Turning into a vampire is a disconcerting, possibly confusing, at times painful, generally unpleasant transformation - if you're to believe the legends and lore. This is not at all dissimilar to puberty, as you probably know.
Your body changes. Your status in society changes. You becomes an entirely new being. Thus, the proliferation of coming of age vampire stories floating around out there comes as no surprise.
I feel I must pause here to write this: I'm a cranky old lady who will write absolutely nothing about the Twilight movies, save that statement.
Okay. Moving on.
The 80's were this fantastic heyday for coming of age movies; John Hughes was huge and while the basics of coming of age stories never changes, the details of the shiny world Hughes (and the majority of Hollywood) portrayed simply didn't ring true for everyone. Thus, we should offer a heart-felt thank you to the late 80's for giving us a handful of the best vampire coming of age movies around as an alternative to those "normal" films. (Once Bitten, Fright Night, My Best Friend is a Vampire, and The Lost Boys)
The real focus of this blog entry is The Lost Boys, a movie that I truly love and that completely embodies the absurdity of the 80's. (If you doubt me, Corey Haim's wardrobe should be proof enough!)
The effects are good. The writing is good. The acting is good. And even the direction (and we'll get into Joel Schumacher in a bit) is good.
Why it works
Lets talk about the basic stuff first: effects, cast, soundtrack!, etc. first. And I know that you're all tired of me going on and on about the merits of practical effects so I'll keep this bit short.
There are two key elements (for me) that can make or break a vampire flick: fangs and blood. If either of those are too cheesy, fake, or unbelievable, the whole movie is pretty much shot for me. Luckily both are handled well in The Lost Boys. I will admit here that they aren't my favorite instances of fangs of blood but they are good. And that's what matters.
The cast is so solid. Cory Feldman & Jamison Newlander completely convincing sell their characters. Growing up in the 80's, being a nerdy kid, you probably were or knew the Frog brothers. And Kiefer Sutherland. Kiefer Sutherland is about to turn me into a liar and make me go off on a tangent here...
When the trailers for the first Twilight movie came out my immediate thought was: "Why did they cast the ugliest kids they could find to play vampires?" In this "vampires are sexy, sensual, romanticized creatures" kind of story - why - why - why would you cast someone as terrible to look at as Robert Patterson? Why?
Now, look at Kiefer Sutherland. He's nothing short of beautiful and Joel Schumacher made sure to continually frame and film him in a way that highlights his child-like, angelic features. Probably the best example of this is when he drinks from the bottle of blood before handing it to Jason Patric. (Who, I have to admit, is also not so hard on the eyes.)
And then there's poor Joel Schumacher, a man who is terribly hated by nerds. I mean, it's hard not to harbor some nerdy hostility towards the man who directed both Batman Forever and Batman & Robin.
But if we're to ignore that, for just a second, and look at just his work with horror / thrillers, I think we can actually forgive him. He gets pacing and he sets strong, appealing shots. (Look at The Lost Boys, Flatliners, and 8MM for example.)
The soundtrack. It is everything I want from a movie about subcultures, disenfranchised youth, and vampires in the 80's. A bit "indie rock" a bit "gothy" and totally ridiculous. I own it. For real. And when I listen to it, I get the same feeling I do when I watch the movie. That, to me, means it was done right.
"Let the wild rumpus begin!"
Okay. So, that's the basic stuff. But why do people really connect with the movie? What really accounts for it's lasting appeal?
As if the movie's title didn't spell it out plainly enough, it's a retelling of one of the greatest children's stories of all time (Peter Pan & Wendy.) In that story, the lost boys are quite simply a band of boys who don't want to grow up and will live forever. In the movie, David (Kiefer Sutherland) and his vampire pals are these lost boys living happily in their Neverland of the Santa Carla boardwalk.
We are undeniably drawn to the story of children who refuse to grow up and therefor don't; children who will remain beautiful, fun, energetic, and young forever living blissfully in a world of pure pleasure and adventure.
At the same time, there is something frightening about this idea of lost, family-less children romping around eternally; it is outside the real world and therefore supernatural and possibly 'Evil' (with a big E.) In the case of The Lost Boys, what moves the concept from a quaint children's tale into something more sinister is the addition of vampires.
But the movie also works because it's a coming of age story; the possibly sad, inevitable truth of what happens to us when we find ourselves unable to stay young forever. It's a story that we can relate to; a liminal time that we all understand. You can't stay a child forever so you must learn to be an adult.
Okay. Wrap up time.
If you've ever felt like an outsider, felt unsure of yourself or where you belong, or thought that you may be turing into a vampire - watch The Lost Boys and you'll feel better.
You can watch the Lost Boys trailer here:
And you can order a copy of The Lost Boys for yourself here: