PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Reviews

The Lost Boys: Special Edition (1987)

Nikki Tranter

While director Joel Schumacher may not have made a perfectly genre-breaking, horror-comedy mix, he got the 'hip' part right.


The Lost Boys: Special Edition

Director: Joel Schumacher
Cast: Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland, Dianne Wiest, Edward Herrmann, Jami Gertz, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Jamison Newlander, Barnard Hughes
MPAA rating: R
Studio: Warner Bros.
First date: 1987
US DVD Release Date: 2004-08-10

Newly divorced mom Lucy Emerson (Dianne Wiest) and her two sons, Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim), arrive at her dad's (Barnard Hughes) California ranch to start a new life. Surprises start here. Michael falls for a mysterious young woman (Jami Gertz), who runs with a gang of vampires, led by the sexy and scary David (Kiefer Sutherland). Soon, Michael's but a fresh kill away from bloodsucking for eternity, and Sam decides he must save him, with help from a couple of weird Commando-style vampire hunters, Edgar (Corey Feldman) and Allan (Jamison Newlander) Frog.

For the most part, the movie is goofy fun, and, to listen to director Joel Schumacher in The Lost Boys: A Retrospective, one of the four mini-documentaries on the newly released two-disc special edition DVD, that's all he thought it was. But, while Schumacher recalls he wanted to mix comedy, horror, and teen romance to make a "hip" vampire movie, his film is also littered with zany but distractingly jokey dialogue.

This letdown is gradually revealed as the film cuts between the antics of Sam and the Frogs with Michael's struggles with David and his gang. Patric, Sutherland, and Gertz are aptly intense; whenever they're onscreen, the drama and tension are extremely high. Juxtapose this with Sam and the Frogs cracking wise and it becomes confusing as to what the film might be called: a funny horror movie or a scary comedy?

The trouble is that the line between horror and comedy is too clear, and needs to be blurred. In other mixed-genre flicks of the era, like An American Werewolf in London, Re-Animator, Fright Night, campy silliness abounds. Producer Richard Donner says that Lost Boys' comedy comes from its being "larger than life" rather than "straight", but he's really only talking about Sam's story. Michael's is neither funny nor large. The gulf between them is underlined when each vampire's horrible death scene is jarringly topped off with a gag. And while Schumacher remembers convincing the skeptical heads of Warner Bros. that horror and comedy could combine successfully (as if he was the first to do so), the trailer (included on the DVD, along with four featurettes, an effects documentary, a cheesy look at the how Coreys Haim and Feldman came to be a teen Bing and Bob, 18 deleted scenes, and a Lou Gramm video) shows none of the mix, only a dark, scary horror film.

Several scenes also show Sam pants-crappingly terrified of David, who leads his crew in a series of brutal acts. They scalp a gang of partygoers, kill a couple in their car and a security guard on the boardwalk, and drink lots of blood. How, then, does Sam have the presence of mind to utter, "Death by stereo!" (the film's most famous zinger) after seeing Lost Boy Dwayne (Billy Wirth) staked to a hi-fi system and fried? Such cartoonish one-liners ("The attack of Eddie Munster," "Great, the bloodsucking Brady Bunch!" and "First come, first staked!") undermine otherwise dire situations.

Humor in horror films (as opposed to horror in comedies, like Ghostbusters or this year's Shaun of the Dead) works as tension release. In The Lost Boys, tension is never relieved, just dissipated. When Michael suddenly finds himself levitating, he's outside, floating in the air, banging on a window to signal Sam to help him. Michael's alarm and anxiety are clear, yet Sam offers a Flying Nun joke. The line is out of place, dulling Michael's anguish and jolting the audience again.

In the end, the comedy just takes over (along with terrible plot contrivances -- is David just sitting around while his gang members are wasted? If Grandpa is planning his attack through the whole film, why choose only the very last moment to save his family?) and the moodiness fades away. One wonders why Schumacher and Donner ever really bothered giving the film its serious edge.

Still, it's easy to feel nostalgic about The Lost Boys, as it kick-started the careers of Schumacher and Sutherland, and was the first screen pairing of those pop misfits, the Coreys. On the commentary track, Schumacher reflects with great earnestness about the film's Santa Cruz location, cool costumes, and pretty young performers. He's obviously overjoyed with the film's legacy and is grateful for paving the way for his successes as a writer and a director. Schumacher, as he did on the St Elmo's Fire DVD, talks respectfully about his actors, evincing a remarkable memory for the smallest details about all of them, from Haim's Canadian heritage to the former jobs of bit-part players Wirth, Brooke McCarter (the "Twisted Sister" vampire), and Chance Michael Corbitt (Star's young charge, Laddie). It's no wonder the actors interviewed for the DVD gush about him the way they do.

And his film, even 17 years on, still looks good. While he may not have made a perfectly genre-breaking, horror-comedy mix, he got the "hip" part right. And that counts for something.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.