Damn, no one told me this was a horror-comedy! Maybe my critical standards are slipping, but I've just really enjoyed a Joel Schumacher film. For a start, The Lost Boys deserves recognition for straining so hard to be hip that it invented the Kevin Williamson film a decade before Kevin Williamson. This isn't necessarily a good thing, but it's noteworthy. Vampire lore is extrapolated to absurdity (holy water pistols) and pop culture references abound (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Eddie Munster, the Brady Bunch). It's also trying to be trendy and so ends up being irredemably eighties.
The clothes! "Pretty cool, huh?" Uh, no.
The soundtrack! I loved the "People Are Strange" montage at the beginning, which might be the best single sequence Joel Schumacher has ever directed. But then the songs go downhill, until you start wondering if modern Britflicks with their trendy soundtracks will date as horrendously in years to come.
But all that said... man, at times I was killing myself laughing! Sometimes the film strains too hard for comic effect, such as when three teenagers try to prove that Edward Herrmann is a vampire at the dinner table. Not funny. However the film's comic successes far outweigh such misfires. Barnard Hughes as Grandpa is always good for a laugh; I especially liked his "trip to town". "Weird old man," mutters Corey Haim, the straight man to Hughes in a cool double act. The brothers' relationship is entertaining too... "My own brother, a goddamn shitsucking vampire! You wait 'til Mom finds out!"
But best of all, funnier than the funniest thing you've ever seen, is the double act of Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander as Santa Carla's fearless vampire killers. Never have I seen such macho posing. Neither Dolph Lungren, Jean-Claude Van Damme or any other musclebound action hero could get away with such shameless bullshit. The film knows perfectly well that these boys only think they're Rambo, but still I couldn't believe my eyes. You'll never see broader acting and it's hilarious. Every line is delivered with steely-eyed determination, like Dirty Harry as the bad guy comes after him with a rocket launcher. When they swaggered up to our hero in the comic store and started growling at him, I was on the floor. It's all there. Charles Bronson's pauses, Sylvester Stallone's sneer... And these are child actors!
In fact the teens steal this film, which is doubly impressive when one considers the kind of acting one expects from children. Jason Patric is acted off the screen by Corey Haim as his kid brother, but what's more is worse than their dog. His romance with co-star Jami Gertz is laughable, although that's okay because of the shot where she's wearing a flimsy blouse and no bra on a cold night.
The vampires though aren't meant to be funny. Kiefer Sutherland in particular plays it deadly straight and does rather well. The Lost Boys contains two interleaved films: a comedy with Corey Haim and his family, and a straightforward vampire film. Admittedly they're a bit camp as they swagger around town in that "I'm so dangerous" manner, but the bloodsucker plot thread is an honest-to-goodness tale of a boy falling in with the worst possible crowd. I genuinely liked Kiefer, while bizarrely one of his better cohorts is played by Alex Winter. You remember? Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.
Most of the film isn't scary, although I liked the Jedi mind tricks, but the final human-vampire confrontation is effective. That's some nice tension. Oh, and you can't not love the flamboyant vampire slayings. Note that Kiefer Sutherland doesn't disintegrate like his merry chums, apparently because he wasn't really dead and was to have returned in the sequel. He's staked on deer horn, not wood. That sequel never did get filmed although a script was written, but more than twenty years later there was a follow-up after all. It's called Lost Boys: The Tribe (2008) and it's straight-to-video, but it brings back some of the original's cast. Keifer Sutherland had better things to do, but on the upside it stars his half-brother Angus. No, really! Angus Sutherland. You think I'm kidding?
One can make subtler observations about the film. Family is a big deal, both for our heroes and for the vampires themselves. Note that Jason Patric doesn't just have to rescue Jami Gertz, but also a vampirised child. I also really like the title, with its Peter Pan resonances. Some day I'd love to see the movie it's hinting at in which we see the dark secret of the boy who'll never grow up. That would have been cool, but I enjoyed this movie too. Besides, even if you hate this movie, it could have been worse. Apparently it was originally going to be about a gang of Goonies-style 5th grade vampires until Joel Schumacher decided that was rubbish and changed it. Hmmm.
The Lost Boys is a lot of fun, though you'll hate it if you take your vampires deadly seriously. It skates dangerously close to being a pisstake of them, but it's not as if vampires weren't being mined for comedy value elsewhere around this time. Fright Night, ahem. Pure daft entertainment. As horror-comedies go, The Lost Boys is at the comedy end of the scale but it does manage a few horror touches at the end. And damn, I enjoyed that opening "People Are Strange" montage. Definitely recommended.