(1987, Horror/Comedy, color)
Janet Varney and Cole Stratton
Antlers aren’t made out of wood, are they?
In a Nutshell:
Teen misfits take on a gang of vampire bikers.
Surly teen Michael (Jason Patric) and his little brother Sam (Corey Haim) move with their mother Lucy (Dianne Wiest) to stay with Grandpa (Barnard Hughes) after the divorce. Grandpa’s an eccentric hermit taxidermist with an off-color sense of humor and an antler-filled house near a touristy beach town. The three newcomers each head out into the Missing Person Poster-lined town in turn. Lucy finds a job at the local video store, working for the avuncular Max (Edward Herrmann), who immediately starts asking her out. Sam discovers a comic shop run by the vampire-obsessed Frog brothers (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander as Edgar and Alan Frog). Michael attends a greasy saxophone beach concert where he meets the lovely Star (Jami Gertz).
That’s a lot of character and actor names for one paragraph. Fortunately there’s only one more worth mentioning: the leather-clad David (Kiefer Sutherland), who heads the local teen biker gang. He’s already got some sort of claim on Star, and challenges Michael to ride with them. Michael successfully avoids going over the cliff at the end of their ride, and gets invited back to their clubhouse/cave. David and his gang feed him Chinese food that occasionally turns into maggots and worms. Despite Star’s warnings, they goad him into drinking an ornate bottle of something that at seems more or less wine-ish.
Michael begins to change. He becomes lethargic after sunrise and intolerant of daylight, wearing sunglasses even indoors. He had dreams of flying with David and the gang at night. He has trouble stomaching real food; his hunger to eat something else almost drives him to attack his brother Sam. Sam’s dog defends him, and when the fight’s over Sam points out that Michael’s image in the mirror is fading. Michael runs back to the vampire cave, where Star makes love to him in lieu of explaining what’s happened. Soon after, David and the gang take him to observe a punk beach party. Their eyes turn red and they grow fangs to rip the party goers apart while feasting on their blood. Michael’s fangs grow too, but he restrains himself.
Sam, in the meantime, has called the Frog brothers, who fill him in on the movie’s mythology. Michael is currently a half-vampire—i.e., someone who’s begun the change, but won’t be a real vampire until he makes his first kill. If Sam wants to turn him back to normal, he needs to kill the head vampire. For no apparent reason (aside from his apparent jealousy of the attention paid to his mother) Sam suspects Max. Max comes to dinner and endures the Frog brothers' occasionally messy vampire tests with reasonable good humor. It ends with Lucy’s date ruined and the Frog brothers concluding that he’s not the head vampire.
Determined to help the fellow half-vampire Star, Michael provides the Frogs with the vampire cave’s location. They go there by day and carry away Star and a half-vampire child named Laddie while the only marginally competent Frogs search for David’s sleeping gang. They put a stake through one, but the other three wake up and pursue. Everyone makes it to the sunlit exit before the vampires can catch them.
With Michael, Star and Laddie too tired to move until nightfall, Sam and the Frogs invent a pretext to send Grandpa and Lucy away. They fortify the house with garlic, crosses, stakes and a bathtub of holy water. Night falls, Michael and Star wake up, and so do David and his gang. The three vampires invade the house. The Frogs and Sam’s dog knock one into the tub of holy water, where he violently melts. Sam shoots one with a wood-tipped arrow; the wounded vampire stumbles backward into the stereo and is staked/electrocuted to death. Michael allows his vampire nature to emerge so that he can duel David, eventually impaling him on the horns of a stuffed antelope. The half-vampires were expecting to return to normal upon David’s death, but this doesn’t happen. Edgar Frog declares that they must have missed one.
Lucy arrives home with Max, and is shocked at the devastation in the house. Max inspects David’s corpse and apologizes that “his boys” got so far out of hand. Turns out he was the head vampire all along, planning to vampirize Lucy and her sons to help him civilize his own unruly vampire children. He threatens to kill Sam unless she joins him in vampire wedded bliss.
Just as she’s about to agree, Grandpa smashes his truck through the front door, wooden stakes tied to the hood. One of them pierces Max’s chest; he bursts into flames and dies. Grandpa gets out and picks his way to the fridge for a root beer. If there’s one thing about this town he can’t stand, he declares, it’s “all the damn vampires.”
Technically this is a horror film, but as Roger Ebert is fond of saying, it’s not what a movie is about, but rather, it’s how it’s about it. The Lost Boys is horror in subject matter, but like most of the horror I enjoy, it keeps the light tone of an adventure movie throughout. It suffers a bit from uneven writing, but the actors are engaging and the story is tightly plotted. I don’t consider it high cinematic literature; I do, however, consider it more enjoyable than most of the high cinematic literature I’ve seen. Or, to put it another way: there are lots of films I admire more, but most of them aren’t this much fun.
Odd, that this should have come from the mind of Joel Schumacher, a director now known for creating some of the most apocalyptically bad cinema in human history. I wish he’d go back and do some more of this.
A few favorite comments: When Janet questions the greased-up bodybuilder saxophone performance, Cole explains, “It’s part of the Beastmaster concert series.” While David’s gang circles the house menacingly, Janet says, “Motorcycles can’t come in unless you invite them in.” When Edgar Frog suggests that vampires and flies go together like bullets and guns, Janet asks, “Flies shoot out of the undead?” Once again, my enjoyment was marred by a movie that refused to stay in sync with the commentary. This time it may have been my own fault; the only rental copy I could find on short notice was a download from Xbox Live. Still, you’d think a movie downloaded to standard hardware would play at the right speed... Anyway, the movie’s almost half comedy already, which makes the riffing a little duplicative in spots. It’s funnier when they’re picking at the movie’s many inconsistencies (“Antlers aren’t made out of wood, are they?” asks Janet). Maybe I’d have had a better time with it if technical issues hadn’t screwed up the comic timing, but it was reasonably enjoyable regardless. The three stars above represent my best estimate of what an uninterrupted viewing might rate.
(1987, Horror/Comedy, color)