The Lost Boys (1987)

Directed by Joel Schumacher; Written by Jan Fischer, James Jeremias and Jeffrey Boam

Much too often, our clamor for the serious and the understated get in the way of appreciating some films the way they ought to be. This can happen to films released today, but it’s particularly true of films released decades ago, where we snicker at their immortalization of our fads and short-lived cultural obsessions. It’s as if we can’t forgive them for reminding us of the way we were. 

The Lost Boys is vulnerable to that derision. A story of vampires that terrorize a So-Cal beach town and the two young boys who take the fight to them, it features 80s wannabe-punks who patrol the boardwalk, cool kids in stiff short-sleeved shirts, and headbands worn as fashion accessories. Meanwhile, adults stuff shoulderpads in their suit jackets, neon pollutes the night sky, wealth floods suburban neighbourhoods, and filmmakers try to coax any kind of evil from the shadows. 

For Joel Schumacher, the threat to Pleasantville is a gang of vampires that has turned the city of Santa Clara into America’s Murder Capital, snatching up sandy-haired Californians when they’re not riding their bikes fast and spending time doing other daredevilry. New in town, and quick to notice the strange happenings are Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim), and each go about engaging it in their different ways: Michael, with the hots for a girl among the punk rockers, apprentices himself to their rabble rousing ways while Sam allies himself with two comic books nerds who have suspicions about that very same group of punks. 

Schumacher spares nothing and The Lost Boys is a film of excess. Be it the costumes, sets, or dramatic energy, it spills into every scene and exchange. The different styles, of late-teen punks, early-teen pop brats, and adult coked-up presentability, are all lovingly realized to the fullest in Schumacher’s aesthetic, and to put a finger on his stagecraft is as impossible as grabbing firm hold of the greased-up saxophone god that sets everything in motion.

That same lavishness spills onto the script and into his direction as well, however, and The Lost Boys wants to do it all, and often at the same time. Michael’s story of a good boy gone bad, Sam’s tweener hijinks, and the vampire horror that underlies it all must all have their moments, and these elements of teen comedy, angsty romance, gory horror are all thrown together and churned into something less than its parts, with each beat stepping on the toes of the former.

So you have a film that’s a lot of everything, and part of me appreciates how well Schumacher executes the different genres, but it’s ultimately caught in no man’s land and watered down as a complete experience, regrettably. Still, what a glorious and exaggerated snapshot of a time and place.

The Lost Boys is not a modest film, and its grand gesticulations belie a timid essence . A story of brotherhood and familial love among both the living and undead, it has its virtues in what’s on-screen and can be enjoyed by the eyes and ears. Beyond that, you’re taking a chance. 

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