Although film genres often overlap, just like with cooking some ingredients don’t quite mix. Two typically opposing categories, horror and comedy, have been forced together several times with varying results. Joel Schumacher’s 1987 cult classic “The Lost Boys” follows in the same vein as Sam Raimi’s slapstick “Evil Dead” trilogy. Ambitiously tackling this niche, Schumacher’s movie fulfills the comedic and supernatural requirements, delivering a laugh-inducing thriller. While “The Lost Boys” wallops the wooden stake on the head in execution, the narrative is a tad predictable and admittedly cheesy. That being said, the movie achieves a difficult genre fusion and provides an entertaining and enjoyable journey.
“The Lost Boys” centers on the Emerson family, Michael (Jason Patric), Sam (Corey Haim), and Lucy (Dianne Wiest) as they relocate to Santa Carla, California. The recently divorced Lucy and her sons move into Lucy’s father’s (Barnard Hughes) house. Contrary to a refreshing change, Santa Carla appears to protect a sinister secret. As the trio drive through the city the camera focuses on ominous missing person posters and graffiti proclaiming “Welcome to the Murder Capital of the World.”
Like any boys new in town during the summer, Michael and Sam frequent the beachside boardwalk, featuring rides, video and comic book stores, and godawful 80’s music (stick to the movie, skip the soundtrack). One evening Michael notices a beautiful girl, Star (Jami Gertz). Pursuing her through the crowd, he runs into a punk-inspired gang of teenage vampires led by David (Kiefer Sutherland). Though expressing obvious hesitation, Michael follows the posse back to their dilapidated underground hangout.
Concurrently, Sam meets two self-professed vampire hunters, the Frog brothers (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander). The Frog brothers give Sam two vampire comic books and their phone number lest he need them. In the following days Michael begins sleeping during the day, wearing sunglasses and going out every night. As expected, Sam reaches out to the Frog brothers, and they team up to kill the head vampire with the hope of saving Michael.
Though lacking in surprises, “The Lost Boys” makes up for any short-comings in the laugh department. Humor isn’t forced, but flows naturally through dialogue. Primarily Sam and his new buddies Edgar and Alan Frog bear responsibility for the comedy. Immediately after discovering that Michael is a vampire, Sam isn’t surprised. Rather, he accepts the existence of vampires with a hilarious rant: “You’re a vampire Michael! My own brother, a goddamn, shit-sucking vampire. You wait ’till mom finds out, buddy!” He proceeds to enlist help from the Frog brothers in tackling the problem, but first they ask for symptoms. Sleeping a lot? Check. Limited sunlight? Check. Sunglasses? Check. Bad breath? “…um, he always had bad breath…” Sam replies straight-faced.
The beauty of the movie is the mock-serious tone. “The Lost Boys” definitely compares to “The Evil Dead,” though significantly less gory. Sam, Alan and Edgar test Lucy’s boyfriend Max (Edward Hermann) for vampire symptoms feeding him straight garlic, dousing him with holy water, and ultimately ruining the evening. Before the final showdown with the vampires, the trio sneaks into a church during a baptism to fill water pistols and canteens with holy water. They waltz in and out as if they belong. In the aftermath of the vampire fight, the grandfather cracks open a root beer and mutters, “One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach, all the damn vampires.”
Although hilarious, the narrative isn’t too surprising. From the onset the identities of the vampires are obvious. It comes as no surprise when Michael follows them and eventually transforms into a creature of the night. The climax, a fight between the humans and vampires, isn’t exactly unexpected either. Additionally, as a part horror film, “The Lost Boys” isn’t very scary. However, there are a few original twists which compensate for some of the predictability. Until roughly halfway through the movie the vampires aren’t actually shown during their attacks, a unique tactic. The camera merely zooms towards the frightened victims. This first-person perspective might not be a ground-breaking technique, but it helps set the movie apart from other vampire fare. One of the few shocks arrives in the identity of the head vampire. Still, don’t expect a revolutionary finale.
Over the years “The Lost Boys” has gained a cult following. As a select member of the horror-comedy category, it further sets itself apart by executing the genre successfully. The movie isn’t particularly innovative or subtle. But give it credit for uniting two unassociated genres, creating unforced laughs, and offering high entertainment value. The movie grabs your attention and retains it until the credits roll. Finally, and most importantly, the vampires adhere to traditional weaknesses (sunlight, holy water, wooden stakes) and thankfully they don’t sparkle. That alone is reason enough to watch “The Lost Boys.”