In 1957, the posters for I Was a Teenage Werewolf (starring then-unknown Michael Landon!) unconvincingly trumpeted the cheapie horror pic as "The most amazing motion picture of our time!" Thirty years later, monster movies were beginning to climb out of the Hollywood gutter. Perhaps such genre material should get the "A" treatment...maybe there's money in it! Instrumental in this turnaround was director Joel Schumacher, who—upon being offered a G-rated kiddie vampire adventure—envisioned instead an R-rated comedy-horror picture, an "I Was a Teenage Vampire" with a better script and healthier budget.
Skittish executives unclear on the concept still made The Lost Boys on the cheap (by the standards of 1987 Warner Brothers), but the ingenuity of Schumacher and his creative team has enabled the picture to stand the test of time as a cult film. Cinematographer Michael Chapman (Raging Bull, Taxi Driver), production designer Bo Welch (Batman Returns, Men in Black), makeup man Greg Cannom (Bram Stoker's Dracula), and screenwriter Jeffrey Boam (rewriting Janice Fischer and James Jeremias) prove invaluable in supporting Schumacher's stylish Pop Horror vision. A common part of the appeal of a cult film is that it is dated, and certainly The Lost Boys is married to its time in its saxophone-heavy, "Now available on Atlantic Records & Tapes"-ready pop-rock soundtrack; its fashion (colorful prints, early-Goth leather, and just-so hair); and its initial screen teaming of "the two Coreys": Haim and Feldman.
Corey Haim plays 13-year-old Sam Emerson, who moves with his older brother Michael (Jason Patric) and divorced-hippie mother Lucy (Dianne Wiest, fresh from her Oscar win for Hannah and Her Sisters) to the rural beachside town of Santa Carla, California, Murder Capital of the World. Down at the comic-book shop on the Santa Carla Beach Boardwalk (played by the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk), Sam meets the Frog Brothers, Edgar (Corey Feldman) and Alan (Jamison Newlander). The boy commandos warn Sam, "We've been aware there's some very serious vampire activity in this town for some time." Meanwhile, Michael falls for a pretty girl (Jamie Gertz) connected to Goth intimidator David (Keifer Sutherland) and a gang of—you guessed it—teenage vampires (including Alex "Bill" Winter of Bill & Ted's fame). Succumbing to peer pressure, Michael takes a swig of blood and becomes a "half-vampire." If he's to reclaim his pure humanity, the head vampire will have to take a stake to his heart.
But who's the head vampire? Is it David? Could it be Mom's new sweetheart (Edward Herrmann of Gilmore Girls)? Say it ain't Grandpa (Bernard Hughes), in whose house the Emersons have come to live! To the extent that The Lost Boys works, it works due to the tension between serious investment (best represented by Patric's method approach) and the film not taking itself too seriously (gape-mouthed Haim playing off the deadpan Frog Brothers). When confronted with the news that his brother is a vampire, Sam hollers, "Wait'll I tell mom!" Despite studio nerves, Schumacher's quirkiness flowed right into the mainstream, paving the way for his big-time moment as a director. It's not surprising that the film's undercurrent of sexuality helped to kick Schumacher's career up a notch, from the fluid-hungry vampires to the set-decoration in-joke of putting a midriff-baring Rob Lowe poster on the closet door of "Born to Shop" "fashion victim" Sam (it's surrounded by posters of sexy young women, but c'mon...).
As a contribution to vampire lore, The Lost Boys is middling at best, but Schumacher keeps it entertaining. The early vampire attacks, though '80s slick in their execution, evoke '50s horror: a point-of-view camera descends onto a Lookout Point couple as a vampire tears in, cueing a scream queen (in fact, the film includes only two special effects shots—the rest is achieved "practically"). And though Gerard McMann's unforgettable "Cry Little Sister" is officially labeled "Theme from The Lost Boys," Schumacher cheekily (and aptly) frames his story with Echo and the Bunnymen's cover of the Doors' "People Are Strange." With its cool cast and classic kiss-off ending, The Lost Boys will forever be a cultural touchstone of '80s cinema.
It came from the catalog! Warner's new Blu-Ray of The Lost Boys transfuses the Two-Disc DVD Special Edition into the high-def format. The image quality is the best of any home-video release yet, but all the same one shouldn't expect too much from this twenty-year-old film, which looks its age. The black level is not as true as one might hope, the image is a bit soft, and digital artifacts are occasionally evident (blooming light and mist pose some problems). Despite the challenges of Schumacher's lighting and filtering, the color rendering here seems accurate, and the print is quite clean. All in all, it's a satisfactory transfer of a tricky film source, and the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround soundtrack provides a killer presentation of a scary (and music-filled) soundscape.
All of the bonus features are here, presented in standard definition. In the commentary by Joel Schumacher, the director covers the origins of the project, the vampire mythos and what the film added to it, the thinking behind the makeup prosthetics, how to get maggots and worms to squirm on cue, and how he pissed off the two Coreys. The disc also offers up video commentaries on an eighteen-minute clip reel. The Multi-Angle Commentary with Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, and Jamison Newlander allows us to see each actor individually watching and commenting on the same sequences, displayed in a window below them. It's cool to see the grown-up actors get nostalgic and share their thoughts; Feldman is especially winning in combining memories with Mystery Science Theatre 3000-style commentary.
"The Lost Boys: A Retrospective" (24:00) is a recent, well-produced look back with Schumacher, producer Richard Donner, cinematographer Michael Chapman, Feldman, Haim, Newlander, Keifer Sutherland, and Edward Herrmann. "Inside the Vampire's Cave" (18:31 with "Play All" option) continues the reflections in four parts: "A Director's Vision" (6:57), "Comedy vs. Horror" (4:44), "Fresh Blood: A New Look at Vampires" (4:23), and "The Lost Boys Sequel?" (2:25), an intriguing set of speculations now outdated by the concurrent Blu-Ray/DVD release of direct-to-video sequel The Lost Boys: The Tribe.
"Vamping Out: The Undead Creations of Greg Cannom" (14:02) is a terrific, thorough examination of Cannom's work on the picture, complimented by The Vampires Photo Gallery and its 78 before-and-after images of the makeup effects. "Haimster and Feldog: The Story of the 2 Coreys" (4:30) presents brief tit-for-tat interviews with the stars about their friendship and intertwined careers. A World of Vampires is an interactive map of vampire legends from around the globe: "Central & South America" (1:47), "The British Isles" (1:14), "Greece & Mesopotamia" (1:26), "Eastern Europe & Russia" (3:44), "India" (1:13), "Asia" (3:05), and "Australia" (:53).
Lastly, we get Lou Gramm's music video "Lost in the Shadows" (4:34) and the film's Theatrical Trailer (1:25). Fans will certainly be pleased with the comprehensive special edition and, on Blu-Ray, its best yet image quality.
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