A timeless classic, “The Lost Boys” is the perfect union of comedy, horror, and sex appeal that explores themes of adolescence and family.
I readily recall the enticing tagline from The Lost Boys movie poster:
“Party all night. Sleep all day. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire.”
Directed by the late Joel Schumacher, The Lost Boys changed the face of the vampire in cinema. The vampires weren’t aristocrats in evening wear, hypnotizing mortals with bewitching charms.
This film centered around a group of vampires, a biker gang dressed in an alternative style — goth or punk. Instead of a castle or mansion, they had an underground lair with a large picture of Jim Morrison on the wall.
The Lost Boys had all of the ingredients of a perfect film: a strong cast, a multilayered story, populated with iconic characters and fused with pure sex and rock n’ roll.
THE LOST BOYS gave classic vampire tales an 80s rock n’ roll makeover. Schumacher said his goal was to make the “coolest vampire movie ever made.” He did just that.
Released on July 31, 1987, the film was successful at the box office, grossing $32 million against a budget of $8.5 million. Now considered a cult classic, it spawned two sequels: Lost Boys: The Tribe (2008) and Lost Boys: The Thirst (2010), plus two comic book series.
It takes place in the fictitious town of Santa Carla, California, dubbed the “Murder Capital of the World.”
Recently divorced single mother Lucy (Dianne Wiest) moves to Santa Carla with her teenage sons, Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim), to live with her eccentric taxidermist father (Barnard Hughes).
As Michael, Sam, and Lucy settle into their new surroundings, they cross paths with interesting characters on the boardwalk.
Sam meets wannabe vampire hunters Edgar (Corey Feldman) and Alan Frog (Jamison Newlander) at a comic shop.
Lucy meets Max (Edward Herrmann) when she begins working at his video store.
And Michael happens to meet the lovely Star (Jami Gertz). She hangs with a gang of bikers led by David (Kiefer Sutherland), which includes Paul (Brook McCarter), Dwayne (Billy Wirth), and Marko (Alex Winter).
Star’s boyfriend, David, challenges Michael to a race that leads Michael down a strange path.
Michael discovers not only are vampires real, but he’s becoming one. His only hope is his younger brother Sam and Sam’s new friends, the Frog Brothers.
Half-vampire Star and child vampire Laddie (Chance Michael Corbitt), who have not fully turned yet, enlist Michael’s help to destroy the head vampire to regain their humanity.
The story is the classic tale of the vampire fledgling chosen against their will. The film’s scenario was original at the time — the new kid in town wants to fit in with the cool kids, who happen to be vampires.
Vampirism is a metaphor for adolescence.
Michael unknowingly drinks David’s blood from a wine bottle, illustrating a classic situation of peer pressure and the desire to fit in. Believing the blood to be wine, Michael drinks it. Once he drinks the blood, he begins to change. Michael’s strange behavior mirrors that of a typical adolescent. He starts spending the summer staying out late with friends, sleeping most of the day, exhibiting odd mood swings, and being secretive.
The film also explores the idea of a non-traditional family, including life after divorce.
Michael’s mother, Lucy, begins dating her boss Max, who Sam suspects is a vampire.
While Sam is suspicious of Max, Michael is hostile towards him. Max observes that both boys are protecting their mother. He also assures Sam that he’s not trying to replace his father. However, he tells Lucy that “boys need a mother” and children need discipline.
We find out that Max plans to transform Michael and Sam into vampires and make Lucy into a vampire mother to his own boys (David and his gang).
Step-parents portrayed as literal evil aren’t anything new. Snow White’s stepmother would be a perfect example, as well as The Stepfather horror film franchise. The step-parent is usually viewed as an interloper.
However, in The Lost Boys, Max is more than just an unwanted intruder into their family dynamic. He is a vampire who seeks to transform the entire family into vampires, integrating them with his own — and creating his own “blood-sucking Brady Bunch.”
The Lost Boys blends darker elements of horror effectively with light-hearted comedy. The vampires are brutal killers; however, the story injects a healthy dose of comedy in all the right spots.
One great comedic scene is when Sam and the Frog brothers administer a “vampire test” when Max comes to dinner. They serve spaghetti, substituting grated parmesan cheese with raw garlic, pouring holy water on him, and shoving a mirror in his face.
Many comedic moments are provided by Hughes as Lucy’s father.
Grandpa is a taxidermist who gives Sam several stuffed animals, not the cuddly kind. He also lays out the rules as soon as they arrive: Never rip the address label off the TV Guide, and never touch the shelf labeled “Old Fart” in the refrigerator. However, the boys learn that although Grandpa looks forward to reading the TV Guide, he doesn’t have a TV. He says you don’t have to watch TV if you read the TV Guide.
Then, of course, there’s the epic ending to the film where he says, “There’s one thing about Santa Carla I never could stomach… all the damn vampires.”
