Few better ‘gateway’ horror movies exist than The Lost Boys. By ‘gateway horror’, of course, The Lost Boys was the perfect introduction to horror for early teens. It’s also a nearly perfect time capsule, warts and all, for the decade in which it was released. From its ‘Brat Pack’ casting to its MTV rock-infused soundtrack, it immediately wears the decade on its sleeve. Fortunately, director Joel Schumacher’s horror comedy doesn’t feel dated despite its 80s roots. To date, it remains one of the best vampire movies made – a commercial and critical success that hasn’t lost its bite after 35 years.
The Lost Boys Put a Fun 80s-Flavored Spin on Vampire Mythology
Today, filmgoers – particularly comic book fans – hold director Joel Schumacher in pretty low regard. After all, he’s the man who ruined Batman until Christopher Nolan saved the franchise. But before Batman & Robin, Schumacher had assembled a filmography that included Flatliners and Falling Down. With The Lost Boys, Schumacher delivered a vampire movie that shook off the cobwebs from the contrived Hollywood vampire mythology. By the 1980’s, vampire films felt dated and had been supplanted at the box office by masked psycho killers.
By the 1980’s vampire films felt dated and had been supplanted at the box office 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. On the contrary, Kiefer Sutherland’s ‘David’ and his vampire pack were hip, motorcycle-riding rebels. The lived n an abandoned hotel with a giant Jim Morrison poster in the background. Just like it’s tagline, ‘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.
The Lost Boys Was Cool Blend of 80s Pop Culture, Comedy, and Horror
One thing that makes The Lost Boys a standout effort after 35 years is Schumacher’s blending of the comedy and horror with 80s pop culture. That is, Schumacher confidently transplants the vampire from the Gothic era of Hammer Films into the neon world of 80s California. Though it’s hard to believe today, in the 1980’s, MTV played music videos. 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. While not quite as epic as the Top Gun soundtrack, The Lost Boys soundtrack boasted some great rock songs. It included a couple of INXS tracks, a cool cover version of The Doors’ ‘People are Strange’ by Echo and the Bunnymen, and Gerard McMann’s appropriately creepy ‘Cry Little Sister’.
References to ‘Eddie Munster’ and ‘the blood-sucking Brady Bunch’ probably haven’t aged well.
Aside from its high pop culture I.Q., Schumacher expertly juxtaposed horror and comedy. The Lost Boys never slips into the more absurdist horror-comedy of The Evil Dead or Return of the Living Dead. No, a more mainstream effort, The Lost Boys focused on hip, snappy one-liner’s. Most of the humour comes courtesy of The Frog Brothers (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newslander), the inept teen ‘vampire slayers’. Admittedly, much of this humour is a bit ‘hit and miss’. Like the neon-80s clothes, some of the one-liners are groanworthy now. 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 horror-comedy a sense of wild, escapist fun missing from most vampire films.
Schumacher Balances His Humor With More Traditional Horror
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 available special effects, Schumacher never overexposes his vampires. Michael’s initiation into David’s ‘pack’ is a clever blending of teen rebelliousness and monster imagery. Moreover, the beach attack on the ‘surf nazis’ offers some grisly fun. It’s also 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
Though its 80s fashion may prompt unintentional laughs from younger audiences, The Lost Boys’ staying power isn’t stuck in nostalgia. From its quick pacing to the apt balance between humor and genuine horror, Schumacher re-imagined the vampire for a modern era without discarding what made the creature terrifying for years. The Lost Boys remains a fun, scary movie that never takes itself too seriously. To date, it’s the rare older horror film that I would recommend to even casual horror fans.