When we published this list of our favorite modern vampire movies (1979 to the present, to be specific), we encountered a number of emails of and comments from readers who cried foul: We left out Lost Boys. So we went through archives, looking for Voice‘s review of the Joel Schumacher film, released during the summer of 1987. We came up with this very entertaining review of a not-great movie, by then-Voice critic David Edelstein. With his permission, we’re republishing it here in full. For the record, the movie has a 75-percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but we’re keeping our list as-is.
If movies have taught us anything, it’s that there’s no sport, so merry as slaughtering vampires. Stakes through the heart, sunlight, holy water: frothily they die, thrashing. To paraphrase Shakespeare, nothing becomes their life like the leaving of it. Killing bloodsuckers was enough to make Fright Night a hit, and it will probably do the same for the crass, obvious Lost Boys, a bitchin’ vampire flick for heavy-metal morons. The picture is pitched to the music-video crowd and for good measure has the juvenile lead complain that his grandfather’s house lacks MTV. Set in a beach town like Santa Cruz (here called “Santa Carla”), Lost Boys opens with the bouncy Echo and the Bunnymen cover of the Doors’ “People Are Strange,” punctuated with shrieks from the roller coaster and shots of shuffling loonies. There’s potential here: at first you think the director, Joel Schumacher (St. Elmo’s Fire), will create a world where vampires and boardwalk crazies mingle; and the idea of heavy-metal types turning out to be vampires would explain a lot. (So that’s what happens to groupies.) But the satirical possibilities are passed over for dumb one-liners about old sitcoms, and the vampires never play music — although a poster of Jim Morrison adorns their lair. Lost Boys doesn’t even have the wit to bring back Jim Morrison as a vampire, which would explain a lot.
I’m told that the original script, by Janice Fischer, was a striking twist on Peter Pan, the story of two brothers, 10 and 13, visited by missing little boys who will never grow up — vampires. (Adrift for years, the bloodsuckers crave a mother.) It’s a chilling idea, but there’s nothing left of it. When little-kid movies started to bomb a couple of summers back, executive producer Richard Donner (director of The Goonies and Lethal Weapon) had the ages raised and a love triangle inserted. (Jason Patric, who has mammoth lips and cheekbones so wide it looks like his face has been stretched), and the vampires are leather-clad motorcyclists (led by Kiefer Sutherland, looking like Lon Chaney as Billy Idol) who fly around and chomp on the other bikers. Patric falls for the unappetizing Jami Gertz, who’s only a demivampire, and is unwittingly initiated into their cult. Until he makes his first kill, however, he’s a demivampire, too, doomed to wake up on the ceiling, and seek help from his younger brother (Corey Haim), who has fallen in with a pair of surly pubescent Rambos (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander).
This is the only movie I can recall with two Coreys in the cast. Corey Number 1, Haim (he was the title charter in Lucas), is the most irritating adolescent mouth-breather imaginable; I kept hoping a bat would fly in and get lodged in his windpipe. He’s one of many objects in Lost Boys that are murder on the eyes — this movie has the most garishly junky mise-en-scène you’ve ever mise-en-seen. Grandpa’s house abounds in stuffed mammals, hanging carcasses, rattling bones; the bat cave is strewn with fish, nets and the contents of a hundred attics; open flames lick the corners of the screen, and colored smoke and fog drift through hthe bric-a-brac. Cinematographer Michael Chapman (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Personal Best) does things only a master would dare: he overlights Sutherland, drowning him in harsh pools of white, and he leaves some of the images cottony, murky, deliberately out-of-focus. Lost Boys is Excedrin Headache Number 32: a cinematographer’s tour-de-force.
Editor’s Note: Thank you to David Edelstein (now at New York magazine), who was gracious enough to let the Voice reprint this entertaining review. When asked 27 years later if he would change anything about the review, he replied that he’d certainly drop the characterization of Jami Gertz as “unappetizing.” He adds, “She is actually very lovely but the part was so drippy I wrongly blamed the actress. A full apology is warranted.”