Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Lost Boys - review

Director: Joel Schumacher

Release Date: 1987

Contains Spoilers

The Lost Boys is one of the most famous vampire movies from the 1980s. Taking its name from Peter Pan the film is a strange hybrid of horror (it still carries an 18 certificate in the UK. EDIT: having written that I've just noticed that my DVD actually rates this at 15, though clearly some of the UK editions carry an 18 certificate!), comedy and teen angst movie. Despite the fact that many of the fashions which appear, especially those worn by Sam (Corey Haim), are both atrocious and dated the film retains that certain something.

It opens with the eerie chorus of the song Cry Little Sister, it is worth noting that the film has a fantastic soundtrack, and then moves onto a boardwalk where David (Keifer Sutherland) and his gang, Paul (Brooke McCarter), Dwayne (Billy Worth) and Marco (Alex Winters) are kicked off a merry-go-round having hassled a group of punks. Later, when the funfair closes we see the guard walking across a deserted car park. Something unseen swoops through the sky towards him. He makes it to his car but is pulled into the air, the car door ripping off as he vanishes.

We then see The Emersons, Lucy (Dianne Wiest) and her sons Sam and Michael (Jason Patric). Lucy is recently divorced and she is moving to Santa Carla (the murder capital of the world as some graffiti tells us) so they can stay with her father; credited through the film as Grandpa (Barnard Hughes).

As the film progresses Michael falls for a girl named Star (Jami Gertz) but she and a young child called Laddie (Chance Michael Corbitt) are with David and his gang and they are, of course, the lost boys. Star and Laddie are not fully initiated vampires and as Michael gets sucked into their world he becomes a half vampire like them.

The film does some interesting things with vampire mythology. Half vampires are sensitive to sunlight, but do not burn like a full vampire, and are drowsy through the day. However they are able to float/fly, are semi-transparent in a mirror and heal quickly. They remain half vampire until they feed and can be cured by the act of destroying the head vampire. In order to destroy the vampires, and save his brother, Sam recruits the help of the Frog brothers, Edgar (Corey Feldman) and Alan (Jamison Newlander). These characters are very much, like Grandpa, comic relief characters but play an important plot role and, unlike many such characters, both work and are amusing.

Other changes that are made to the mythology are the fact that garlic doesn’t affect the vampires and, in the biggest change, standard vampire deterrents do not work if a vampire is invited into your home. This is one of my pet irks about the film but is absolutely plot necessary. It keeps the head vampire’s identity secret and if you don’t want to know turn away now… Still reading… okay, as this is one of the best, failed, do it yourself Van Helsing scenes as the Frogs and Sam try to see if Lucy’s date, Max (Edward Herrmann), is a vampire. Despite their best efforts with garlic (which doesn’t work anyway), holy water spilled in his lap, a test to see if he glows in the dark and a mirror held in front of his face he passes the tests, all because he insisted that Michael invite him in.

The vampires in this can obviously affect human minds. When David is testing Michael before initiating him he causes Michael to see a box of rice as maggots and a box of noodles as worms. The initiation itself is performed by giving Michael a drink of blood that he believes to be wine, despite Star warning him of exactly what it is.

The film itself has some very bloody moments. In one particular scene the lost boys take Michael to observe a beach party and, with the words “Initiation’s over, Michael. Time to join the club!” The vampires reveal their true faces and launch at the revellers. The attack is very bloody (though the worst excesses are hidden in the firelight level of lighting) especially when David bites into a man’s head.

Another particularly gory scene occurs when Michael takes his brother and the Frogs to the lair of the vampires, a cavern that was once a resort hotel until it collapsed into a fault line. The Frogs and Sam find the vampires, perched upside down like bats and stake Marco. The resultant gore is high level. Unfortunately they only get the one. They are attacked by David, but managed to get into the light, burning David’s hand in the process. A nice touch to the scene is the tear that David cries making him seem very much like a boy who is lost rather than the monster and the gang leader he normally appears to be.

The final scenes, a siege in the house, is a rollercoaster of action but I must mention two death scenes. There is the marvellous scene where Dwayne is pinned to a stereo by an arrow through the heart and subsequently explodes as Sam exclaims, “Death by stereo!”

More interesting is the ‘death’ of David, who is thrust onto a set of antlers, reminiscent of the death of Straker in the 1979 ‘Salem’s Lot, and unlike the other vampires he dies peacefully it seems. This is important as the original plan was that David was not actually dead and would return in the scripted but unfilmed sequel The Lost Girls.

The acting is first rate, despite the large number of teen actors and Joel Schumacher is incredibly skilled at pulling together a slick production. Sutherland is superb as the magnetic leader of the lost boys. Special mention must go to Barnard Hughes, however, especially for the crowning glory of lines that appears right at the end of the movie. With the vampires dead and his house a wreck he walks to the refrigerator and gets a root beer out and then declares, “One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach, all the damn vampires.” The line rounds the whole experience of perfectly.

I should also mention that this is the film which gave us the phrase to “vamp out”.

This is a slick, amusing film, born very much of the MTV generation and deserves a strong 8 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


zombiepunk said...

Couldn't agree more. although the mid -80's MTV generation fashions are decidely cringeworthy, the film and its fantastic soundtrack make thias a must-have for any serious vampire film collector, or indeed any fan of horror films in general

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Cheers zombiepunk

I actually quite like the look of the actual lost boys, they have a kind of sub-new romance/goth thing going on. For areally bad looking vampire bike gang you need to check out blood ties and the shrikes!

My main problem with the look came in the form of Sam and Max (who on earth thought such suits were going to remain in fashion?)

zombiepunk said...

those were the outfits i was referring to. any outfits involving leather motorbike jackets and boots is, as you know, pretty much de riguer street wear for me

Anonymous said...

Heh heh, I love that last line.

I need to watch this again. I own a copy on VHS, but haven't seen it in years. I vaguely recall Corey Feldman having some pretty funny lines in this.

The T said...

I really think this filmis overrated. As MTV-ready teen vampire films go, it has its merits. As part of Schumacher's atrocious cannon, it certainly stands out as one of the least awful films he's done. It's entertaining. I guess having seen it in the 80's should help having warm feelings towards it.

Keifer is great though. It's a fun film

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Rose timted glasses are great - and Jami Gertz was/still is a babe.

I actually don't mind a bit of MTV programming - it does what it says on the tin and this had a cracking soundtrack and some great lines.

House of Karnstein said...

a helluva entertaining cracker of a vamper and I'm not embarrassed to say it. I bought the Blu-Ray disc earlier today at Best Buy and I'm watching it tonight! :)

\o |>
/o |>

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Arggh... those Sam eighties fashions in hi-def... I'm joking as I'm jealous - we have yet to go blu-ray in castle Taliesin.

Hope you had a suitably fun watch.