Directed by Joel Schumacher
“You’ll never grow old Michael, and you’ll never die.”
So eternal youth is on full display in Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys, a supremely 80s movie about a group of vampires who rule the summer nights at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Well it’s a town called Santa Carla, but having grown up an hour from Santa Cruz it’s hard not to– why didn’t they just call it Santa Cruz? It’s not like they filmed on a street corner here and there. The film opens with and returns to a wide shot of the boardwalk lit up at night like it’s the cinemascope landscape from Lawrence of Arabia.
The film stars many of those familiar 80s actors, from Kiefer Sutherland (Stand By Me) to Corey Feldman (Stand By Me, The Goonies), Corey Haim, Jason Patric and Dianne Wiest. Sutherland is the leader of a vampire gang that rides motorbikes through the Boardwalk, pulls what seem like death-defying stunts and just generally leers at anyone they can’t screw or benefit from. One of these people is Michael (Jason Patric).
Michael and his brother, Sam (Corey Haim) have recently been dragged into town by their mother (Wiest). They pass a welcome sign which is tagged with “murder capital of the world” and soon they discover that vampires are the ones doing all the killing. Their mother can never see what’s going on, and like so many 80s movies which blend together a certain darkness and innocent charm, the kids will have to fight against demonic vampires to save their own lives, on their own.
It seems like every movie Corey Feldman is in involves children who must fend for themselves. Here Feldman plays one of two comic book junkies who know all about the vampires. They take Sam in under their wing and are eager to fight back once Sam reveals that Michael has become a vampire. That actually happens pretty quickly into the movie once he’s seduced, by proxy, by Kiefer and the gang.
It’s kids out to save the world, and the final boss here is one of the only adults to participate in the A plot. The vampires and hidden lairs are all just sparkly set dressing to a story that is really just about kids on their own. The adults are simply ignorant until they become outright antagonistic. Not all adults, of course, but the ones who have any significant contribution to the plot.
There’s something here about the ways adults view teenagers. The vampires are no different than any other rough and tumble gang of outsiders, maybe even The Outsiders. Them being vampires is just a way of emphasizing how alien they are to the rest of the social structure, and it highlights, perhaps, that certain people will never understand them and in the case of this movie don’t bother to understand them.
I guess I mean that in terms of how the story came to be, more so than within the context of the story. The Lost Boys was apparently written by three people: Jan Fischer, James Jeremias and Jeffrey Boam. Fischer and Boam were 40 and 41, respectively, when the film was released. They were middle-aged, in other words, when they wrote the story, youngish but noticeably older than the characters they were writing.
So The Lost Boys is a fascinating little anecdote on the ways it seems adults viewed teenagers at this time. They’re aliens, vampires, bloodsuckers, soulless and dazzling with nothing better to do than lick lollipops, ride roller coasters and race their motorbikes across the beach. It’s kind of hysterical, this perspective of youth culture.
The film is formulaic and predictable, but there are many amusing, even tender moments within all of this. None of the characters transcend the various archetypes and cliches they’re meant to embody, but there’s still something kind of fun about it all. It’s as if the story idea was conceived by someone jaded, and then the dialogue and individual moments were crafted by an optimist.
Many of the individual moments stand about simply because they feel creative and unexpected, even as they lead down a path we can see from a mile away. Moments like this include the comic book junkies stealing holy water ahead of their vampire showdown and the final line of the film, one that (don’t fight me) rivaled the final line of Some Like It Hot (1959).
One other noteworthy spectacle of a scene, if only because of how it seems to capture the energy of 80s movies, involves the “lost boys” getting ready to feast on a bunch of humans around a bonfire while Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” blasts on the soundtrack. It’s a moment that underscores perhaps some of that jaded quality of the story as a whole, that these aren’t just vampires out here to survive. No, their goal is something more comically malicious, with no origin or motivation. They’re just bad.
Up Next: Halloween (2018), In the Heat of the Night (1967), Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2011)