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So Bad It’s Brilliant: The Lost Boys

Written by: Ron Bricker

CC2K's Crapfest Fanatic Stella Artois thoroughly dissects the transcendent perfection of Joel Shumacher's vampire masterpiece.

ImageRoger Ebert: 2 ½ Stars.
Stella Artois: All The Stars In The Night Sky!

Note: I will not go into the travesty that is the remake of
The Lost Boys (which comes out straight to video in ‘08)…for the sake of my sanity.

People are strange in Santa Carla, Calif., and it’s a pretty cool place … for a vampire. The Lost Boys, directed by Joel Schumacher (St. Elmo’s Fire, The Phantom of the Opera) started off as a hot fang fest, and then transformed into a cult-classic horror-comedy over time. Like a well-aged wine if you will.

Originally set to be a makeshift retelling of J.M Barrie’s Lost Boys (yes this could have been a bunch of 10 year old vampires flying around with bat wings a la Peter Pan) Joel Schumacher actually saved the day by turning this silly homage into a bona-fide box office hit (32 million, which is great for this genre, and for the time). Although not critically acclaimed, The Lost Boys’ juicy bite will live forever.

The Emerson’s, a fatherless family, including the mother Lucy (Dianne Wiest- Hannah and Her Sisters) and her two boys Michael (Jason Patric- Sleepers) and Sam (Corey Haim-Lucas) move in with their taxidermist grandfather in Santa Carla, California. While the two boys investigate the Santa Carla boardwalk, Michael gets drawn into a “motorcycle gang“ headed by David (the incredibly brilliant Keifer Sutherland), and Sam befriends the Frog Brothers. Played infectiously by Corey Feldman (The Goonies) and Jamison Newlander (The Blob).

As Sam laughs off the Frog Brother’s warnings of odd happenings and disappearances in Santa Carla, Michael chases David’s girl Star (Jami Gertz- Twister) and gets roped into the true life style of a "motorcycle boy". When they go for a ride to their Jim Morrison clad cave on the cliffs, Michael gives into David’s tricks and drinks from the forbidden bottle of “wine.” Michael then begins to change and the film showcases his journey and battle to stay human, and not turn into a bloodsucking vampire.

In the meantime, Sam is scaring himself with silly horror comics and wearing garlic necklaces, and Lucy is dating a man that her sons do not approve of. And the Frog Brothers are with them every step of the way trying to solve the case: Who is the head vampire? In the end, all the characters unite in an explosive blood bath.

A been-done-before plot? Of course it is! But what makes The Lost Boys brilliant is the character development, the cheesy dialog, the soundtrack, and the wardrobe/make-up.

Lets start with the film’s key element: Keifer Sutherland. Keifer’s David is sharp, evil, and he has an awesome bleached blond mullet and dangling earring. And did you notice how he was always well lit? He was the murderous bad guy, and we loved him for it! Out of all the vampires, his death was the most dramatic, and yet the cleanest. He didn’t blow up, he didn’t turn into a blaze of fire…he was pierced with antlers on the wall and fell to his death, and for some reason had an awesome shave afterwards! (Where did his 5 o’clock shadow go?)

The Frog Brothers are Rambo meets Bill and Ted. Corey Feldman rocks his mullet, decked out in a bandana (a key theme in TLB) and Jamison Newlander has this Ralph Macchio thing going on. They both talk in unnaturally deep dramatic voices and were appropriately named Edgar and Alan (the poet Poe ring a bell?). They fight for truth, justice and the American way by working in a comic book store and staking vampires on the side. Or was it the other way around?

While one could take or leave Jason Patric and Corey Haim, I beg to differ. Michael looks like Jim Morrison, and carries that good boy with a rebel edge perfectly. I thought that Jason played the character well because he was not over the top. He let the other actors tap dance around him while he just moped around in his sunglasses and leather jacket during those hot summer days. Like the troubled and misunderstood adolescent that we all once were.

