It’s hard to believe in these post-Twilight/True Blood days, but vampires weren’t always this endemic. Back in the 80s, before Buffy staked her place in popular culture, the cinematic vamp was a pathetic creature indeed – a moribund cliché tied to history, more often inspiring comedy than fear. Then came The Lost Boys. Smart, sexy and stylish, The Lost Boys made vampires cool again: took them from their Transylvanian castles and their English drawing rooms and dumped them right in the here and now. And, God, did we love them for it.
True, they weren’t the first to shake things up a little. Anne Rice had reinvigorated the genre with her best-selling Vampire Chronicles series – though that series remained steeped in history and lore, and while its main character Lestat did make the explicit transformation from vampire to rock star, the book where that happened, Queen of the Damned, didn’t hit the shelves until a year after The Lost Boys, and you could argue that the film beat her to the punch, because that’s what its vampires aspired to be – the rockstars of the supernatural world. It also wasn’t the first film to tackle modernising the myth, nor was it the most creative (both Tony Scott’s The Hunger (1983) and Kathryn Bigelow’s masterful Near Dark, released the same year as The Lost Boys, are both rightly acclaimed for their original-for-the-time approach to a tired trope). But now that every possible permutation has been explored on TV, in films, books and comics, how does The Lost Boys stand up? The answer, you’ll be pleased to hear is: awesomely. Here’s why:
(If you haven’t seen it, includes spoilers, but come on, fix that right now).
The Vampires Were Cool
Led by the ice cool and smokin’ hot Kiefer Sutherland’s David (whose bleached hair and leather look is a clear precursor to Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Spike), these vamps were the gang you wanted to hang out with. Yes, Kiefer aside, their hair might make them look like a Bon Jovi tribute band, but I’ll overlook that for the vibe of laid back menace they still managed to provide (which, with those hairstyles, is quite an achievement.) They drove motorbikes, lived in an underground wrecked hotel, and liked Jim Morrison back when he was seen as hip, before The Doors movie revealed he was, in fact, a big fat tosser. It doesn’t hurt that despite a few creative mis-fires over the years, Kiefer will be eternally cemented in our minds as a kick ass guy thanks to his role as Jack Bauer. And, oh, that voice…
I was too old even then to crush on the Coreys (it was Kiefer all the way) but the Coreys Haim and Feldman (I still occasionally get them mixed up, even now that Corey Haim has sadly passed to the giant rehab facility in the sky) were adorable and funny, back when they were cute kids rather than the poster boys for the perils of being famous too young. Watching it now also means that you can enjoy Haim’s wardrobe as the 80s masterpiece it was, rather than going ‘what the feck is that kid wearing?’
Casting such an accomplished actress as the divorcee who moved her boys to Santa Carla to start a new life gave the film not only gravitas but real heart. You totally understand the Big Bad vampire Max’s motivation – who wouldn’t want Dianne Wiest as the head of your family?
The Frog Brothers
Utterly useless, utterly hilarious.
So wooden you’re surprised they let her hang around lest she be used as an impromptu stake, but God, didn’t every woman watching want to be her, and waft around in floaty skirts, sit on the back of Kiefer’s bike and then get rescued by the equally hot if slightly squarer good guy. Not sure about being babysitter to the creepy Chucky-doll baby vamp, mind.
Those were the days when it was just starting to be as important to have a hit record as a hit movie, and from the spooky kids choral opening to the shirtless sax guy – what movie couldn’t be improved with a shirtless sax guy? – The Lost Boys music was great.
‘No two bloodsuckers go the same way…’ and they really didn’t. The boys dispatching the vampires remains one of the best fight/death scenes in any vamp movie, ever. ‘Death by stereo!’
A Smart Script
As well as coining a few phrases that are still quotable today, the script was packed with great lines and didn’t pause for breath. There’s not an inch of slack in the film, and it’s all the better for it.
The vampires were, y’know, proper vampires
There was no softening of the monsters here. They slept through the day, they killed during the night, and their killing was gory and brutal, even if it was set to a stomping rock soundtrack. “You’ll never grow old, you’ll never die… but you must feed.” That’s the deal, and the film didn’t gloss over the feeding bit.
And of course…
Cutest movie dog ever. And I’m not even a dog person…
The film has, of course, got plenty critics: condemned even at the time as a vampire film for the MTV generation (it does, of course, reference MTV). But I actually think that’s a strength, not a weakness. Not everything has to look like it was directed by Ozu on valium: there’s nothing wrong with a film being fast paced and slick. Modern classics like The Lord of the Rings, There Will Be Blood or No Country for Old Men have proved that there is still an appetite for epic stories told at their own pace, but not every story needs a week to get through. The Lost Boys whizzes along at its own frantic pace and never outstays its welcome, leaving you giddy from the ride. Without it, modern vampire lore wouldn’t be half as much fun.
Want another fun take on vampires? Why, check out my book, Dark Dates. No shirtless guy with a sax, though. Sorry, my bad…