“One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach… all the damn vampires.“Grandpa Emerson
Lost boys is a satirical horror set in the 80s, and follows the story of a single mother and her two boys as they move out to their grandfather’s residence in Santa Carla to start a new life. However, the group of boisterous and reckless vampires in town may make this a little more difficult than they’d thought. Michael and Sam Emerson experience anxieties that are typical when moving to a new place- Will I make friends? Will I fit in? Will me and my family be eaten by a group of motorbike riding vampires? You know, the usual.
Shortly after their arrival, eldest Michael (Jason Patric) quickly becomes entranced by the beautiful and elusive Star (Jami Gertz), a local girl who is closely monitored by the vampires. Desire takes over, and as Star and the uninhibited bikers speed off into the night, Michael is compelled to follow. After a dangerous trail leads him into a cave, it is apparent that they are permanent residents and have made it their home (with the grungy decor featuring a poster of Jim Morrison). Conversation between Michael and the unnerving group becomes tense, resulting in Michael being pressured into drinking a mysterious drink, causing delirium and confusion as he unknowingly begins his transformation into a vampire.
All the while, Michael’s younger brother Sam (Corey Haim) befriends local comic book fanatics and brothers Edgar (Corey Feldman) and Alan (Jamison Newlander) Frog, who are not only convinced of the existence of vampires, but are also equipped through their love of comics with a deep knowledge of how to kill vampires (talk about convenient). While the Frogs actions appear fuelled by paranoia as they perform a series of tests on the newly formed love interest of Michael and Sam’s mother, feeding him garlic and ensuring that he can be seen in mirrors during their first meeting, their lack of results do not deter the Frogs in their belief that vampires exist amongst them.
Meanwhile, Michael is attempting to come to terms with his night of horror. Though outwardly it appears as though this transformation is that of an angsty teenager, complete with the leather jacket and George Michael earring, his physical changes go beyond that of puberty, including immortality, ability to levitate and an unrelenting desire for human blood. After demanding answers from Star, it becomes apparent to Michael that he is not completely transformed and is required to feed on human blood in order to do so, learning that Star is also in this state of liminality herself. After his will to restrain himself is put to the test, surrounded by vulnerable and intoxicated humans, Michael realises that he must destroy the vampires if he is to have a chance at leading a normal life.
And if your mission to kill a group of vampires, who better to team up with then the Frog brothers? With a plan set to end the tyranny of the vampires, Michael, Sam and the Frog brothers venture out to their cave, equipped with a selection of stakes and the naïve courage that only children can conjure. Tension builds as we expect the violent showdown, only to find that the vampires are in their most vulnerable of states, hanging from the roof of the cave sleeping as though a bat would. Ceasing the opportunity, Edgar Frog stabs a stake into the chest of the closest vampire, whose shrieks awake the vampire clan. Triumph quickly falters as the boys are suddenly outnumbered by the awakened immortals, vengeful following the death of their peer. David, the apparent leader, lunges for the boys, yet is unable to leave his cave during sunlight, and the boys make a quick escape back to the grandfather’s home.
Preparations led by the proactive Frog brothers begin in anticipation of the vampires return at nightfall. The house is decorated with garlic, the bath-tub is filled with holy water and the stakes are sharpened as the boys prepare for the final showdown. A rummage within the house reveals Star, accompanied by a vulnerable young vampire, and the additions team up to join the impending fight as the sun sets.
Anarchy ensues as the house is invaded with vampires, but the will of the Frog brothers is strong, and they manage to eliminate another through their strategic traps, plummeting the vampire into a bath of holy water. The gory scene is depicted through the use of special effects, with prosthetic makeup portraying the gruesome decomposition of his body as he writhes within the bath. Around the house, pipes burst with blood as the audience is granted no relief from the gore following the first successful slaughter. Downstairs, another battle ensues, and Michael is knocked unconscious, leaving his brother Sam to desperately try to awaken him. Tension is increased by the darkness of the scene, lit only by a threatening red light revealing the shadow of the sadistic leader David cast on the wall behind. Michael gathers his inhuman strength as he battles with David to the death, eventually besting him as he impales David with the antlers of his grandfather’s latest hunting kill.
Finally free from the tyranny of the vampires, the audience breathes a sigh of relief, with the return of the ever naïve mother Lucy (Dianne Wiest) and her partner Max (Edward Herrmann) seemingly indicating the return to normality. Yet, as Lucy shrieks in hysteria at the state of the house in the background, the camera’s focus interestingly stays with the more minor character of Max as he takes in the sight of David’s skewered corpse. Nonchalantly, he turns to Lucy and apologises: “my boys misbehaved”, shockingly revealing himself as the head vampire, while David and his friends were merely Max’s minions. Max divulges into his extensive plan to create his own family- a ‘bloody-sucking Brady bunch’ (Frog Brothers™).
Disturbed and enraged, the boys and Star attack with all their might, but are merely batted away like flies as Max embarks towards their feeble mother. The film reaches its climactic point as he grips Lucy within his palm and reveals his sharp, lethal fangs, nearing her neck. As all hope appears lost, the tension is cut by the sound of a startlingly loud car horn. Smashing through the side of the house, a car equipped with colossal stakes soars into the hallway, impaling Max in the chaos. While the others embrace in relief, Michael and Sam’s elderly grandfather stumbles out the vehicle and towards the kitchen, unscrewing a cold beer from the fridge. The previous assumptions of his ignorance and fragility are dashed as he delivers the final and epic line of the film-
“One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach… all the damn vampires.”
While overtly satirical, The Lost Boys explores the allure of immortality and the notion of being ‘forever young’, exposing the unappealing reality of this seemingly idealistic notion. While the group of wild vampires embrace their invigorated spirits and the perks of eternal life, they are presented as nothing beyond the instincts that drive them; Michael sees beyond the enticing façade, upholding his integrity and fighting against his blood-thirsty instincts to maintain his humanity.
While it adheres to the rather typical storyline of ‘a small town with a big secret’, the exceptional cast and director (Joel Schumacher) certainly make it comparable to major films at the time such as ‘Stand By Me’ and ‘ET’, with a focus on developing the characters as well as entertaining the audience with shocking twists. The 80s aesthetic, old school visual effects (ah the days before CGI) and witty humour has certainly earnt The Lost Boys its title as a cult film.