Now to Corey Haim. First of all…you need both Coreys in a picture. One Corey without the other is like chocolate milk without the milk. End of story. Corey’s portrayal of Sam, the comic book geek who wears his mother’s curtains for a shirt and hangs pictures of Rob Lowe on the closet door is classic. Oh, and don’t forget about the “Born to Shop” tee and belting out Clarence “Frogman” Henry while soaking in a sudsy bath. No wonder his grandfather gives him a stuffed beaver. Subtle gramps! Corey’s Sam Emerson is a blithesome character….Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Edward Herrmann is a nice touch as the incredibly suspicious Max. It’s always fun to see “the History Channel dude” in a freaky role.

Dianne Wiest is always a pleasure to watch on screen. Her voice is so smooth and calming and she breaks up the film’s heavy testosterone.

And last but not least there’s Grandpa, portrayed by Barnard Hughes. Gramps travels in and out of the entire film offering bizarre anecdotes and elderly wisdom as the Emerson’s battle the evil that’s lurking in the dark in Santa Carla. He has his own taxidermy work room and gets ready for his dates with a little sprits of Windex. Some might confuse the last line of the film as being contrived (Grandpa: One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach, all the damn vampires). Don’t be naive. Grandpa is a hermit, plays dead, grows his own weed, stuffs eagles and wild game, and sits in his nice vehicle in the garage and considers it going to town. Of course he knew about the fucking vampires and when to kill the Head Vamp at the precise moment.

Janice Fischer, James Jeremias and Jeffrey Boam wrote the story and screenplay, and I must say there are too many quotes that are memorable. From “they‘re only noodles Michael” to “the blood sucking Brady Bunch” these one-liners make the film timeless in their cheesy and over-all 80’s splendor. “Holy shit! It’s the attack of Eddie Munster!”

All of this dialog was of course accompanied by a ridiculous (in the best possible way) soundtrack. Thomas Newton (Shawshank Redemption and American Beauty) wrote the film score for The Lost Boys. It is a well-perceived combination of orchestra and organ arrangement which blends well with the agelessness of the film. It keeps it fresh, while still conveying the ancient legend and nostalgia of vampire myths. The soundtrack contains a number of notable tunes, the film opens with a cover version of The Doors’ “People are Strange” for Satan’s sake. And when Tim Capello makes an oily bare chested cameo playing the sax during his cover of “I Still Believe” you know this film isn’t playing games. How could you shoot a vampire attack on punks at a bon fire scene without Run DMC playing? There’s just no other way. And always remember to bite the bald guy's head first for dramatic effect. Another song that really captures the (I’ll go there) “beauty” of the film is the theme song “Cry Little Sister“ (Gerard McMann), which you’ll find sprinkled throughout. It contains an eerie chorus of young children chanting what seems to be a lost boy’s rules to live by…sort of.

The wardrobe and make-up in this film is hilarious: Sam’s outfits…that’s all I have to say. All of the punks wearing leather in the hot summer. The Lost Boys dangling in their cave looking like hot rock stars, even with their mutant toes. The Frog Brother’s and their Rambo/Vampire Army gear is oh so riotous. Star wears the same fucking skirt the whole time. Max’s shoulder pads were bigger than Lucy’s. And notice how glittery vampire blood is? It sparkles! What more could you ask for!

The Lost Boys
is suspenseful, funny, and yet another 80s gem that dares to not take itself seriously.  I believe that many films today are one dimensional. They either make you laugh, cry, or shit your pants. I can’t remember the last time I laughed whilst shitting my pants in the theatre.

And for you die hard fans…. here’s a little CC2k Fright Week Treat!

The 10 things (of many) I Learned From The Lost Boys:
1. People are strange.
2. Santa Carla is a pretty cool place….for a vampire.
3. Never invite a vampire into your house. It renders you powerless.
4. If you read the TV guide, you don’t need a TV.
5. Burn Rubber does not mean warp speed!
6. A billion Chinese people can’t be wrong.
7. A few canteens of Holy Water can  fill an entire bathtub.
8. Getting your ears pierced on the boardwalk is a rip off. Star will do it for you.
9. Nobody is allowed to touch the middle fridge shelf except grandpa. That’s where he keeps his root beer and double thick Oreo cookies.
10.Sam is always looking out for the other 3 batman 14’s.

What did you learn?