Home / Movies / PEOPLE ARE STRANGE:A Retrospective on The Lost Boys (1987)

PEOPLE ARE STRANGE:A Retrospective on The Lost Boys (1987)

It’s hard to believe that The Lost Boys will be thirty years old next year. Released in 1987, the horror comedy has retained a massive cult following, with so much having stemmed from it; the two Coreys, the career of Jack Bauer, action figures, comic books, one of the best movie soundtracks from the time, as well as, believe it or not, Batman and Robin.

It’s hard to maybe believe this, but Joel Schumacher is in fact a pretty damn good director. Yes, Batman and Robin is terrible, he is of course the first one to admit it in his very candid interview on the DVD documentary that accompanies the film, but since making his directorial debut, he has directed a plethora of movies that have in fact not only been good, but launched many a career.

Flatliners was one of Julia Roberts’ pre-Pretty Woman efforts, A Time to Kill featured the first leading turn of an up and coming young actor named Matthew McConaughey, Phone Booth was one of Colin Farrell’s first Hollywood films (and possibly still his best performance), then there was the blisteringly intense thriller Falling Down which gave Michael Douglas one of his best performances (and inspired a Foo Fighters music fighter whilst it was at it). The Lost Boys was not only a film that found itself a large cult audience due to its combination of horror and comedy, but it also cemented the careers of Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Jami Gertz and Alex Winter.

Like so many movies of the era, there is a quintessential feeling of the 80’s in The Lost Boys that has remarkably allowed the film to not actually age in a bad way, and, like many a John Hughes movie, has allowed it to thrive in popularity as the years have gone by. The fashions, the music, the hairstyles, nearly thirty years after its release it remarkably holds up well. Any movie that opens with the Warner Bros. logo with Cry Little Sister by Gerard McMann playing over it sets its stall out immediately and the film proves itself to be an enjoyable ninety-seven minutes, that never out says its welcome, is always fun, with dollops of humour, engaging teen angst, and some enjoyable uses of gore.

And the music. I know I’ve mentioned it two or three times now, but…damn…the music is so good. The film is kinda responsible for Echo and The Bunnymen being on my iPod and I will make no apologies for it.

Schumacher’s direction is very stylish throughout, with roving use of the camera, brilliant staging of some of the more gorier scenes, and is complimented beautifully by Michael Chapman’s lighting. Seriously, this may be the best lit horror movie of the 80’s. The attack on the beach in particular with its orange tones, almost to the point of sepia, is stunning, and the revelation of David’s (Kiefer Sutherland) vampire appearance is a genuinely great jump scare. There is a wonderful score courtesy of Thomas Newman, a mixture of orchestra and synthesiser that might come as a surprise given that his career after this was taken up with incredibly emotional scores for award worthy and critically acclaimed fare such as The Shawshank Redemption, Road to Perdition and American Beauty.

As it’s an 80’s movie with a Brat Pack flavour, there is a sense that the film has a really great cast, but back in 1987 the cast was more or less a blend of up and coming young talent rather than established stars; Kiefer Sutherland had gained notices for Stand By Me, but The Lost Boys made him a star, same for Jason Patric, whilst the film marked the first of many movies to star Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, the latter was probably the best known of the younger cast members thanks to roles in Stand By Me along with Sutherland, as well as The Goonies.

Being an 80's vampire movie, the vampires at the heart of The Lost Boys looks more like an 80's rock band than bloodsuckers.

Being an 80’s vampire movie, the vampires at the heart of The Lost Boys look more like an 80’s rock band than bloodsuckers.

The film also has another connection to The Goonies through Richard Donner. Donner actually produced the movie and had intended it to be his next feature after The Goonies, certainly the film has a similar feel for comedy and thrills, albeit in more of a horror direction than the famed treasure-seeking kids movie, but as the film took longer than expected to get off the ground, Donner instead opted to find a new director, before being recommended Schumacher by his wife, producer Lauren Shuler-Donner, who had produced one of Schumacher’s earlier films. Donner, meanwhile, went onto direct Lethal Weapon.

