughes), which is somewhat removed from the lively beachside town. The small family is trying to fit in with their new surroundings, but they’re a little put off considering that Santa Carla is dubbed “the murder capital of the world”. Lucy gets a job at the boardwalk video rental store owned by the kindly Max (Edward Herrmann), Sam meets Edgar (Corey Feldman) & Allen (Jamison Newlander), the Frog Brothers, at the comic book store, and Michael runs into a dangerous pack while chasing after the beautiful Star (Jami Gertz). The pack is led by David (Kiefer Sutherland) who takes Michael on a wild ride into a weird world. What both brothers will gradually come to realized that this boardwalk town is, to quote the Frog Brothers, “a haven for the undead.” Fangs, blood, and creatures of the night come out of the woodwork, and Michael and Sam are directly caught up in it.
This could’ve easily become a cheesy 80s vampire film, but with the brightly shining talent involved, it became a fantastic, fun vampire-filled thrill ride. Kiefer Sutherland’s name speaks for itself. He makes for a charismatic, dangerous, and enthralling villain that easily lures Michael deeper into the darkness. Jason Patric also demonstrates a great, gradual evolution for his character, and shows a very brotherly relationship with Corey Haim. You can definitely see the potential Patric had for later in his career for more dramatically challenging roles with a wide depth of emotion. He plays well off of everyone especially Kiefer and Jami Gertz. She demonstrates a wonderful vulnerability as Star trapped between the vampire world and her love for Michael. Gertz sells the threat of David very well through Star’s own fear, and has seductive chemistry with Jason Patric that is strong and passionate.
Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, and Jamison Newlander bring a sense of fun to the film that gives an extra dynamic to the film. Without them, it’s more a straight vampire horror-love story film, but with them, you get a younger adventurous Goonies type dynamic that brings in a wider audience. Each young actor puts a lot of heart and enthusiasm into their roles. Haim is very light-hearted and easily likable. Feldman and Newlander intentionally play up a gritty Clint Eastwood style archetype which, when put into a pair of young teens who run a comic book store and hunt vampires, it becomes delightfully humorous. The Frog Brothers are a smart highlight in the film which only complement and never dominate this fine ensemble cast.
Dianne Wiest plays a perfect mother to two teenage boys, and an endearing daughter to old Grandpa – which Barnard Hughes plays with a lot of comedic enthusiasm. Edward Herrmann also plays his part very well in an assuming fashion, and is very convincing at the film’s conclusion. As far as the other vamps – they add a lot of life to Kiefer’s gang. They all have the 1980s hair metal look going on which couldn’t be more dead-on perfect for 1987. It’s also cool to see Alex Winter here prior to his Bill & Ted films.
Cinematographer Michael Chapman crafted some awesome imagery throughout the film, but my favorite sequence is definitely the motorcycle chase scene. Beyond just the energizing action aspects of the sequence, it has amazing atmosphere through shadowy lighting and dynamic angles. This makes me wish the sequence lasted longer as well as allowing Lou Gramm’s awesome “Lost in the Shadows” to play longer. Chapman has shot many great films from Taxi Driver to Raging Bull to The Fugitive. He’s proven his talent for powerful imagery time and time again, and there’s no shortage of visual artistry in The Lost Boys.
The soundtrack is flat out amazing. You have excellent tracks from INXS, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Who’s Roger Daltrey, Foreigner’s Lou Gramm, Tina Turner’s saxophonist Tim Cappello, and the haunting theme of “Cry Little Sister” from Gerard McMann. While they are not all original tracks, they do all come together as a cohesive sound that reflects the best qualities of 1987’s popular music. These songs nicely highlight and punctuate numerous scenes in the film greatly, and create a dense, awesome atmosphere for this film. There are so many pop songs in the film that, frankly, they overshadow what fine and ominous work composer Thomas Newman did for The Lost Boys. While there are sequences with full, gorgeous score, his music mainly fills in the blanks as more transitional music or an accompaniment to the lyrical tracks. I definitely do not view that as a negative mark. Mainly utilizing these songs over a score resulted in a great filmmaking style that only makes the film far more entertaining and colorful.
Joel Schumacher shows he has a great depth of talent here despite some of his later critical failures. He balances out the characters and their stories very well as no single story dominates over another. This also results in a very well balance tone between the lighter fare with Sam and the Frog Brothers, and the heavier toned horror and love aspects of Michael’s side of the film. Schumacher really brought out some wonderful performances from a lot of young, eager talent, same he did in the brilliant St. Elmo’s Fire. This is definitely a film one could grow up with from childhood into teenage years to adulthood, and constantly find something that appealed to them. In my late teens, I probably loved the lighter toned material and the straight horror stuff best, but now, many years later, I definitely have a deep appreciation for the sexy and seductive aspects of the film. They are beautifully executed from the acting to the cinematography and editing to the perfect choice of music. It has such a wealth of depth and sensuality that I don’t get enough of in cinema.
Schumacher never allows the horror or dramatic aspects to fall behind the humorous adventure. When all storylines converge, this becomes a very strong horror film with plenty of frights, action, and intense special effects. The showdown between Michael and David is powerfully done in every aspect. The ferocity of their clash is perfect, and is given a very dark and ominous lighting scheme. While the visual effects were quite limited in allowing vampire flight, Schumacher wisely limits the screentime of those effects. They are there only to service their moments in the film, and instead, the scene focuses in on Sutherland and Patric closely. However, the special make-up effects are flat out amazing. The striking and rather iconic vampire designs are realized with great detail and skill. When David reveals that vampiric visage, it is frightening. They look like fierce, vicious creatures that will feast with a smile on their fanged faces. One could definitely see an inspiration here for the vampires of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel with the pronounced, thick foreheads, yellow eyes, and long fangs. It truly is a masterful job that I think is one of the best, most fearsome vampire designs ever put to film.
The only aspect of the movie that maybe a little ill-taken is the very end. The ultimate master vampire is dispatched with in a way that works for the quirky, humorous tone of the film, but many are likely to desire a more dramatic conclusion especially after the Michael and David throwdown being so climactic. It’s a hair splitter. Repeat viewings allow for a fan to enjoy it more, but a first time viewer might be left somewhat unsatisfied. This ending does pay-off something established earlier in the film, but it’s a very subtle setup that one would likely not take lasting notice of if not for this ending. Obviously, I have no desire to spoil anything for those who have not seen the film, and I don’t think this aspect of the film should at all deter you from experiencing an excellent, vibrant, and entertaining vampire flick!
While Joel Schumacher has made some severely maligned films in his career, he has also had a number of incredible films to his credit, and The Lost Boys is absolutely ranked among them. For most anyone, if you say “1980s vampire film,” The Lost Boys is what jumps into their minds, and for exceptionally good reasons. It’s perfectly stylish in all the right ways with excellent performances, a killer soundtrack, and a solid script that balances all its varies tones just right. This film is designed to please on multiple levels, and does so immensely well. This is definitely a classic of the vampire genre that will frighten and amuse you in a very satisfying film experience.