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The Lost Boys
1987 - R - 97 Mins.
Director: Joel Schumacher
Producer: Richard Donner
Written By: Jeffrey Boam
Starring: Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Kiefer Sutherland, Dianne Wiest, Edward Herrmann, Alex Winter, Corey Feldman
Review by: John Ulmer
   
"I don't see a TV, Michael. No TV means no MTV."

So says Sam (Corey Haim) to his brother (Jason Patric) as they check out their new house in Santa Cruz. That quote best describes "The Lost Boys" -- a vampire film for the MTV generation; for people who want lots of blood and guts but no intelligence. The movie is billed as a comedy but it's not funny. It's also billed as a horror but it's not scary. What is it, then? I don't know. Like its characters, it seems to be lost.

Michael and Sam move to Santa Cruz with their mother (Dianne Wiest), which happens to be the murder capital of the world. Little do they know that a blood-thirsty pack of teenaged vampires are responsible for the mass murders in the city. They roam the boardwalks at night, spotting prey, and feasting as they dive down through the sky for a midnight snack. Security guards are killed, children are killed, and stoned party animals are killed -- all at night, by the vampires, who -- as legend has it -- are allergic to daylight.

The movie was made in a time when special effects were so poor that showing the vampires flying through the sky might seem ridiculous. Instead, we get lots of swooping camera techniques that try to make us see through the eyes of the lead vampire, David (Kiefer Sutherland), who transforms Michael into a vampire one night and literally hangs out with him.

The title for the film comes from the story of Peter Pan and his lost boys (all four lead vampires share the names of these lost boys, too). In that tale, the kids in Neverland never grew old for unexplained reasons. Here they never grow old because they've vampires. They are immortal. But, of course, onion garlic and holy water and stakes through the heart will kill them. Tough break.

Clever concept, but poor execution, helmed by Joel "Batman and Robin" Schumacher, who also directed "St. Elmo's Fire," which perhaps explains why Sam has posters of Rob Lowe and Molly Ringwald on his bedroom wall. (Why, exactly, he has a poster of Lowe stripping out of a shirt, can be left for explanation by someone who knows.) After his brother becomes a "half-vampire," Sam alerts the Frog Brothers, local vampire hunters with way too much time on their hands. (One of the brothers is also played by Corey Feldman, who used to be a huge teen icon during the 1980s and now has trouble finding jobs anywhere.) They go on a rampage, kill one of the vampires named Marko (Alex Winter), and are pursued by the rest of the pack.

"The Lost Boys" is a camp movie, for sure, trying to blend comedy and horror such as "The 'burbs" (1989), released two years later, which also co-starred Feldman. In that way, it succeeds. But I think one of the biggest problems is that the film takes far too long revealing its vampires for what they are. The movie acts as if we don't know what's going on, and takes close to an hour before it's really even implied that these teenagers are children of the night. Chances are most viewers will already know the movie is at least based on a vampire tale of some sort, and will probably be disappointed to find that the movie doesn't focus much time at all on the vampires, and takes its time arriving at the conclusion. It tries to add intrigue to a story that we all foresee far in advance. We know they're vampires already - let's get on with it.

What's even worse is that the film tries to implement more than a few twists, especially towards the end, which soon becomes absolutely unbearably awful, unsatisfying and absurd. I have to wonder how on earth this movie ever gained as good a reputation as it has over the years.

To be fair the cast struggles with the material. Jason Patric is acceptable as the lead hero, but I never felt any strong feelings for him. The two Coreys (Haim and Feldman, who reunited on several projects over the years since "The Lost Boys") aren't even very humorous, especially Feldman, a comedic relief character who usually manages to become the annoyingly likable persona of any given film, but evidently tries too hard here, particularly with his forced low voice (no, it isn't natural). It's one of his worst roles that I've seen him in. Edward Herrmann, as Wiest's mandatory love interest and possible on-the-side vampire (or so Sam suggests at one point in the movie), is severely miscast -- an actor used to playing roles such as that in "Richie Rich" and "Intolerable Cruelty" who tries to act smart here and doesn't succeed very well at all. The best performance comes from Kiefer Sutherland, as David, but his role is misadvertised -- we are led to believe from the commercials and posters and DVD covers that he is one of the main characters of the film, yet I'd be surprised to hear that he shares more than fifteen minutes of screen time. Sutherland presumably enjoyed working with Schumacher (a real hit-and-miss director), because he teamed up with him again for "Phone Booth" (2002), which is undoubtedly superior in almost all ways.

"The Lost Boys" simply isn't very scary, funny, or even entertaining. The ending is embarrassing and tries to throw in a bunch of twists, but they're just plain silly. It's not a very good vampire flick and not even on par with some of the best cheesy horror flicks out there ("Gremlins" is the perfect example of this sort of movie done right). It tries to add originality to a concept that has been squeezed dry over the years since Max Schreck and Bela Lugosi made it popular (film-wise, that is). How disappointing that they cannot even manage to make us laugh at some of the vampire stereotypes, and instead serve us some laughably bad ideas with a laughably bad script and a truly lame "twist" ending. Mel Brooks' "Dracula, Dead and Loving it!" wasn't anything special but at least it was smart enough to spoof a dry formula, rather than suck its blood dry, so to speak.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

 
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