The Lost Boys (1987)

The Lost Boys is a 1987 American horror comedy film directed by Joel Schumacher, starring Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Kiefer Sutherland, Jami Gertz, Corey Feldman, Dianne Wiest, Edward Herrmann, Alex Winter, Jamison Newlander, and Barnard Hughes.

The film is about two brothers who move to California and end up fighting a gang of young vampires. The title is a reference to the Lost Boys in J. M. Barrie‘s stories about Peter Pan and Neverland, who, like the vampires, never grow up.

The film was followed by two direct-to-video sequels, Lost Boys: The Tribe and Lost Boys: The Thirst and spawned a franchise with the same name.

Brothers Michael and Sam Emerson travel with their recently divorced mother Lucy to the small beach town of Santa Carla, California, to live with her eccentric father, referred to simply as Grandpa. Michael and Sam begin hanging out at the boardwalk, which is plastered with flyers of missing people, while Lucy gets a job at a video store run by a local bachelor, Max. Michael becomes fascinated by Star, a young woman he spots on the boardwalk, though she seems to be in a relationship with the mysterious David, the leader of a young biker gang. In the local comic book store, Sam meets brothers Edgar and Alan Frog, a pair of self-proclaimed vampire hunters, who give him horror comics to teach him about the threat they claim has infiltrated the town.

Michael finally talks to Star and is approached by David, who goads him into following them by motorcycle along the beach until they reach a dangerous cliff, which Michael almost goes over. At the gang’s hangout, a sunken luxury hotel beneath the cliff, David initiates Michael into the group. Star warns Michael not to drink from an offered bottle, telling him it’s blood, but Michael ignores her advice. Later on, David and the others, including Michael, head to a railroad bridge where they hang off the edge over a foggy gorge; one by one they fall, Michael falling after them.

Michael wakes up at home the next day unaware of how he got there. His eyes are sensitive to sunlight and he develops a sudden thirst for blood, which leads him to impulsively attack Sam. Sam’s dog, Nanook, retaliates, and Sam realizes that Michael is turning into a vampire by his brother’s semi-transparent reflection. Sam is initially terrified of his brother but Michael convinces him that he is not yet a vampire and that he desperately needs his help. Michael begins to develop supernatural powers and asks Star for help, but has sex with her shortly afterwards. Sam deduces that, since Michael has not killed anyone, he is a half-vampire and his condition can be reversed upon the death of the head vampire. Sam and the Frog brothers test whether Max is the head vampire during a date with Lucy, but Max passes every test and the boys decide to focus on David.

To provoke him into killing, David takes Michael to stalk a group of beach goers, and instigates a feeding frenzy. Horrified, Michael escapes and returns home to Sam. Star arrives, and reveals herself as a half-vampire who is looking to be cured. It emerges that David had intended for Michael to be Star’s first kill, sealing her fate as a vampire. The next day, a weakening Michael leads Sam and the Frog brothers to the gang’s lair. They impale one of the vampires, Marko, with a stake, awakening David and the two others, but the boys escape, rescuing Star and Laddie, a half-vampire child and Star’s companion.

That evening while Lucy is on a date with Max and the grandfather is out of the house, the teens arm themselves with holy-water-filled water guns, a longbow, and stakes, barricading themselves in the house. When night falls, David’s gang attack the house. The Frog brothers and Nanook manage to kill one of the vampires by pushing him into a bathtub filled with garlic and holy water, dissolving him to the bone. Sam is attacked by Dwayne, another vampire, and shoots an arrow through his heart and into the stereo behind him, electrocuting him and causing parts of his body to explode. Michael is then attacked by David, forcing him to use his vampire powers. He manages to overpower David and impales him on a set of antlers. However, Michael, Star and Laddie do not transform back to normal as they had hoped. Lucy then returns home with Max, who is revealed to be the head vampire. He informs the boys that to invite a vampire into one’s house renders one powerless over said vampire, leaving them unable to exploit any weaknesses that the vampire has while there, explaining why their earlier assumption appeared to be incorrect. Max reveals he had instructed David to turn Sam and Michael into vampires so that Lucy couldn’t refuse to be transformed herself, as his objective had been to get Lucy to be a mother for his lost boys. As Max pulls Lucy to him, preparing to transform her, he is killed when Grandpa crashes his jeep through the wall of the house and impales Max on a wooden fence post, causing him to explode. Michael, Star and Laddie then return to normal.

Amongst this carnage and debris, Grandpa casually retrieves a drink from the refrigerator, and declares: “One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach: all the damn vampires”, revealing he knew about the vampire situation for the entirety of the film.

