‘Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire.’
The Lost Boys were the original ‘trendy’ vampires – long before the Twilight films became popular this 1987 movie had a good-looking cast and a kick-ass plot. Kiefer Sutherland (Stand By Me, Young Guns, Flatliners), Jason Patric (Rush, Sleepers), Corey Haim (License to Drive) and Corey Feldman (the Goonies) were the main stars, alongside veteran actors Barnard Hughes (Doc Hollywood, Sister Act II), Dianne Wiest (Hannah and Her Sisters, Parenthood, Edward Scissorhands) and Edward Herrmann (Annie, Richie Rich, Nixon).
Michael (Patric) and Sam Emerson (Corey Haim) reluctantly move to the town of Santa Carla with their mother, Lucy (Wiest), who has recently divorced. They now live with Grandpa (Hughes), an eccentric taxidermist, prone to be on the grumpy side and, seemingly, the only person in town who has any idea that something dodgy is going on after dark. We find out from the beginning that he’s eccentric as, when the family arrive, he’s playing dead (‘And from what I heard, doing a damn good job of it, too.’) on the front doorstep. As you do when you are waiting for your grandchildren to visit, obviously.
Grandpa also confirms Michael’s suspicions that they’ve moved to a town with a bad reputation (‘Is it true that Santa Carla’s the murder capital of the world?’…’Well, let me put it this way. If all the corpses buried around here were to stand up all at once we’d have a hell of a population problem.’).
Trying to find amusement in their new lives the boys explore the Boardwalk, the place to be seen in Santa Carla. A whole host of unconventional kids hang out there: we see a variety of punkish hairstyles, piercings and tattoos, while The Doors’ People are Strange plays in the background. We are also shown the many ‘Missing Person’ posters that litter the area, another clue that all is not well.
The story then partially divides into three. We follow Michael, Sam and Lucy as they meet new people; individuals that appear to have no connection to begin with but whom, ultimately, will all be crucial to the plotline.
Lucy finds a job in a video store where she meets the kindly Max (Herrmann) who is busy keeping his shop clear of local ne’er-do-wells. Sam heads straight for a comic book store and bumps into the peculiar vampire-hunter Frog brothers, Edgar (Feldman) and Alan (Jamison Newlander). They caution him that the town has a serious blood-sucker problem (‘Notice anything unusual about Santa Carla yet?’) and that he should prepare himself by reading the graphic magazines that they give him; Sam initially laughs this off.
Michael, by this time, has ventured further down the Boardwalk and become entranced with a girl he spies there. Star (Jamie Gertz) is beautiful - all ethereal and floaty – but is the girlfriend of David (Kiefer Sutherland, resplendent in a long black coat which he swishes to great effect). David is the gang leader of a group of mis-fits: Marko (Alex Winter, who goes on to become the Bill in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure), Dwayne (Billy Wirth) and Paul (Brooke McCarter). Hanging about with them is also Laddie (Chance Michael Corbitt), a young boy they’ve taken in who only says two words during the entire film (and they’re both ‘Star’) but who does do a very convincing vampire growl at one point.
When Michael does get the chance to approach Star, David intervenes and provokes him to race them on their motorbikes. Michael knows his bike can’t beat theirs but hey, he’s a guy that doesn’t want to lose face in front of the pretty lady, so he follows them. After nearly going over a cliff edge because they didn’t tell him to stop in time, he still goes with the group to their hideout (he really needs to be a bit more perceptive about people): a hotel which was swallowed up by the ground during a huge earthquake. Star tells Michael not to drink the wine that David offers him as ‘it’s blood’, which would put most people off, but not Michael! He swigs some back and then is persuaded (talk about giving in to peer pressure) to hang from a railway line over a gorge so deep that the bottom is obscured by fog. One by one the gang let go and drop into the mist with yells and whoops, while Michael (who is understandably terrified) holds on until his fingers give in.
The next shot is Michael, waking up fully dressed on his bed at home – he’s suffered no external injuries but we’re none the wiser as to how he survived. Later we realise that the blood he drank is making him crave more; out of control he is about to make a grab for his brother, until Sam’s dog, Nanook, attacks him. Seeing Michael’s reflection, or lack thereof, in the mirror, Sam begins to comprehend what has happened to his brother and hides, petrified.