The Lost Boys was originally supposed to be, as Schumacher put it, “Goonies Go Vampire,” a film about child vampires based on the story of Peter Pan.
In the summer of 1984, James Jeremias worked as a grip on studio lots.
He started writing the original screenplay called “Lost Boys” with his childhood friend Jan Fischer. Jeremias’s and Fischer’s screenplay had the basic plot elements in the final film, except the characters are younger.
In an Empire article, Jeremias talked about how he came up with the idea for The Lost Boys.
“I had read Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire […], and in that, there was a 200-year-old vampire trapped in the body of a 12-year-old girl. Since Peter Pan had been one of my all-time favorite stories, I thought, ‘What if the reason Peter Pan came out at night and never grew up and could fly was that he was a vampire?’”
In J.M. Barrie’s 1904 play, Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, Peter Pan was the leader of the Lost Boys, children who fell out of their carriages while unattended and eventually sent to the Neverland. In the Neverland, they remain eternally young. The film’s characters were originally in their early teens, and the Frog brothers were 8-year-old boy scouts.
Jeremias and Fischer got an agent who sold the script in 1985 to an independent film company, Producer Sales Organization (PSO), for $400,000. PSO had a deal with Warner Brothers. However, PSO went bankrupt shortly after acquiring the script, and Warner Bros. hired Richard Donner to direct.
While Donner liked the story, he wanted Jeremias and Fischer to rewrite it, making the characters older.
However, Jeremias and Fischer were working on a project for Paramount at the time. Donner got Jeffrey Boam, whose previous credits include David Cronenburg’s The Dead Zone, to do a rewrite.
Donner soon left the director’s chair when he was offered Lethal Weapon since that film had a completed script. However, he served as executive producer for The Lost Boys.
Donner’s wife, producer Lauren Schuler had just worked with director Joel Schumacher on St. Elmo’s Fire and recommended Schumacher to fill the director’s seat.
However, Schumacher was far from enthusiastic.
According to Empire, it was during a run that Schumacher had a brainstorm. He envisioned the vampires we see in the final film — a motorcycle gang in their late teens resembling “a British gypsy band” who live in “an old Victorian hotel that had crumbled into the San Andreas Fault during the 1906 earthquake.”
Once the studio gave him the go-ahead to alter the story according to his vision, Schumacher embraced the project enthusiastically.
Part of Schumacher’s vision was that he wanted the film to be sexy.
In a December 2019 interview, Schumacher told Empire that he saw vampirism as a metaphor for oral sex.
“Dracula dresses in dinner clothes […] Quite elegant. And he appears at the windows of beautiful young women, where he systematically sucks the fluid from their bodies, making them his slaves. What else could it be a metaphor for? And vampires can be gorgeous.”
He cast the film with this goal in mind, envisioning Kiefer Sutherland as David, Jason Patric as Michael, and Jami Gertz as Star.
Costume designer Susan Becker created The Lost Boys’ iconic look, pieced together using clothing from different eras, which alludes to the characters’ immortality and timelessness. Inspired by singer Billy Idol, Kiefer Sutherland got his hair cut into the bleached blond spiky mullet he wears as David. Schumacher didn’t like it at first but warmed up to it.
Shooting began on June 2, 1986, in Santa Cruz, California. In the film, the town is dubbed “The Murder Capital of the World,” and needless to say, Santa Cruz didn’t want to be associated with that. So, the town was changed to Santa Carla in the film.
As with many successful films, Warner Bros. wanted a sequel. Schumacher came up with some exciting ideas that included a prequel about the 1906 earthquake. His other idea was “The Lost Girls,” featuring female biker vampires starring Drew Barrymore and Rosanna Arquette.
However, Lost Boys fans eventually got two straight-to-DVD sequels in which Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander reprised their roles as the Frog brothers.
Through the years since its release, The Lost Boys made its mark on the horror genre.
This is the first film that I can think of that featured vampires who weren’t aristocratic.
Released at the same time, the vampire film Near Dark was released, also featuring a cast of very unglamorous and ruthless vampires. Both films opened up a wider cinematic view of the vampire doing what Anne Rice had already done in the literary world with her ground-breaking novel Interview with the Vampire.
Joss Whedon cites The Lost Boys as an inspiration for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Screen Rant quotes Whedon talking about how the film inspired him.
“The idea of them [vampires] looking like monsters and then looking like people, that was in [The] Lost Boys, which was very useful for us. You can have somebody fool you…”
Schumacher also mentioned to Empire that Jordan Peele referenced The Lost Boys in the prologue of his film Us. The prologue takes place in 1986 on the Santa Cruz boardwalk, and a character points out that a movie is being filmed by the carousel. “He gives us the nod!” Schumacher said. “A subtle little shout-out, but I loved it!”
There’s also talk of a pilot for a Lost Boys television series on The CW.
The Lost Boys has stood the test of time, and its legacy continues to live on over 30 years later, immortal and timeless.