This has been a long time coming. Though probably best categorized as a cult classic, The Lost Boys is almost straight up horror royalty these days, with just about everyone having seen Joel Schumacher’s weird vampire-filled, Peter Pan-esque, 80’s nostalgia bomb. The question is, does the film stand on its own merits or is it more like hair metal; objectively shit but so decade-specific and bizarre that you cant help but give it a seat at the table? That’s what we’re here to discuss but remember, discuss = spoil. You’ve been warned.
Reviewed by: Jake
Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim) Emerson move from Phoenix to the fictional town of Santa Carla, California with their mom Luck (Dianne Wiest) because they are dead-broke after an apparently messy divorce between Lucy and her husband. Montages happen indicating a) it’s the fucking 80’s and b) this town is kind of a garbage pile, referring to itself as “the murder capital of the world”. They try to integrate in town by getting out from the confines of their grandfather’s (Barnard Hughes) house but Michael quickly falls in with a strange and untrustworthy gang of bikers led by David (Kiefer Sutherland) while chasing a girl. They give him some “wine” that is actually blood, which begins the process of turning Michael into a vampire himself.
Meanwhile, Sam meets some strange kids named the Frog brothers (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander) who work at a comic store and claim to be vampire hunters. Sam doesn’t believe in it at first but soon sees strange things happening to Michael. He tells the Frog brothers and they explain that they need to kill the vampire leader to extinguish the threat on the town. Sam suspects that the leader is the owner of a local video store, Max (Ed Herrmann) but when they try to out him during a dater he has with Sam’s mother, they just wind up looking like a bunch of assholes. Garlic doesn’t work, he has a reflection etc. The kids then turn their attention to the gang that infected Michael, and track them to a cave they have their hideout in. They kill one of the four named Marko (Alexander Winter) and escape when the other three wake.
The group fortifies Sam and Michael’s grandfathers house and waits for the rest of the gang to retaliate that night. Sure enough they show up and the kids dispatch of all of them with the necessary weaponry like a bathtub filled with holy water and impalement. Max then shows back up and reveals that he is the lead vampire but their earlier tricks didn’t work because they had invited him into the house, but out of nowhere, grandpa fires his car through the wall and impales Max on a giant stake strapped to the hood. He explodes. Michael and the other infected return to normal. Santa Carla is safe. Roll credits.
What the Movie Does Right
This movie is a nuclear-grade nostalgia bomb. It is dripping in sweaty 80’s-ness to the point where it is distracting. I mean, look at the lost boys:
They looks familiar, don’t they? Maybe it’s the background, but these guys seem familiar…
But when all things 80’s are considered, from the multitude of montages in the film to the style of the vampire crew, the top of the mountain is the sexy sax man. Wait, you HAVEN’T HEARD OF THE SEXY SAX MAN? Well, hold onto your loins, ladies and gentlemen because no one is safe from the pure rampage of lustiness that is this man:
The other big win for this movie is its cast. This movie has a ton of names in it. Kiefer Sutherland is obviously a big one and he plays a prominent role but for those seeing the film for the first time, there might be some surprise in how much (or more accurately, little) screen time he has. The Coreys Feldman and Haim starred with one another for the first time in this film and there is almost nothing more 80’s than the dynamic partnership those two dudes turned out.
Overall, the movie is just fun to watch. It is so specific that mileage may vary for those who are too young to really identify with anything from the time period, but if you are someone who grew up even remotely around the time, this film is gobsmackingly nostalgic. It is also insanely quotable. There are SO MANY lines to take away from it that I don’t even know what to mention in this mini-review, so I’ll just list 3 with no context because that seems most responsible (easiest):
1) “My own brother a God damned shit sucking vampire! You wait 'til mom finds out buddy!”
2) “We're fighters for Truth, Justice, and the American way.”
3) “I’m at the mercy of your sex glands, bud.”
What the Movie Does Wrong
Did you notice I haven’t mentioned the vampire part of this movie yet? Well that’s because there isn’t an overwhelming amount I have to say about it. The clarity I want to drive home here is that this movie doesn’t do vampires wrong, in fact if you really dive into how this is an interstitial period of transformation that a group of kids are racing the clock to overcome, it’s kind of interesting. However… in the film it never feels that interesting. Remember when I mentioned early in this review that this movie is distractingly nostalgic? Well, that actually hurts the vampire/horror element a good deal in my opinion. You are going to spend so much time focused on the weird sax man (he won’t leave your mind, trust me…) and the numerous montages and the sheer amount of time “Cry Little Sister” assault your ears that you just aren’t going to ingest this like you would most other horror movies. Therefore, in a horror review, it has to be a bit of a strike against.
The other primary issue I have with the movie is that it takes awhile to find its stride. The montages, as 80’s as they may be, do not help the film get going. I honestly think probably 10 of the first 20 minutes of the film are montage or the weird sax man scene which despite being objectively good from the standpoint that it’s bananas, really doesn’t help with any forward progress and goes on forever. There is just a lot less action in this than one would expect. There’s only one scene of the vampires eve doing their main vampire thing and fucking some people up to drink their blood. It hurts from a momentum standpoint and the stakes never seem that tremendously high.
Story: 4 - As I mentioned, there are a few interesting things in terms of the way vampires are presented in this film, but it’s not really the core of what the film is doing and outside of that this is a fairly straightforward kids fight the monsters and overcome evil sort of plot.
World-Building / Immersion: 9 - You will either be very immersed in this from a pure spectacle standpoint or you will be very out, very quickly. For the record, Jack and Mark both were part of the latter group while I, uh… I like the 80’s I guess.
Scare-Factor: 1.5 - The only thing keeping this from being a 1 is that they at least put one vampire massacre scene in there.
Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 6 - Most of the practical used during the climax of the film looks great but it’s not abundant and there are some odd sequences where things just don’t look wonderful like during the motorcycle raced scene. Additionally, there’s a lot of Cry Little Sister in this thing which gets a bit taxing.
Overall: 6.5 - Overall, this is a horror movie that people should watch, but I just don’t know how often you could go back and enjoy it. I’m in an awkward position where I both find the weird 80’s world this exists in to be immersive and at the same time I don’t see myself going back anytime soon for a re-watch. This is a movie that would play well during a party so you could catch random friends in the act of being jaw-droppingly into sexy sax man. Try that.