Cast

The film’s title is a reference to the characters featured in J.M. Barrie‘s Peter Pan stories, who — like vampires — never grow old. According to Day, the central theme of The Lost Boys, “organised around loose allusions to Peter Pan”, is the tension surrounding the Emerson family and the world of contemporary adolescence. The film was originally set to be directed by Richard Donner and the screenplay, written by Janice Fischer and James Jeremias, was modelled on Donner’s recent hit The Goonies (1985). In this way the film was envisioned as more of a juvenile vampire adventure with 13 or 14 year old vampires, while the Frog brothers were “chubby 8 year-old Cub Scouts” and the character of Star was a young boy. When Donner committed to other projects, Joel Schumacher was approached to direct the film. He insisted on making the film sexier and more adult, bringing on screenwriter Jeffrey Boam to retool the script and raise the ages of the characters.

On the film’s cast, director Joel Schumacher stated he had: “one of the greatest in the world. They are what make the film.” Most of the younger cast were relatively unknown at the time. Schumacher and Marion Dougherty met with a countless number before any were cast. Schumacher envisioned the character of Star as being a waifish blonde, similar to Meg Ryan, but he was convinced by Jason Patric to consider Jami Gertz, who had just worked with Patric in Solarbabies (1986). Schumacher was impressed, but only at Patric’s insistence did he finally cast Gertz. Schumacher was surprised when his first choice for the role of Lucy, Dianne Wiest, accepted the role, as she had just recently won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Hannah and Her Sisters (1986).

After seeing Kiefer Sutherland’s portrayal of Tim in At Close Range, Schumacher arranged a reading with him at which they got on very well. Sutherland had just completed work on Stand by Me when he was offered the role of David. According to Schumacher, Sutherland: “can do almost anything. He’s a born character actor. You can see it in The Lost Boys. He has the least amount of dialogue in the movie, but his presence is extraordinary.”

The majority of the film was shot in Santa Cruz, California; this includes the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, the Pogonip open space preserve, and the surrounding Santa Cruz Mountains. Other locations included a cliffside on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles County, used for the entrance to the vampire cave, and a valley in Santa Clarita near Magic Mountain, where introductory shots were shot for the scene where Michael and the Lost Boys hang from a railway bridge. Stage sets included the vampire cave, built on Stage 12 of the Warner Bros. lot and a recreation of the interior and exterior of the Pogonip clubhouse on Stage 15, which stood in for Grandpa’s house.

The Lost Boys opened at #2 during its opening weekend, with a domestic gross of over $5.2 million. It went on to gross a domestic total of over $32.2 million against an $8.5 million budget.

Critical reception was generally positive. Roger Ebert gave the movie two-and-a-half out of four stars, praising the cinematography and “a cast that’s good right down the line,” but ultimately describing Lost Boys as a triumph of style over substance and “an ambitious entertainment that starts out well but ends up selling its soul.” Caryn James of The New York Times called Dianne Wiest‘s character a “dopey mom” and Barnard Hughes‘s character “a caricature of a feisty old Grandpa.” She found the film more of a comedy than a horror and the finale “funny”. Elaine Showalter comments that “the film brilliantly portrays vampirism as a metaphor for the kind of mythic male bonding that resists growing up, commitment, especially marriage.”

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film maintains a rating of 74%. with the critical consensus “Flawed but eminently watchable, Joel Schumacher’s teen vampire thriller blends horror, humor, and plenty of visual style with standout performances from a cast full of young 1980s stars.” On Metacritic it has a rating of 63/100. It won a Saturn Award for Best Horror Film in 1987.

The mythographer A. Asbjørn Jøn has commented on the way that the influence of The Lost Boys has helped shift popular culture depictions of vampires since its release. The film is often credited with bringing a more youthful appeal to the vampire genre by making the vampires themselves sexy and young. This in turn would inspire subsequent films like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The scene in which David transforms noodles into worms was directly referenced in the 2014 vampire mockumentary film What We Do in the Shadows. The film inspired the song of the same name by the Finnish gothic rock band The 69 Eyes.

Thomas Newman wrote the original score as an eerie blend of orchestra and organ arrangements, while the music soundtrack contains a number of notable songs and several covers, including “Good Times“, a duet between INXS and former Cold Chisel lead singer Jimmy Barnes which reached No. 2 on the Australian charts in early 1987. This cover version of a 1960s Australian hit by the Easybeats was originally recorded to promote the Australian Made tour of Australia in early 1987, headlined by INXS and Barnes.

Tim Cappello‘s cover of The Call‘s “I Still Believe” was featured in the film as well as on the soundtrack. Cappello makes a small cameo appearance in the movie playing the song at the Santa Cruz boardwalk, with his saxophone and bodybuilder muscles on display.

The soundtrack also features a cover version of The Doors‘ song “People Are Strange” by Echo & the Bunnymen. The song as featured in the movie is an alternate, shortened version with a slightly different music arrangement.

Lou Gramm, lead singer of Foreigner, also recorded “Lost in the Shadows” for the soundtrack, along with a video which featured clips from the film.

The theme song, “Cry Little Sister“, was originally recorded by Gerard McMahon (under his pseudonym Gerard McMann) for the soundtrack, and later re-released on his album “G Tom Mac” in 2000. In the film’s sequel, “Cry Little Sister” was covered by a Seattle-based rock band, Aiden.

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