Michael seeks out Star again for help but, as in all good films, there’s nothing she can do and instead the two fall in to bed with each other. Well, if you can’t beat ‘em…
Sam turns back to the Frog brothers for advice on what he should do about his brother’s newly acquired bloodlust. He learns that as Michael has not yet killed anybody then he is only a ‘half-vampire’ and therefore there is still hope for his return to normal. All they need to do is find and destroy the head vampire. Simple, huh? They conclude that this has to be Max, who is now dating Lucy, and they participate in a comic dinner party with the couple as they attempt to test him. Nothing they do, however, reveals a vampire status and they have to conclude that they were wrong.
Meanwhile Michael is getting weaker, he needs to feed. David exposes him to his first sight of a vampire killing orgy but Michael is sickened and finds the strength to resist, just. When he gets home Star turns up and tells him that she, too, is a half-vampire and that Michael was supposed to be her first kill, thus turning her into a full vampire.
The following day Sam, plus a pumped up pair of Frog brothers, makes Michael show them where the vampire gang take cover during the day. While Michael stays in the car, the intrepid three sneak inside the hotel and find them hanging upside down from the rafters, fast asleep. Planning to drive stakes through their hearts, they manage only to impale Marco before the others wake up and chase them to the entrance. With Michael’s help the boys manage to escape (the vampires can’t come out into the sunlight) and also rescue Star and Laddie at the same time. We then cut to a shot of a visibly upset David chillingly snarling the word ‘Tonight’.
Back home both Lucy and Grandpa are out and so Michael, Sam, Edgar and Alan barricade themselves in. Armed with weapons and water guns filled with holy water they prepare to defend the house against the approaching vampire attack. It gets dark; David and the others arrive and the fight begins. Paul is the first vampire to meet his doom: Edgar and Alan, with the help of Nanook, push him into the bath, which is filled with garlic and holy water. His skin melts, leaving a writhing skeleton thrashing about. One down.
Next to be eliminated is Dwayne: Sam shoots an arrow from his longbow, which goes straight through the monster’s chest and penetrates the music system, leading to a spectacular explosion of sparks and the iconic line from the young vampire exterminator: ‘Death by stereo’.
Now only David is left and the epic final battle clearly has to be him versus Michael. As they both possess supernatural powers much of this struggle takes place up in the air, near the ceiling, only finishing when Michael, using the last of his ability, manages to impale David on a handily-placed pair of antlers, another of Grandpa’s trophies.
Peculiarly, however, despite David’s death, nothing has changed. Michael, Star and Laddie remain the same, meaning that the head vampire is still alive and well. But who is it?
We find out moments later, when Max and Lucy return from their evening out. Max ruefully surveys the chaos; a wrecked house and three dead vampires and it becomes clear that it is he who has been in control until now. But how did he get past the tests set by Sam and the Frog Brothers? He explains that inviting a vampire into your house gives them ultimate power and therefore they can override the usual giveaways of non-reflection, reactions to holy water etc. Max is about to bite Lucy when Grandpa arrives home from his date, crashes through the wall of the house and drives a fence post through Max, causing his body to explode. The half-vampires become fully human once more and Michael, Sam and Lucy embrace each other thankfully.
Grandpa barely notices the drama, taking a drink from the fridge and ending the film on the immortal line ‘One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach: all the damn vampires.’
The Lost Boys received an averagely-positive reception: it was praised for its cinematography and cast but faced accusations of ‘style over substance’ and criticisms of the characters Lucy and Grandpa. Ultimately, however, it was a resounding hit with its intended young audience and has become a cult classic. Two straight-to-DVD sequels were released although only Feldman, Haim and Newlander returned to their roles.
So, good looking vampires, fight scenes and humour – what’s not to like? Add to this an amazing soundtrack featuring INXS, Jimmy Barnes, The Doors, Run DMC, and Elton John (don’t worry, it’s one of his good ones) amongst others and you’ve got yourself a highly watchable film, albeit one that doesn’t score highly on the feminism scoresheet (the few female characters are either sappy, victims, eye candy or in parts so minute you won’t remember them).