If you’re going to be the quintessential anything, you have to cover every base that defines your goal. The Lost Boys is considered by many to be the quintessential modern vampire movie. Does it earn the title? Let’s dive in and see.
Modern American cinema intended for a broad audience needs several key ingredients. An attractive lead, some sexual tension, a hint of comedy and a compelling villain are all must-haves. Unhealthy fascination with a fetish, quotability and a killer soundtrack always help. The Lost Boys has all of these ingredients and more. Jason Patric fills the lead role as Michael Emerson, freshly transplanted with his family from Phoenix to Santa Carla, California. He soon develops a fascination with Star (Jami Gertz) who leads him into contact with a vampire pack that has been cruising the boardwalk and picking off victims.
The pack is led by the treacherous vampire, David. David takes no time at all before seeing Michael’s potential as a member of the pack and soon introduces Michael to the dark life of the undead. While Michael’s dark transition encompasses the serious side of The Lost Boys, Sam and the Frog Brothers handle the comedy. Corey Haim, Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander are the younger, vampire hunting counterpunch to the pack. The trio provide the comic punch, in addition to spearheading the effort to reclaim Michael’s soul.
Soon, the younger boys gather their arsenal to take out the pack and its surprising head vampire. On a hunch, the boys ambush dinner to find out if local video store owner Max is, in fact, the head vampire. Garlic, cold water and candlelight make for one of the film’s funnier highlights. In the end, it’s vampire and vampire hunter together in an effort to overcome the darkness haunting Santa Carla.
Kiefer Sutherland is the perfect blend of temptation and intimidation as David. His dark, leather-clad villain is evil, cool and obsessed with his potential protégé’. David is everything Lestat should have been in Interview with a Vampire. Sutherland plays him as the undead equivalent of Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty in “Blade Runner.” Patric plays Michael’s panic and terror well and has never filled a role as well since. Haim has one of the film’s most difficult tasks; balancing the laughs of a comic book geek and the unadulterated fear of a boy on the brink of losing the brother he idolizes.
Joel Schumacher directs The Lost Boys as a brilliant dichotomy between light and darkness. There’s never an overcast day in Schumacher’s Santa Carla, just as there’s never a well-lit night scene once the vampires leave the boardwalk. Schumacher uses airborne camera shots to add to the high-flying, fun-loving mystique of the vampires the way that Sam Raimi used the same shots to make spirits more threatening in The Evil Dead series. Veteran executive producer Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon, Maverick) made sure the film carried his trademark mix of comedy and action.
The Lost Boys soundtrack contains memorable tracks, including Lou Gramm’s title track, Gerald McCann’s “Cry Little Sister” and Echo and the Bunnymen’s cover of The Doors’ “People are Strange.” Greg Cannom’s visual effects team make the vampires visually imposing and cool at the same time. The fangs and contact lenses never make the vampires too inhuman to take away from the film.
The vampires in The Lost Boys are rock stars, pure and simple. They’re the coolest of the cool, with a James Dean sexuality and a tongue-in-cheek intelligence. The film blended talent behind and in front of the camera that has rarely been repeated since. It remains the ultimate blend of supernatural thriller, coming-of-age evolution and popcorn bucket full of laughs.
The Lost Boys is followed by The Lost Boys: The Tribe (2008) and Lost Boys 3, planned for 2010.
Back to the original question; is The Lost Boys the quintessential vampire movie? Vampire lore is far too broad to accomplish such a feat with a single film. To many, vampires represent horror; pure, cold horror. In this endeavor, a film such as Nosferatu may hit the mark with more accuracy. Mix fright with lust and the ultra-cool vibe associated with vampires through outlets like Anne Rice and White Wolf, and maybe The Lost Boys is that film. Mix sex appeal with equal parts horror, comedy and excitement and you’ve got the recipe for The Lost Boys…the quintessential modern vampire movie.
The film hit the big screen in 1987 and was released on VHS soon after and on DVD in 1998. Warner Brothers released a special two-disc version in 2004. Extras on the two-disc version include commentary by Schumacher, additional scenes and several featurettes. The Lost Boys: A Retrospective Documentary, The Return of Sam and the Frog Brothers, Vamping Out, Inside the Vampire’s Cave, The Vampires Photo Gallery and an interactive World of Vampires map fill disc two.
Notes from the extras: Schumacher originally received a script where the Lost Boys was a film with a much younger cast. He pushed hard for the characters to be in their late teens to make the movie sexier and more interesting. The film was Sutherland’s second, following “Stand By Me”. Patric refused to do the film for almost six weeks, fearing it was an exploitation flick. Corey Haim is really trying to hold on to the fame and looks he had twenty years later. Feldman’s performance was inspired by the Rambo and Chuck Norris films upon direction by Schumacher.
Michael Chapman, the director of photography, shot Taxi Driver and Raging Bull before his role on The Lost Boys. Donner and Schumacher approached the vampire with the same mantra; the film was a horror movie and a comedy. As usual, the missing scenes are best left missing.