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The Lost Boys (1987)

DIRECTOR: Joel Schumacher

CAST: Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Kiefer Sutherland, Jami Gertz, Corey Feldman, Dianne Wiest, Edward Herrmann, Barnard Hughes, Jamison Newlander

REVIEW:

Steeped in ’80s-tastic cheese in the best sense of the word, The Lost Boys blends horror, comedy, an eighties rock soundtrack, plenty of style, and a cast chock-full of ’80s stars. It’s gleefully style over substance, but is one of the hippest entries in the vampire genre and whizzes by in a breezy 97 minutes that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

There’s room for a little foreboding when brothers Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim) Emerson move with divorced mom Lucy (Dianne Wiest) to “the murder capital of the world”, sunny beachside Santa Clara, California to live with their eccentric grandfather (Barnard Hughes), but they ain’t seen nothing yet. Santa Clara isn’t just a haven for surf Nazis and hippies, but also a pack of vampires led by David (Kiefer Sutherland), who draws in Michael when he’s infatuated with the mysterious Star (Jami Gertz). Meanwhile, Sam makes a pair of new allies in self-proclaimed vampire hunters Edgar and Alan Frog (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander) whom he initially thinks are nuts but might soon come in handy, and Mom meets a new prospective beau in mild-mannered Max (Edward Herrmann), who may or may not be what he seems.

Director Joel Schumacher always serves up a healthy helping of style and flair (sometimes excessively so), and The Lost Boys is steeped in ’80s culture and loaded up on its own coolness factor; David and his gang are the hippest vamps around, and there’s sunglasses, leather jackets, motorcycles, and ’80s rock galore. At the same time, he merges comedy and horror into an enjoyable cocktail. The movie undeniably imbues being a vampire with a little sexiness and coolness, but lest anyone blame it too hard for being a forerunner of the teeny bopper likes of Twilight, David and his gang also get the chance to “vamp out” and be nasty, notably in a grisly bit where they slaughter some drunk revelers around a campfire, and in the climactic home invasion brew-ha where the movie gleefully throws the kitchen sink (literally) with a campy gorefest including blood spurting from the sink and “death by stereo”. The movie doesn’t have much of a special effects budget, but cleverly works around this with nifty camera angles and some effective makeup. There’s a last-minute “surprise twist” that’s not terribly surprising, although the movie tries to do an earlier fake-out bit of misdirection.

The performances aren’t great, but they fit with the material. Jason Patric does an effective enough job navigating the biggest character arc as Michael tries to stop himself from going full-blown bloodsucker, while Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, and Jamison Newlander provide some backup comic relief as the fledgling would-be vamp slayers. Jami Gertz is cute enough, but bland and not really charismatic or sexy enough for us to buy she so enthralls Michael the moment he claps eyes on her. Stronger in the charisma department is a deliciously wicked Kiefer Sutherland, who seems to be greatly enjoying himself, while Dianne Wiest has a nice motherly warmth as the often-oblivious Lucy. Coming straight on the heels of her Oscar-winning performance in Hannah and Her Sisters, this could have comparatively been seen as “slumming”, but Wiest plays it straight; we buy her as a believable “Mom”, which helps lend the campy material a small measure of seriousness. Fellow respected character actor Edward Herrmann is her prospective love interest Max, about whom the movie has a little bit of fun playing up the “is he or isn’t he” question; his awkward dinner with Lucy, Sam, and the Frog brothers is one of the movie’s comedic highlights. Barnard Hughes supplies some comic relief as the oddball Grandpa.

The Lost Boys is decidedly style over substance, but when it’s this much style, and this fun of a ride merging horror and comedy into a gleefully campy whole, that’s not much of a criticism. The Lost Boys is one of the most simply “cool” products of the 1980s, and a fun addition to the vampire genre.

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