"One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach: All the damn vampires."
Among my favorite childhood cinema-going experiences, The Lost Boys still stands proud among my movie collection.
Starring Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric, Alex Winter, and the 1980s' favorite Coreys, Haim and Feldman, the film follows the vampire-besieged adventures of two Arizona brothers who move to California.
Joel Schumacher—aka Hollywood's gleaming beacon of inconsistency—was handed directing duties of The Lost Boys. The title references characters featured in J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan stories, who, like vampires, never grow up. Though Pan's posse guzzles far less human blood. Er, probably.
The Neverland influences don’t stop at the title, either—as noted in the DVD commentary, the initial screenplay (by Janice Fischer and James Jeremias) was more of a “Goonies-type 5th-6th grade kid vampires” affair, offering a logline along the lines of 'What if Peter Pan was a vampire?'
In this early draft of the script, the character of David (played in the movie by Kiefer Sutherland) was called Peter, while other characters also had Peter Pan-inspired names. The Frog Brothers, Edgar and Alan, are named after legendary horror writer Edgar Allan Poe.
Executive producer Richard Donner was originally set to direct, but with a languishing production schedule and Lethal Weapon looming large on the horizon, he ended up hiring Joel Schumacher instead. The new director hated the idea of young vampires, and refused to commit to the film unless he could change the characters to teenagers.
The notion of blending horror with comedy was a cause for concern among studio executives, along with the virtual no-name cast (at least at the time of production). As Schumacher states on the DVD commentary:
“The studio was incredibly patient and supportive considering they'd never heard of Kiefer Sutherland, or Jason Patric, or Jamie Gertz, or Corey Haim... It was another big chance taken by a studio. We were very lucky. A lot of people at the studio didn't think you could mix horror and humor.”
The Santa Cruz beach boardwalk, along with its amusement park, features prominently in the movie’s first act. Not least the Frog Brothers’ comic book store, known in the “real world” as Atlantis Fantasy World (owner Joe Ferrara II actually makes a brief appearance inside, seen playing pinball). Alas, the comic book store—along with the bandstand where Michael first meets Star—were both destroyed in the Loma Prieta earthquake.
Interestingly (at least for massive nerds like me), Santa Cruz in Spanish means "Holy Cross," providing legit connection to the "vampires hating crosses" angle.
Despite being the most successful vampire movie of 1987, The Lost Boys had some nifty company. Near Dark, starring Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Bill Paxton (along with Joshua John Miller, Jason Patric's half-brother) also hit movie theaters that same year, albeit with limited success. Blending horror with biker/Western themes rather than comedy, the Kathryn Bigelow-directed Near Dark accrued only $3.4 million at the Box Office, while Schumacher's offering raked in over $35 million.
Alas, not everybody loved the film as much as I did. Here's a snippet from Roger Ebert's 1987 review:
"There's some good stuff in the movie, including a cast that's good right down the line and a willingness to have some fun with teenage culture in the Mass Murder Capital. But when everything is all over, there's nothing to leave the theater with - no real horrors, no real dread, no real imagination - just technique at the service of formula."
My response? Pah! Not even the Best Movie Critic Ever gets it right 100 percent of the time.
A cherished slice of my childhood that holds up as a fun-filled slice of Halloween entertainment, The Lost Boys more than merits a revisit this weekend.