Friday, October 28, 2016

31 Days of Horror- Day 28: The Lost Boys (1987)

(dir. Joel Schumacher)

Warner Bros.
Two brothers move to a new town and discover it has a serious vampire problem.

In the 80s, the vampire movie had mostly fallen out of fashion, likely deemed too archaic in a genre run by mask-clad slashers and the gruesome deaths of sexy teenagers. The vampire, which had ruled so much of horror cinema prior to the 80s, had become too tied to period pieces starring old men with European accents. 1985’s Fright Night found a way to modernize the vampire slightly, but Fright Night was never sexy in the sense of the MTV generation and its vampire was still an older man. The Lost Boys re-purposed the vampire by way of the Peter Pan mythos and gave us youthful vampires with sex appeal whose need to drink blood came secondary to living life dangerously. These vampires, led by Kiefer Sutherland’s iconic David, modernized the vampire by making them rock stars instead of counts, by placing them in sunken hotels instead of castles. There’s a rebel appeal to the vampires of The Lost Boys and the entire movie’s aesthetic revolves around this rebellious idea to bring the appeal of vampirism back into focus for a nascent millennial generation infatuated with never growing up.

The Lost Boys exists under the shadow of Jim Morrison. From the film’s opening featuring “People Are Strange,” the poster of Morrison in the vampires’ lair, and even the look of Michael Emerson shows a reverence to Morrison. The film lacks his poetry, and perhaps even the complexity of his spirit, but there’s a purpose to his specter over the film. The near constant allusions suggest that lives like Morrison’s could have been led longer, eternally even, through vampirism—that Morrison’s zest for life is something unable to be contained by mortality and that only through immortality can greatness be achieved. This idea has an almost subliminal effect on the film’s 80s cool factor but the very idea of it is in juxtaposition with the fact that David and his vampires waste their time in an effort to find thrills, suggesting the film’s real message and theme that it’s mortality that keeps people grounded.

Joel Schumacher gets a bad rap so often that it’s easy to forget how effortlessly entertaining he can make movies when he’s on the right project. So many of his traits and flourishes from wild camera angles, crane shots, flamboyant costumes, and general cheesiness are on display in The Lost Boys and they all make for welcome elements. 60% of what makes The Lost Boys work is its style which could easily lend itself to a musical. In fact, there’s a very musical nature to the film with its heavily detailed locations and set pieces, and a costume design that mixes a wide range of styles and periods. The frequent reprise of Gerard McMann’s excellent “Cry Little Sister” adds to the film’s theatrical element. The other 40% of this film’s appeal is its likable cast. Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, and Jamison Newlander’s side story involving their investigation into the vampires may sharply contrast with addiction metaphor Jason Patric’s Michael faces, yet somehow this blend of more kid-friendly horror aspects within an R-rated, teen/young adult centric movie is what makes the film such an interesting time capsule. The Lost Boys draws a wide circle and thus appeals to diverse range of moviegoers. While this may hamper some of its thematics, The Lost Boys is such an entertaining movie, so defined by the period it was made, that it’s really hard not fall in love with it.

Scare Factor: 1/5 There’s nothing scary about The Lost Boys, but it’s a constantly entertaining slice of 80s pop culture. For fans of vampire mythos it’s also an interesting look at how it changed that particular subgenre and led to the teenage-centric vampire stories that have gotten so much play in the 21st century.


  1. I love The Lost Boys, but haven't watched it in years, even though I own it on DVD. I feel the need to revisit it because, honestly, I never thought about it as deeply as you obviously have. You've given me lots to think about heading into my next viewing. Great job.