Here we are with the second part of this five-part series with author CM Saunders, this one focusing on one of my favorites, The Lost Boys.
Top 5 Eighties Horror Flicks #4
Number Four in our countdown of eighties horror flicks is something that typifies the entire decade; cool, sassy, and slick, but with a dark, dangerous edge. It’s a conversation which comes up every so often. There you are, semi-drunk with a group of colleagues, or on one of those awkward Tinder dates, when in an effort to lift the tension and find some common ground, somebody asks, “So, what’s your favourite film?”
Obviously, there’s no right or wrong answer. It’s entirely subjective. But it’s still a bit of a loaded question. Say the wrong thing, and it could cloud someone’s opinion of you forever. What would your peers and prospective lovers think if you gave the accolade to Human Centipede 2? Or even worse, the Adam Sandler disaster Jack and Jill? For me, there are a few contenders (neither Human Centipede 2 or Jack and Jill is among them, you’ll be glad to know). But for a long period in my formative years, my answer was The Lost Boys.
It wasn’t always a popular choice. Horror hounds and 80’s film buffs might nod with appreciation, while others, especially the younger crowd, invariably frown and say ‘You what?’
Given that The Lost Boys came out over 35 years ago, I suppose that’s an acceptable reaction. Upon release it was a modest hit but was no Top Gun or Dirty Dancing, and has since passed into the ranks of ‘cult classic.’ That said, it has certainly aged better than most 80’s movies. Have you seen Weird Science recently? Don’t bother.
Anyway, directed by Joel Schumacher and made on a budget of just $8.5 million, the Lost Boys was a triumph of style over substance, in many ways encapsulating the decadence of the decade. It was big, brash, gaudy, and ever-so-slightly camp. Yet by the same token funny, slick, and immeasurably cool. In the case of Kiefer Sutherland, it might also be one of the very few times a lead character rocks a mullet and gets away with it.
For the uninitiated, The Lost Boys is the story of two brothers, Sam (Haim) and Michael (Patric) who move with their recently-divorced mother (Wiest) to stay with her eccentric father in Santa Carla, California. Cue lashings of teen angst and despair about feeling isolated and not fitting in and stuff. At a local comic book store, Sam bumps into the Frog Brothers (Feldman and Newlander) who warn him that the town has become overrun with vampires and give him comics to educate him about the threat, while big brother Michael falls in love with Star (Gertz) who happens to be in a relationship with a local gang leader called David (the aforementioned mullet-sporting Sutherland). Yup, you guessed it, David’s gang is actually made up of the very same vampires that have been terrorizing the town and making people disappear, and they want the star-struck (sorry) Michael to join their ranks. Don’t forget, this was back when vampires were glitter-free and legitimately scary. The story builds to an epic showdown between good and evil featuring some fantastically creative kill scenes (“Death by stereo!”) and even better one-liners.
At the time, Lost Boys represented something of a gamble by Warner Bros. Horror comedies aimed specifically at younger audiences were an unexplored genre, and a largely untapped well. It was a constant battle with the censors to sneak in as much gore as possible without falling foul of an ‘adults only’ rating that would severely limit your cinema-going audience. To make things even more problematic, the main cast was comprised mainly of unknowns (even if one of them had a famous dad) and even director Joel Schumacher was a largely unknown quantity with only The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981) and St Elmo’s Fire (1985) on his resume.
Even with the benefit of having 35 years to think about it, it’s hard to pinpoint what makes Lost Boys work so well. The plot itself is a little thin with not many surprises, but the script is sharp and witty and the performances are a cut above. Given Corey Haim’s untimely end, this is how most people remember him. A piece of marketing genius, the slogan (sleep all day, party all night, never grow old, never die. It’s fun to be a vampire) captured both the imagination and the mood of a generation, while the shiny MTV-style visuals are positively spellbinding, Kiefer Sutherland made the coolest villain ever, and Jami Gertz sent pulses racing. The haunting rock-infused soundtrack, an essential component of any 80’s movie, was also a contributing factor. Even Nanook the dog deserves praise for several show-stealing scenes.
However, despite all this, Lost Boys was much more than the sum of its parts, making an undeniable impression on the Generation X psyche and paving the way for everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the Twilight saga. The movie spawned two low-key sequels; Lost Boys: the Tribe (2008) and Lost Boys: the Thirst (2010) but neither set the world on fire, and a rumoured proper sequel, the Lost Girls, also directed by Joel Schumacher and which sounds pretty amazing, failed to materialize. The enduring legacy of Lost Boys ties in neatly with the source of the title, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan who, just like vampires, never grew up. To my knowledge he didn’t end up dissolving in a bath of garlic or being impaled on a fence post, either, so there’s that.
The producers originally wanted to call the town where Lost Boys is set Santa Cruz, because during the 1970s Santa Cruz gained a reputation as being “the Murder Capital of the World” after three infamous serial killers (Kemper, Mullin, and Carpenter, aka the Trailside Killer) hunted victims there. However, the Santa Cruz council ‘strongly objected’ to the town being portrayed in such a negative manner and allegedly withheld filming permits, forcing the producers to change the name to Santa Carla. Spoilsports.
On the 13th of every month I put a fresh spin on a classic movie in my RetView series over at my blog. Go here to check out the archive.
Boo-graphy: Christian Saunders, a constant reader who writes fiction as C.M. Saunders, is a freelance journalist and editor from south Wales. His work has appeared in almost 100 magazines, ezines and anthologies worldwide including Fortean Times, the Literary Hatchet, ParABnormal, Fantastic Horror, Haunted MTL, Feverish Fiction and Crimson Streets, and he has held staff positions at several leading UK magazines ranging from Staff Writer to Associate Editor. His books have been both traditionally and independently published.
The fifth volume in my X series featuring ten (X, geddit?) slices of twisted horror and dark fiction plucked from the blood-soaked pages of ParABnormal magazine, Demonic Tome, Haunted MTL, Fantasia Diversity, and industry-defining anthologies including 100 Word Horrors, The Corona Book of Ghost Stories, DOA 3, and Trigger Warning: Body Horror.
Meet the local reporter on an assignment which takes him far beyond the realms of reality, join the fishing trip that goes sideways when a fish unlike any other is hooked, and find out the hidden cost of human trafficking in China. Along the way, meet the hiker who stumbles across something unexpected in the woods, the office worker who’s life is inexorably changed after a medical drug trial goes wrong, and many more.
Also features extensive notes, and original artwork by Stoker award-winning Greg Chapman.
Table of Contents:
Revenge of the Toothfish
The Sharpest Tool
Down the Road
Where a Town Once Stood
The Last Night Shift