Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Lost Boys Movie Review: 25 Years Ago This Month

Before Anne Rice’s gothic horror novel based on young vampires was immortalized in a film starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt and long before pre-adolescents became obsessed with the Twilight series of books and films, there was The Lost Boys, one of the first films to deal with teenaged vampires in a dramatic way. Once Bitten and Fright Night were both comedies released two years earlier. Director Joel Schumacher made The Lost Boys in the middle of a stint of making several films focused on young people. I consider it his best period as a director.

The Lost Boys is a vampire movie only on the surface. Really it’s about youth: rebellious youth; youth that can’t find a place to fit in; youth looking for love and acceptance. Vampirism is just one means of expressing the angst of adolescence. That’s why the theme continues to be so incredibly popular with young people and why we seem to be inundated recently with vampire stories. Is the story about a group of vampires trying to recruit a new bloodsucking member or is it about a teenager who’s just moved to a new town and is seeking out a social group?

Michael (Jason Patric) is the boy who has just arrived with his mother Lucy (Dianne Wiest) and younger brother Sam (Corey Haim). One night at a rock concert on the beach (featuring the most hilarious saxophone playing front man in the history of musical performance) he spies a beautiful girl named Star (Jamie Gertz). Following her gets him involved with her friend David (Kiefer Sutherland) and four other young men. At this point we’ve already seen David and his friends strolling around the fair grounds and have some suspicion that they’ve been up to no good. But their designs on Michael are not about killing, but joining. After all, teens are always looking to bring new blood into their wild ways, aren’t they?

Michael joins them in their underground lair where he unwittingly drinks David’s blood. Then some strange things start happening. He sleeps all day and goes out all night. The family dog mistrusts him. It’s not long before Sam puts two and two together. Sam has been looking for his own affinity group and luckily he happened upon Alan and Edgar Frog (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander), the town’s comic book gurus and resident vampire hunters. They know something mysterious is taking place around their ears and they supply Sam with the knowledge he needs to protect himself. Meanwhile Lucy has become friendly with Max (Edward Herrmann), her boss at the video shop. Sam gets this silly idea that Max is a vampire, which may just be an excuse to sabotage his mom’s new relationship.

The screenplay by Janice Fischer, James Jeremias and Jeffrey Boam was reportedly heavily reworked at Schumacher’s insistence, changing it from a story of child vampires to teenagers. The story as it stands is rich with possibility and Schumacher imbues it with chilling atmosphere and it’s all very well photographed by cinematographer Michael Chapman. And most of the acting is far better than it has any right to be for a movie like this. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that Schumacher could have done so much more with the story and made a much scarier film. Instead he settles for a big action climax that pits the vampires against Michael, Sam and the Frog brothers. There’s some good use of gory makeup effects, but the end doesn’t live up to the promise of the first two acts.

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