Film Retrospect: The Lost Boys
by Barry Wurst
July 15, 2007
If all had gone as planned, The Lost Boys may have ended up a very different film. As most die hard, Honorary Frog Brothers know, Richard Donner was originally going to direct this film. Coming off the success of The Goonies, Donner was fashioning The Lost Boys as a thematically similar, kid-friendly adventure, pitting child vampires against The Frog Brothers (one of the few characters that survived the first draft and made it into the final version). The pre-production went on too long and Donner decided to jump ship and make Lethal Weapon instead. Rather than junk Lost Boys, it ended up in the hands of a promising new director named Joel Schumacher and Donner became the producer instead. With his noted eye for style, Schumacher re-imagined the piece as a sexy, scary teen thriller, flush with comic elements and an MTV-ready style. A new screenplay was prepared, filming took place mostly in Santa Cruz, California and the summer of 1987 saw the release of a genre classic.
Unlike most horror films released around this time (namely, sequels to Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street), The Lost Boys gained strong word of mouth from audiences, held up well against the likes of Beverly Hills Cop II, La Bamba and Harry and the Hendersons and, at over $30 million, was a minor hit for Warner Brothers. The first time I saw a promo for it was, appropriately enough, on MTV: following the music video for Good Times (still a great single by INXS and Cliff Barnes), a full length trailer played. The film was an even bigger hit on video, though, despite much rumored talk and anticipation, a proposed sequel (one of which was called The Lost Girls!) never happened.
Instead, the film took on a life of its own. Despite the film's ultra-slick, very 80's look and attitude, the film is still a beloved classic. It influenced the look of horror films, the hipster tone of all future teen vampire flicks (not to mention Buffy the Vampire Slayer in general) and became The Citizen Kane of vampire movies for the goth scene. The appearance of several characters (namely Kiefer Sutherland's) became a standard for punk apparel and, even now, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who isn't crazy about the movie. Unlike the previous summer movies I rattled off, few other movies released that summer, let alone that YEAR, have had the cult and filmic impact of The Lost Boys.
As for the film itself: it rocks. Big time. Even non-horror movie fans (like my wife) dug it, as the film's sense of humor (its greatest strength) keeps the film smarter and sharper than most vampire films. The Lost Boys has a few genuine scares but, unlike Interview With the Vampire, Underworld or Bram Stoker's Dracula, doesn't take itself so seriously and keeps things fun and exciting. The cast is marvelously offbeat: Corey Haim has some of the film's best lines, Jason Patric is quite good in his leading man debut, Sutherland is genuinely unsettling as the leader of the bloodsuckers, Corey Feldman (in his 80's prime) steals every scene he has and old pros Edward Herrmann and Dianne Wiest bring a lot to roles that could have weighed the film down.
Say what you will about Schumacher, but at the height of his fame, he churned out some superb crowd pleasers (including St. Elmo's Fire, Falling Down and A Time to Kill) and this one still has a kinetic kick.