Monday, June 27, 2016

The Lost Boys (1987) review

    The Lost Boys remains one of my favorite 80s movies, which is notable for the fact it was my first vampire movie and also a movie which is a triumph of style over substance (while still having plenty of substance). Do you remember that this movie was done by Joel Schumacher? Yes, the Joel Schumacher of Batman and Robin and Batman Forever. A favorite movie of mine was done by the same man who did those movies.

    :mind blown:

    I didn't but it makes a lot of sense as it's a mixture of darker subject matter with broad comedy with all of the speed of a music video. At an hour and a half you don't really get a chance to think about much of what happens on screen but everything is individually a great scene so you don't really have to worry about how it all relates together.

Kiefer Sutherland is awesome in this movie.
    It's difficult in this post-Buffy and Underworld reality to articulate just how much this movie changed things for vampires. Previously, they were still largely trapped in the mold set by Count Dracula or knock-offs thereof. The Hunger had already come out but even then, that was about old rich vampires (and was awesome). This was the movie which, along with Near Dark, presented a bunch of vampires who were products of the modern world and lacking any sort of aristocratic pretensions. It created the teen vampire and gave us Kiefer Sutherland's epic performance as the apparent head vampire David.

    The premise of the film, if you haven't seen it for whatever reason, is Michael (Jason Patric),  his younger brother Sam (Corey Haim), and their mother, Lucy (Dianne Wiest), to the beach community of Santa Carla, California. They're forced to live with their eccentric taxidermist grandfather (Barnard Hughes) and are bored out of their skulls living in California party town with its own boardwalk amusement park. Some people are never satisfied. Michael gets distracted by a beautiful young girl, Star (Jami Gertz), who "belongs" to the aforementioned David and his gang of teenage vampires.

Mmm, maggots.
    David is intrigued by Michael and initiates him into his gang which, after several cruel mind games, results in him being turned into a vampire. Michael hates the possibility of becoming a killer and this allows him to avoid being beyond hope. Possibly. Sam tries to recruit a pair of self-declared vampire hunters who work at the local comic book shop, the Frog Brothers (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander), in order to help stop the menace afflicting the "Murder Capital of the World."

    There's more than a few holes in the script like how the hell the Frog Brothers know about the vampire menace. Sometimes, it seems like they're just screwing with Sam and other times they seem to be dead serious about their warnings. If they'd just gone full tilt with the Frog Brothers just screwing with Sam only to be caught up in a real vampire story, I think the story would have been slightly better.

The Frog Brothers are hilarious and awesome at once.
    Another flaw of the movie is the character of Star is completely superfluous other than being an object for Michael to lust after. Ironically, her best moment in the film isn't even related to her supposed romance with the lead. An extra Lost Girl who was fully immersed in her vampirism would have rounded the group out a bit more or just eliminating her character altogether. David's sexual chemistry with Michael is probably enough to sustain the movie by itself as he seems far more interested in our protagonist than his girlfriend.

    The soundtrack is another amazing element of this movie with "Lost in the Shadows" and "Cry Little Sister" being my favorite from the movie. None of the songs are bad, though, and this is some classic Eighties music. I also give the movie mad props for making each and every scene memorable in some way. The murders, the train rail hanging, the immortal "maggots, you're eating magots", and the laugh out-loud final line. There's nothing which fails to remain in your head during this film and that's quite an accomplishment.

    The movie does a great job of balancing horror and comedy with immensely gory scenes crossing the line into camp silliness next to dead serious ridiculousness. Horror-comedy is amazingly difficult to pull off and this movie does an amazing job doing it. There are some slip-ups as the sections with Sam are sometimes a bit too cartoonish even as the scenes with Michael aren't all that interesting. This is due to the movie's history (basically starting as The Goonies/The Monster Squad before Schumacher turned it into the awesome proto-Buffy it became).

    Why is this movie so memorable? I think because it's actually one of the few movies which functions on a level everyone can understand or relate to. Despite being only an-hour- and-a-half long, there's a lot of stuff going on with three major plots. There's Michael's attempt to get Star while being seduced into David's gang, Sam and the Frog brothers planning their vampire hunt, and Lucy trying to get her life back on track after a painful divorce.

Our heroes, or a reasonable facsimile thereof.
    All of these plots eventually come together and are influenced by the others which is what we in the author business call "good writing." The teenagers actually feel like teenagers too, being mature for their (perceived) age while also immature assholes. Which of us wouldn't be tempted by the apparent freedom and "I don't give a crap" attitude of David's gang right until we're randomly murdering people? Just me? Whoops.

    In conclusion, The Lost Boys remains one of the top all-time best vampire movies because it did something different with the formula, it was fun, and it didn't overstay its welcome. It's one of those rare movies which I would have liked to have seen more of without feeling like it had to be longer. Someday, I'm going to have to watch the sequels even though I know that's just going to be punishing myself.


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