Saturday, July 01, 2017

30 Years of the Lost Boys

The Lost Boys premiered on 27 July 1987 and, not quite thirty years on, on 25th June 2017, my better half took me to Liverpool where we watched the film on the big screen (I had previously seen it on the big screen but, being a Joel Schumacher film, it really does lend itself to that big screen presentation).

The theatre was packed and it was telling that a group of people had come together out of love for a thirty year old film and the event was marked with an obvious level of reverence, everyone concentrating on the screen, not nattering, whispering, checking phones but concentrating on a film that, for most in the screening, will have been part of their growing up. As one the audience anticipated the funny lines, you could feel the group wait to laugh on delivery when knowing it was coming.

Jason Patric as Michael
I think what struck me is the fact that it still has the ability to present something new. Famously there is the poster of Jim Morrison in the Lost Boy’s cave. Also most will remember the line “Holy shit! It's the attack of Eddie Munster!” when Laddie (Chance Michael Corbitt) jumps through a bed with vamp face. I’d never, until this viewing, noticed the poster in the cave for Munster, Go Home!.

Death by stereo
Indeed, there are many genre references. Max’s (Edward Herrmann) video store has a poster for Jim Carrey vehicle Once Bitten. When Michael (Jason Patric) is turning and finds himself floating, ending up outside Sam’s (Corey Haim) window and asking to be allowed in due to their brotherhood we have a lighter, comedic take on Salem’s Lot. It is no coincidence that the Sam and Michael’s mother is called Lucy. The fact that Schumacher keeps Michael in shadow when he climbs the stairs, stalking his brother, would seem to reference Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens. In fact we might draw a line with the "symphony" of Nosferatu to the Lost Boys' place as an "MTV-Movie" (the soundtrack is superb, MTV is directly referred to by Sam and one of the vampires famously suffers “death by stereo”).

a gorier moment
I did briefly think it a shame that the cinema did not think to double-bill this with Near Dark. Katherine Bigelow’s film also hits 30 this year (first showing 12 September 1987 at the Toronto International Film Festival) and many people subscribe to the idea that it lost its way at the box office due to being overshadowed by the Lost Boys. Of course, they are tonally totally different. Whilst the Lost Boys treads a line between horror (with a touch of gore) and comedy with lashings of MTV, Near Dark is a pitch-black production with visceral violence.

Jami Gertz as Star
One thing that the Lost Boys had, which Near Dark certainly did not, was a sense of innocence. Whilst the Lost Boys strayed from the innocence of the namesakes in Peter Pan we do see innocence through the Frogs (Cory Feldman & Jamison Newlander) and Sam – despite Sam’s city savviness and the Frog’s survivalist attitude. It can also be seen, as was pointed out to me, in the fact that the reason the Lost Boys have Star (Jami Gertz) in the fold is likely misogynistically creepy and, of course, she is relegated to a damsel in distress rather than an empowered female character. Yet because that underlying misogynistic story point is implied, but remains unspoken, the film manages to maintain the veneer of innocence.

middle age catches up
In some respects it is a shame that the film spawned two sequels (21 and 23 years on respectively). The second film, Lost Boys – the Tribe, could have been an (at least) average vampire film had it stood its own ground. Rather than that it was a homage to the original, starring Kiefer Sutherland’s half-brother Angus as the vampire, inventing death scenes to deliberately outstrip (it seems) the original and following the general plot principles. What it suggested to me was that the original film stands the test of time, trapped in amber, but the series suffered for being worse for wear – a little like putting the muscle saxophonist from the original (Timmy Cappello) into this, especially given that middle age had certainly caught up with him. Actually the third film, Lost Boys: the thirst, was that little better than the second because it eschewed making a homage and instead focused on expanding the Frogs' story.

Kiefer Sutherland as David
All that said, however, neither film added much to the legacy of the original – which still stands tall on its own merits. It has embedded itself firmly into pop culture. In fact it was one of the most commonly used films for anti-Twilight memes. Most amusingly, to me, was the consistent use in meme of David (Kiefer Sutherland) and the legend “real vampires don’t sparkle”. Amusing because, in some respects, the Lost Boys invented the sparkly vampire, though internally not externally. The fact is that the sfx guys put glitter in the vampire blood, and when the Frogs get covered in vampire blood after killing Marko (Alex Winter) they fair glimmer in the sunlight.

Thanks to Sarah for taking me to see a classic. Credit also to Alternative Movie Posters where I picked up the illustrative movie poster at the head of the article.

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