The film initially was going to feature younger protagonists and be more in the style of The Goonies before Schumacher recommended changing the ages of many of the leads to teenagers, a move that probably helped make the film as popular as it did with young adult audiences.

The film also cast well-respected actors such as Dianne Weist as Lucy, the mother of Michael (Patric) and Sam (Haim), who brings a sense of vulnerable charm to the boy’s mother and makes for an engaging presence throughout, whilst the late, great Edward Herrmann plays Max, a would be suitor for Lucy throughout the movie whom Sam believes at one point may be the Head Vampire, but is proven to be wrong. As is always the case when seeing Herrmann on-screen, it’s a great sadness to see this whimsical, classy presence performing, knowing he won’t be appearing in anything anymore. There is a real sense of class anytime he is on-screen, and be proves to be a devilish delight in the film’s final moments which may come as a brilliant shock to anyone familiar with him through his brilliant seven season performance as Richard Gilmore in Gilmore Girls.

Kiefer Sutherland became, in many respects, the film’s poster boy. I remember the UK VHS cover consisting of a particularly creepy image of him staring out from the video box. My mum and aunt were huge fans of the movie, but unfortunately I was too young to watch it and had to wait until I was in my teen years and I immediately fell in love with the movie. At the time I watched it, I was curious to see Sutherland in his other roles as I had just gotten massively into the television series 24, which had given the actor a big come back after a few years in the career wilderness (and doing rodeo, apparently).

The Lost Boys is,  along with Jack Bauer, Sutherland’s signature role, and the truth is, he’s fantastic. The spiritual father to characters like Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he is all grungy, antagonistic charm, essentially seducing David with his cool bad boy act but then taunting him with the hunger that is about to consume him, David of The Lost Boys is the ultimate bad boy vampire and Sutherland, who of all the actors has the least amount of lines in the film, carries the film with his bad boy charm. It is a long way away from the mature and complicated dynamics of Jack Bauer.

Whilst Jason Patric has done okay, it’s amazing to note that he never really became a massive star in the following years. There’s a lovely sympathetic quality and soulfulness to his performance as Michael throughout, and his chemistry with Corey Haim really makes one believe that the two are brothers who care deeply for each other.

A sequel was long mooted, The Lost Girls, but instead Warner Bros took the approach of doing direct to DVD sequels which didn’t sully the legacy of the original but didn’t do anything else with it either. Feldman returned for the first, Lost Boys:The Tribe, as Alan Frog, as did Haim for a cameo appearance in a post-credit scene. Sutherland returned too, but in actuality it was Angus Sutherland and not Kiefer. A second sequel followed, Lost Boys:The Thirst, which saw Jemison Newlander return as Edgar Frog.

Both Feldman and Newlander are fantastic in the film. Such arch performances could disrupt the movie, but their entire demeanour, which essentially kids who have clearly watched too many Rambo movies, is a hoot.

Approaching its thirtieth anniversary, The Lost Boys is still every bit as enjoyable today as it must have been back then. It’s a perfect combination of scares, wit, great characters and set pieces, coupled with a good end of movie twist and a killer final line. Like Ghostbusters and Evil Dead II (the latter also coming out the same year), it’s a blast of witty writing, stylish direction, brilliantly performed horror, great actors playing great characters and massive amounts of entertainment and is always worth watching. Influential, era defining and always great to watch, it’s a film that has stood the test of time and is in many ways one of the purest movies of its time.

 

 

Possibly the geekiest man in all of Ireland, I have consumed too many television shows, movies, books and comics to know the difference any more between being geeky and not geeky. Very proud of my geekdom, it brought me together with my one true love, and if that’s not a great reason to be geeky, I don’t know what is. Could also beat anybody in an X Files trivia contest. True scientific fact.
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