Half of the The Lost Boys is a moody gothic music-video styled horror movie. The other half is the ’80s puking on itself. Both parts are equally entertaining and irritating.
It stars Corey Haim and Jason Patric as brothers Sam and Michael respectively. They come to a coastal California town of Santa Carla with their newly divorced mother Lucy (Dianne Wiest) who is moving back in with her father. The kids spend their time at the Santa Carla Beach Boardwalk, which has apparently constant concerts with shirtless sax-playing singers.
It is at one of these concerts that Michael spots Star, a beautiful young woman. He follows her through the park and finds her connected to a crew of young hooligans, led by David (Kiefer Sutherland). They take off on their motorcycles, and Michael follows into their dangerous world of thrills and dangerous stunts.
Sam, meanwhile, makes acquaintance with the Frog brothers. Their hippie parents run a comic book shop (though, in one of the movie’s decent gags, the parents are constantly blissed out and are never seen awake). The Frogs have become paramilitary monster hunters. Which is dumb because monsters don’t exist. Right?
But anyone with a passing familiarity with The Lost Boys knows it’s a vampire movie, and that David and his pretty gang of mostly boys and one reluctant girl are, in fact, bloodsuckers. The narrative of the story splits the protagonist role between Sam and Michael. We follow Michael as he goes after Star and necessarily connects with David and his crew. There are some weird initiations involving eating food that might be rice or might be maggots and jumping off bridges that might have something underneath and might not. This is not a film that rewards practical examination. It looks good.
And it does look good. Director Joel Schumacher is a consummate stylist, and on this 4K release some of the set-ups and shots look so good they almost break the illusion of watching a movie. Because his aesthetic is attractive, but superficial. This is especially prevalent in the climactic battle at the end, where Sam and the Frogs fight a pitched battle against the vampires while trying to protect Star, Michael, and a child vampire who hasn’t completely turned yet. There are myriad special effects and “cool” death scenes, but they don’t make a lot of sense.
Making sense is not The Lost Boys major mission. Looking cool is, and it looks cool. Sometimes cool for a very different era. Corey Haim’s outfits look like nothing any human wore. The recent Stranger Things season, I felt, went way overboard in creating an “’80s” aesthetic for its young characters. I clearly hadn’t watched The Lost Boys recently enough, which makes Stranger Things look restrained. When Lucy eats dinner at her boyfriend Max’s house, he has neon signs in his house. This did not actually happen in the real ’80s. I was there. Young, but there.
But however excessive the film is in its parts, it makes up for it in some of the details. The brotherly affection between Sam and Michael is the real film’s heart, and it is surprisingly affecting. Corey Haim was not a great reader of lines, but he was a decent physical actor, and his and Jason Patric’s physical attention to each other as brothers bridges the gaps where Haim’s rather emotionally flat line readings let them down.
But The Lost Boys is all about visual aesthetics. The story is slim. The villains have no real motivations, and other than Kiefer Sutherland the other vampires have no characters. They cackle, that’s about their only move. But they look good. Joel Schumacher is in love with montages, and there’s several scenes in the film that are essentially music videos for the film’s theme song, “Cry Little Sister.”
The title, The Lost Boys, is a reference to Peter Pan. David says, “You’ll never grow old and you’ll never die”, the basic fate of Pan’s Lost Boys. But they also spend all their time having fun, and The Lost Boys doesn’t make the vampire existence look all that enticing, unless you really like driving motorcycles and bullying people on a boardwalk.
Nevertheless, The Lost Boys is entertaining. What it lacks in thematic consistency or depth is made up for in visual stimulation, which is Schumacher’s major calling card. And that shines in this 4K release, which unlocks a number of visual details I hadn’t noticed on the earlier Blu-ray release, including some rather strange ones. Why are the Frog Brothers covered in glitter after their abortive assault on the vampires in their dungeon? Don’t know. But it looks… good?
As a kid, I loved this movie. It was in the VCR at least one a week. I had the soundtrack on tape, and practically wore it out. The very good Echo and the Bunnymen cover of “People Are Strange” isn’t available on streaming services, by the way. As an adult, I see a fragmented story that seems to want to be a Miami Vice episode as well as a gothic horror movie by way of music videos. But it’s never dull. Its images are often beautifully designed. I like it. It’s a mess. But a beautiful mess.
The Lost Boys has been released on 4K Ultra HD by Warner Brothers. The release contains two discs, a 4K and a standard Blu-ray, both of which contain the film. There’s a commentary track by Joel Schumacher. The Blu-ray contains the following extras: “The Lost Boys: A Retrospective” (24 min) a documentary; “Inside the Vampire’s Cave”, a set of four featurettes: “A Director’s Vision” (7 min), “Comedy vs. Horror” (5 min), “Fresh Blood: A New Look At Vampires” (4 min), “The Lost Boys Sequel?” (3 min); “Vamping Out: The Undead Creations of Greg Cannom” (14 min); “Haimster & Feldog: The Story of the 2 Coreys” (5 min); Multi-Angle Video Commentary for selected scenes: Corey Haim (19 min), Corey Feldman (18 min), Jamison Newlander (19 min); “A World of Vampires” interactive maps; “The Lost Scenes” (15 min), “Lost in the Shadows” Music Video (5 min) by Lou Gramm, and the Theatrical Trailer (2 min).
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