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Empire List #438: The Lost Boys

Before Joel Schumacher went ahead and temporarily ruined the Batman franchise for all of use, he actually directed a terrific horror movie. The decade was the 80s, the cast included Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, and the monsters were vampires. Despite featuring one of the most overexposed movie monsters of our time, “The Lost Boys” stands out in the genre for its combination of horror, comedy, and great effects.

This being a cult film from the 80s, I first heard about it from movie websites and magazine articles. Mostly the articles complained about how the sequels that came out decades later were simply not as good as the original. Ever noticed that whenever a studio waits twenty years to make a sequel, it’s never as good as the original? Looking at you “Indiana Jones 4.” I got to see the original in this franchise when it was playing on TV on Halloween. I don’t know about the sequels, but this movie does seem pretty hard to top.

The film begins when Lucy Emerson (Diane Wiest) a just-divorced mother moves to the coastal town of Santa Clara with her two boys, Michael (Jason Patric) and younger brother Sam (Corey Haim). As they drive through town, the Doors’ “People are strange” is playing in the background. Appropriate, as their destination is filled with the sort of strange people you usually see on California beaches. They move into the house of their grandfather (Barnard Hughes) who among other things, practices taxidermy. Enjoy your new home, boys.

While exploring the boardwalk by the beach Sam meets Edgar and Alan Frog (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander), two young boys who apparently live alone and operate their own comic book store. The Frog brothers warn Sam the reason why so many people go missing at night in Santa Clara is the local vampire problem. They even advertise themselves as vampire hunters and give Sam tips on how to spot the blood sucking demons. Of course Sam shrugs off their warnings and goes off his merry way thinking they have read one too many comic books.

It turns out the Frogs warned the wrong brother. During Michael’s exploration of the town, he meets Star (Jami Gertz) a beautiful woman who hangs out with a local gang led by David (Kiefer Sutherland, years before he became Jack Bauer). David’s gang likes to party all night and live life on the edge. They race around town in motorcycles with total disregard for the safety of others or their own. They even hang under a bridge and dare Michael to let go. That should have given him a clue right there. Then they offer him a drink of something from a wine bottle, but it isn’t red wine.

Soon Sam begins to notice changes in his brother and thinks maybe these crazy Frog brothers might not be so crazy after all. When he returns to them, they explain the vampires have a leader, who once killed, will release the others from their curse. Suspicion fall on Max (Edward Herrmann) a local businessman who unfortunately is dating Sam’s mom. This leads to some funny moments during a dinner scene when the brothers try to expose Max with garlic and mirrors.

“The Lost Boys” knows all the clich├ęs about vampire movies and plays with them. With all the sunlight in California, how would vampires survive in the daytime? Simple: they hang upside down in a cave like giant bats. Also if you shoot a vampire with holy water from a water pistol, will it burn its face? Worth a shot.
The production team placed a lot of effort into the cinematography. Most notably when the vampires are flying and the audience gets a P.O.V shot as the camera descends from the sky and heads for a potential victim. Kudos should also go to the make-up department. These are not the glittery vampires from “Twilight.” When they get burned by sunlight or impaled with wooden stakes, their skin gets toasted and the blood flows profusely. Some of the fights in the third act reminded me “Evil Dead II,” another cult classic from the 80s.

With all of these brutal gory films that came out during that decade, sometimes I feel sorry I was born in 86 and missed it all. From what I read the fashion was horrible, but the music and movies were awesome. The decade that gave us John Hughes also gave us Indiana Jones, the first “Die Hard,” and “Ghostbusters.” “The Lost Boys” is in good company.


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