It’s easy to look at The Lost Boys from the (relatively) safe confines of the 2020’s and merely proclaim it as a defining, rollicking, 80’s vampire movies that, for all its giant hair, gorgeous leading men and absurdly oiled saxophone players, was always considered the iconic cult classic we’ve always thought it was.
However, while it may seem that it’s legendary status among vampire movies was always without question, it’s actually remarkably easy to forget precisely how innovative the movie is, especially when compared to rival, Regan-era, bloodsucker movie, Fright Night. But where Tom Holland’s fanged flick chose to update the plasma gulping creatures from a caped gentleman in a creaky castle to a dapper bachelor lurking in suburbia, fashion designer turned directorial Batman killer, Joel Schumacher pitched something altogether more audacious.
After a messy divorce, Lucy Emerson and her two sons Michael and Sam are forced to move to the beach front wasteland of Santa Carla, California to stay with her crusty old taxidermist father until she can get back on her feet. As horrified as the boys are with this development, their mood hardly improved by the news that Santa Carla is the murder capital of the world, but this hardly dampens their spirits when they head out that evening to sample the spirited nightlife. While the younger Sam meets the decidedly odd Frog Brothers who runs a local comic book store and Lucy gets a job with kindly video shop owner Max, Michael becomes infatuated by Star, a pretty girl he spots walking the boardwalk and follows her despite literally being told about the murder rate an hour or so earlier. It turns out the Star rides with a quartet of ludicrously fashionable (for the 80’s, anyway) dudes led by the enigmatic David, who first tests Michael and then tries to induct him into his gang with the catch being that under their immense amounts of hair product and chains, they’re actually vampires.
As David’s intolerance to the sun has him sleeping until gone noon and wearing sunglasses indoors like your average, hard-living rock God, Sam notices that the change in his older brother is down to something way more serious than him being merely a teenage lay about. After an altercation between them that sees Michael first try to attack his brother and then accidently levitate out the window, Sam decides it’s time to bring in the big guns in the form of vampire hunter wannabes, the Frog Brothers and they start plotting a way to halt this bloodsucker infestation. Lore states that to remove the curse of a vampire, the head of the pack must be taken out, but in order to save Michael, Star and everyone else, that’s going to prove trickier (and messier) than they thought.
The Lost Boys’ greatest asset is it’s central idea, which proves to be so forehead slappingly simple I’m frankly amazed it took until 1987 for someone to realise it on film. With their flamboyant behavior fueled by inhuman amounts of seductive behaviour, what are vampires but rock stars, seeming forever young and only emerging at night to party harder than humanly possible – on top of this, twin it with the egotistical behaviour of your average, stylish, young adult who has the world at their feet and who genuinely believes they’re going to live forever. With this fact in mind, Keifer Sullivan’s platinum mulleted David and his team of undead bros swagger around the Santa Carla fairgrounds with a predatory look in their eye as they make trouble and stalk around with the confident saunter of Jim Morrison. As concepts go, it’s a fucking masterstroke and one that’s even hammered home by that oh so perfect tag line on the poster “Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire.”, as the cherubic face of Sutherland urges the flawless jaw line of Jason Patric to join their elite group. Even more tellingly, the movie is a smashing commentary on the power of peer pressure as Michael initiations involves playing chicken with cliffs and hanging off railway bridges and all for the privilege of hanging around a garnishing shithole while starting the occasion fight with punks or security guards.
Simply put, it’s genius and years after the fact it’s what powers the movie best even though you get the distinct impression that it was intended as a vehicle for Corey Haim to ply his particular brand of wisecracking kid. With no disrespect to the late actor, despite the odd killer line (“Death by stereo!”), he ends up being one of the least important things in the movie with everyone else’s arc (including Dianne Wiest at her most mumsiest) actually being far more engrossing than him precociously whining about not having access to MTV. Michael’s story has bite (no pun intended), Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander’s Frog Brothers are comedic gold and the vampires are cool as hell despite anyone who isn’t Sutherland barely getting anything close to an arc – even Barnard Hughes’ crusty grandpa ends the movie with a killer line.
It seems weird to think of it now, but these stylistic changes made by Joel Schumacher to how vampires were portrayed where as well received by some horror fans at the time as the glittery vamps of Twilight, with the complaint being that they were too “girly” to be scary (gotta love the 80’s, eh), but time has made that statement seem as incorrect as it is awkward.
Doubling down on his dedication to making all things as stylish as humanly possible, Schumacher also comes armed with Richard Donner as a producer, which leads to a noticable “Goonies-with-gore” feel for the hugely enjoyable finale and a truly exemplary soundtrack featuring the awesomely gothic “Cry Little Sister” by Gerard McMahon and the painfully perfect “People Are Strange” by Echo And The Bunnymen.
Not everything lands, admittedly, with the style-over-substance attitude leaving the final reveal of the head vampire to raise more questions than answers (I wouldn’t say Max being content to run a video store despite being a supernatural predator is the most inspired use of his immortality) and some may be put off by the unassailable wall of unrepentant, 80’s kitsch. But if you can tolerate the sight of an excessively oiled singer gyrating his sculpted physique between blasting out pounding saxophone solos, or accept the fact that it would probably take David and his cronies longer to get dressed than it would to turn Jim Carrey into the Grinch, The Lost Boys is a stone cold classic that still has plenty has plenty of bite.