The Lost Boys is a film about the adventures of a group of teenage vampires, undead and footloose in a small California coastal resort town.
This isn’t quite as crazy as it sounds: The setting is a good one, and the vampirism serves as a handy metaphor for the homelessness, drug addiction, or (to use the antiquated term) juvenile delinquency of many at-large young people.
Director Joel Schumacher may be aware of those possibilities, and he takes care to make his vampires look like regular kids. They resemble any group of troublemakers out for fun on a Saturday night on the boardwalk. Until they drink blood from wine bottles and sprout fangs and yellow contact lenses, anyway.
But Schumacher botches whatever intriguingly scary-seductive potential the concept has. The Lost Boys exists on an entirely superficial level, and Schumacher fills the movie with a lot of fast cutting and hip fashion, which is supposed to convince us the movie is stylish. Actually, it’s just so much noise. (It’s the same approach he took with his previous film, St. Elmo’s Fire, which was a lot more unintentionally scary than this thing.)
We enter the town of Santa Carlos through the eyes of two brothers (Jason Patric and Corey Haim) who move there with their mother (recent Oscar winner Dianne Wiest). The town is known as “The Murder Capital of the World,” and there are strange disappearances going on constantly.
The older brother, Patric, catches the eye of a local hot number (Jami Gertz), but she turns out to be one of the bloodsuckers, and leads him into the circle of motorcycle-riding vampires.
The leader of the pack is a bleached-blond tough (Kiefer Sutherland, also on current view in Crazy Moon). He holds nocturnal meetings in an underground cavern dominated by a huge poster of Jim Morrison, featuring a wine cellar that has only one vintage, the full-bodied red. It’s up to little brother Haim to rescue his sibling.
Only Sutherland captures a sense of stylization in his performance—he at least seems genuinely haunted—and suggest what the movie might have been had it adopted a spookier tone. Anyone who’s ever walked along a lonely boardwalk at night knows that the resort setting, with its seediness and sense of transience, might have made a terrifically atmospheric locale. Somehow The Lost Boys never quite finds that.
First published in the Herald, July 1987
When Kiefer Sutherland is my favorite performer in anything, something is wrong. Also, I think I was too young when I wrote this to use the word “troublemakers”; that’s off-limits until one turns 55. The spur to dig up this review comes from just having watched Lost Boys: The Thirst, a direct-to-video offering I reviewed for Amazon.com. It returns Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander, who played the Frog brothers in the original film (and who I did not deign to mention in this ’87 review), to their roles—and actually, the sequel has a fairly shrewd appreciation of its low-budget purpose in life; it also contains a few clips of Corey Haim from the first movie, acknowledging his (and his character’s) death through plot developments. Joel Schumacher, of course, would go on and on.