The Lost Boys was the first real horror film I saw in a movie theater. I was 13-years-old when it came out and I can still remember clipping the newspaper review from my local paper. In many ways, The Lost Boys was the perfect introduction to horror and vampires for a kid growing up in the 1980’s. Released on July 31st, 1987, The Lost Boys boasted a cast of ‘Brat Packers’, an MTV rock-infused soundtrack, and a hip twist on vampire mythology.
Schumacher Spins a Fun, Updated Vampire Mythology
Today, director Joel Schumacher is largely reviled by filmgoers as the man who ruined Batman until Christopher Nolan saved the franchise. But before Batman & Robin, Schumacher had put together a fairly successful filmography that included Flatliners and Falling Down. Working from a screenplay by Jan Fischer, James Jeremias, and Jeffrey Boam, Schumacher delivered a lively vampire film that shook off the cobwebs from the grimly serious Hollywood vampire mythology. Prior to The Lost Boys, vampire films had begun to feel somewhat dated and had been supplanted in box office horror films by masked psycho killers.
Prior to The Lost Boys, vampire films felt somewhat dated and had been supplanted in box office horror films by masked psycho killers.
Along with its cast of up-and-coming young stars that included Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric, Jamie Gertz, and ‘The Corey’s’ (Corey Haim, Corey Feldman), The Lost Boys gave vampires an 80’s makeover. Forget about the Gothic roots of vampires from Hammer Horror and Universal Studios. The Lost Boys injected some fun and a ‘coolness’ factor into vampire mythology with its teen vamps. These weren’t tortured souls sulking in the shadows and, no , they didn’t sparkle either. Kiefer Sutherland’s ‘David’ and his vampire pack were hip, motorcycle-riding rebels living in an abandoned hotel with a giant Jim Morrison poster in the background. Like the film’s tagline boasted, ‘they slept all day, and partied all night.’ It was a direction that made the vampire instantly more appealing to its young target audience in the 1980’s.
You Will Never Be As Cool as ‘Sax Man’
Back in the 1980’s, MTV actually played music videos – it was kind of their ‘bread and butter’ at the time. Arguably, by 1987, MTV had hit its stride as a cultural touchstone for youth in the era. Not surprisingly then, a big part of the success of The Lost Boys was its MTV-sensibilities, both in its pacing and editing, but also reflected by its soundtrack.
Big movies in the 1980’s had to have a killer soundtrack to accompany the film (e.g., Footloose, Top Gun). While not quite as epic as the Top Gun soundtrack, The Lost Boys soundtrack boasted some great rock songs including a couple of tracks from INXS, a cool cover version of The Doors’ ‘People are Strange’ by Echo and the Bunnymen, and Gerard McMann’s appropriately creepy ‘Cry Little Sister’. Marilyn Manson recently released an excellent cover version of The Lost Boys theme, so I know I am not the only one who totally loved this song. Besides, you’ll never be as cool as ‘Sax Man’ from The Lost Boys.
A Wickedly Fun Blend of Horror and Comedy
Juxtaposing horror and comedy is a tricky balance. The 1980’s saw its share of successful absurdist horror-comedy features including The Evil Dead, Re-Animator, and Return of the Living Dead. The Lost Boys doesn’t fall into the category of absurdist horror-comedy like Re-Animator; it was and remains a much more mainstream film. The humour in The Lost Boys is more in align with its box office sensibilities and, as such, tends to be more focused on snappy one-liner’s.
But much of the humour plants both feet successfully, giving The Lost Boys a sense of wild, escapist fun missing from most vampire films.
Most of the film’s humour is delivered courtesy of The Frog Brothers (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newslander), the inept teen ‘vampire slayers’. Admittedly, a lot of the humour in The Lost Boys is a bit ‘hit and miss’. Some of the one-liners are probably more likely to elicit some groans today. References to ‘Eddie Munster’ and ‘the blood-sucking Brady Bunch’ probably haven’t aged well. But much of the humour plants both feet successfully, giving The Lost Boys a sense of wild, escapist fun missing from most vampire films.
This humour is also well balanced with The Lost Boys’ more traditional horror elements. Schumacher puts together several inspired vampire moments. Working well with the special effects available at the time, Schumacher’s vampire attacks wisely choose to not show the creatures in flight and the end result is much more suspenseful. Michael’s initiation into David’s ‘pack’ is a clever blending of teen rebelliousness and monster imagery. The beach attack on the ‘surf nazis’ offers some grisly fun and remains one of the better uses of rock music in horror. Perhaps the best illustration of the balance of humour and horror comes in The Lost Boys’ climatic showdown with Sam and The Frog Brothers delivering some levity, while Michael and David’s confrontations gets the dramatic heft it deserved. To date, Kiefer Sutherland’s ‘David’ remains one of the better cinematic vampire incarnations.
The Lost Boys Remains a Fun Horror Film For New Audiences
Last fall, I let my boys watch The Lost Boys before Halloween to give them an introduction to horror films. While some of the 80’s fashion prompted some unintentional laughs, they loved the movie and asked to watch it again. I’ve been re-watching The Lost Boys for years now, and it’s not just the nostalgia that keeps me coming back. The Lost Boys remains a fun, scary movie that never takes itself too seriously. It’s the rare older horror film that I would recommend to even more casual horror fans.