The Lost Boys

US | 1987 | Directed by Joel Schumacher

Logline: After moving into a new town an older teenager and his younger brother discover it is home to a marauding gang of vampires. 

“A last fire will rise behind those eyes, black house will rock, blind boys don't lie! Immortal fear, that voice so clear, through broken walls, that scream I hear! Cry, little sister! (thou shall not fall), come, come to your brother (thou shall not die), unchain me, sister (thou shall not fear), love is with your brother (thou shall not kill) …”

Boy, did that theme song sing loud and clear to me and mine back in the day! Thirty years immortal! The Lost Boys is pure Hollywood, a true blue dream team: Keifer Sutherland, Jason Patric, Jamie Gertz, Dianne Wiest, right down to the two “Coreys”, Haim and Feldman, two bow-wow hamsters whose careers cartwheeled and then crashed due to drug addiction (Haim died of pneumonia in 2010, and Feldman has garnered a kind of cult-of-celebrity side-career). 

Director Joel Schumacher had previously made the very successful St Elmo’s Fire, and used his clout to have the original Lost Boys script, by Janice Fischer, James Jeremias, and Jeffrey Boam, changed from being about “Goonie” ten-year-old vampires to young adults, because he knew it would be more appealing to the then core older teen demographic (although in today’s climate the R-rated movie is more like a PG-13). Richard Donner executive produced, Bo Welch production designed, Michael Chapman shot the movie, Greg Cannom handled the special effects makeup, and Thomas Newman did the score. Like I said, a glittering Tinseltown production.

Much of the movie has dated, most notably in what was deemed comedic thirty years ago. Remember the tagline? “Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire.” Yes, the original script had been heavily inspired by the Peter Pan story, right down to characters’ names that were eventually changed. But it’s far less of a comedy thirty years down the track, with the Frog brothers and Sam providing limp gags. As for being scary, well, I’ve seen more frightening hairdos. 

The performances are solid, with Sutherland, Patric, and Gertz keeping the drama buoyant, although it's a shame Patric and Gertz didn't have bigger careers (Patric is excellent in Rush and Narc, as is Gertz in Less Than Zero, also released in 1987), and while the swooping vamp-POV camerawork looks dodgy compared to today’s elaborate integrated CGI work, Cannom’s sfx work is great, especially the contact lenses, yet most of his gore gags ended up on the cutting room floor. 

Trappings aside, there’s still a pervasive vibe and mood that sits tight, and for us X-Gens, the “I Still Believe” beach party scene will forever give us goosebumps. Even the tenuous theme of wayward, misfit teenagers looking for a home that isn’t broken manages to resonant beyond the superficial gloss and glamour. But at the end of the day, The Lost Boys is very much trapped in that camp mid-80s fashion: way too much pastel and over-stylised hair, an earring in one ear. The character of Sam is curiously dubious: he has a large Rob Lowe pose-ter in his bedroom (sure we all have our idols) and wears a t-shirt saying “born to shop” … Perhaps I’m reading way too much into this. But no doubt director Schumacher would’ve no doubt tried all and sundry with the homosexual sub-text, especially back in 1987, when it was about flying under the gaydar. 

The Lost Boys is ripe with symbolism. Actually, it’s ripe, full-stop. A time-capsule, a date-stamp. There are some neat little moments, and one can’t deny the charismatic presence of its older leads, but much of the action and romance comes across as silly, rather tame, a little provocative, but nothing truly intense, or gritty. Perhaps that has something to do with the conditioning cinema audiences have had over the past thirty years. There’s an irony at hand; The Lost Boys has most definitely aged.