The vampire story is a firm favourite of Hollywood and with good reason. The vampire is a creature with two opposing sides to its nature. On the downside you have the terrible hunger for human blood coupled with the inability to ever see the daylight again and the hollow existence that comes from never having the release of death that mortals eventually enjoy. Contrary to that is eternal youth and the twisted promise that immortality offers of never having to die, served up with increased physical strength and an innate sensuality, beauty even. However, that sense of beauty can also be a failing, as beauty is in the eye of the beholder and no-one beholding a dude with a haircut given to him in 1985 is going to think it’s beautiful.
The Lost Boys (1987) is set in the fictional California seaside resort of Santa Carla where recent divorcee Lucy and her two sons, Michael and his younger brother Sam, move in with her father in order to put their lives back together. Santa Carla is a dump, filled with aging hippies, drugged up surfers, bikers, and an assortment of other ne’er do wells, and is considered to be the murder capital of the world, with an incredibly high number of people missing from the area.
Sam and Michael try to settle into life by the beach, Sam finding solace in a comic book store and Michael following wherever his hormones lead him. Of course, they lead him into trouble as he chases after some floozy he takes a fancy to who is in fact the main squeeze of David, the leader of a gang of local rowdies. Michael, being full of bravado and utterly absent of any brains, challenges David who starts to take a liking to Michael and his manly charms. David and his gang show Mike to their secret clubhouse, an old hotel that fell into a hole in the ground during an earthquake, and introduce him to their slightly off-beat way of life.
Meanwhile, Sam has made some new friends, the two boys who run the comic shop, the most excellently named Edgar & Alan Frog. The Frog brothers don’t seem to be great friends with reality as they issue Sam all sorts of dire warnings about the presence of vampires in Santa Carla. Dismissing their claims as nonsense, Sam goes on about his business.
Michael and Sam’s mother manages to find work in a video shop (remember them?) where her new boss, the snappy dresser Max, fancies the arse off her. Lucy and Max try to get together on a couple of occasions but each time their date is ruined by Sam who has started to believe what the Frog brothers are telling him as he discovers that Michael really has fallen in with the wrong crowd in Santa Carla.
At its most basic, The Lost Boys is about vampires, but as the name implies it’s also about not growing up, though in this case literally thanks to the immortality part of the deal. Like Peter Pan, the characters in the film live in a (run-down) Never Never Land, with an all year fun fair and every other tacky beachfront amusement arcade and trapping that you find at a budget sea side resort. Unfortunately, unlike the vampires, the film has aged quite badly, permanently stuck in that horrible mid-eighties purgatory of stadium rock band hairdos and rolled up jacket sleeves.
However, despite the 80’s vintage, The Lost Boys is excellent and has rightly become a cornerstone of the vampire genre due to the very traditional manner in which it dealt with the bloodsuckers themselves; giving them the ability to fly, a healthy dislike of holy water, poor reflections, the need to be invited into a home, and when they encounter sunlight they burn like dry wood (also, they don’t turn sparkly and no long-faced women appear to be pining after any of them ala Twilight).
The Lost Boys tells it’s tale quite well, setting out an enjoyable good versus evil story with a twist or two. That said, there are a couple of things that I noticed in last night’s viewing. Firstly, Michael is an idiot, spending money he doesn’t have on a new leather jacket after declaring that they’re flat broke, and he’s very easily led, with the motorbike race that nearly killed him and then with the railway bridge drop – he never even looked or considered how the hell he’d get back up if he didn’t fall – though that is a great scene!
There’s something of a Jim Morrison thing going on in the film to do with Michael. The poster that covers one wall in the hotel where the vampires live that points to an obvious parallel with Michael – he looks like Morrison in more than one shot and I suppose you’re meant to gather from this that Michael is supposed to die young too – though as far as I know Morrison never became a vampire. There’s a musical link too as the theme tune from The Lost Boys, “People are strange”, is a doors song that was covered by Echo & The Bunnymen – there’s even a Bunnymen poster on Michael’s bedroom wall.
Michael isn’t the only one deserving of some attention as speaking of posters it seems odd that Sam had a poster of a half-naked Rob Lowe on his wall, and a poster of Molly Ringwald from The Breakfast Club (I know this because I read the end credits of The Lost Boys, I’m proud to say I’ve never seen The Breakfast Club). Now, I’m not trying to infer anything about young Sam, but he did seem to love his mother very much, if you catch my drift. He probably missed Phoenix because he left his friends behind, one of whom was probably called Dorothy, if you see what I mean. He’s probably a big fan of musical theatre, if you know what I’m getting at.
Also, Sam remains very calm throughout the film considering how prone his sort (i.e. people who were “Born to Shop” as the slogan on one of his t-shirts states) are to freaking out at the slightest thing and what he’s going through. When the phantom motorbikes buzz the house he doesn’t bat an eyelid when they vanish into thin air but instead goes for a relaxing bubble bath.
Finally, Lucy, the lads mother, is some gobshite – even her dad knew he raised a moron as evidenced by his opinion of how she must be the only woman in America to have come out worse off after getting a divorce!
The Lost Boys suffers from lots of product placement, and while some were OK, like the comics despite the heavy D.C. references (Batman, Superman and the close-ups of other D.C. titles) and the Windex Grandpa used as aftershave, others were a tad blatant. If you notice product placement in a film then it failed as it was supposed to blend in – some of the placements failed big time! For some reason The Munsters got mentioned a fair bit too, probably because The Munsters Today series was about to start on American TV not long after The Lost Boys came out.
Even with a list of failings, The Lost Boys is a good film and features some great comedy moments, like the window cleaner aftershave, some of the one-liners from the Frog Brothers, and when the boys fetch holy water from the font in a Church in the middle of a Christening!
It’s easy to see how The Lost Boys has influenced films and TV shows that came after it. There are some scenes in The Lost Boys, especially a couple of big soundtrack moments that put you in mind of The Crow, and the makeup effects definitely reappeared in Buffy The Vampire Slayer as did the attitude of the Frog Brothers.
Upon watching The Lost Boys last night I wonder if they’d hoped to make sequels around the characters of the Frog Brothers, as at one point Edgar states that “Ghouls & Werewolves occupy high positions in City Hall”. I would have loved to see more of those characters battling other monsters.
Two Thumbs Firmly Up for The Lost Boys