Kraig Taylor-Bryant sees if a 1980s vampire movie still has some bite as he got his teeth into the original version of The Lost Boys...
After watching many films that are more mainstream, I find that I have a keen interest in those films that are dark and intrigue the mind. Because of this I decided to have a watch of The Lost Boys, a film that was recommended to me by Steve Taylor-Bryant, that revolves around two boys, Michael and Sam Emerson, who are moving to a small town with their mother before they slowly discover that the town is haunted by teenage vampires. What's intriguing about this is that it only subtly hints at something being weird about these teenagers early on in the film, with lines such as "that’s as far into town as I like to go" and "I told you not to come in here", sparking curiosity and the danger implied with this gang. In terms of the horror aspect of it, I didn’t find it scary to watch at all, but many aspects of this film have become somewhat clichéed over the years, so I wanted to get the perspective of someone who had watched this film when it came out in 1987. I asked Steve about what he thought of this film when it came out and what previous films he has watched before this one, to get an idea of how this one compared to those films.
The first point I discovered was that he watched this film when he was 12, due to his rebellious attitude during his childhood, meaning he had also went to see other films before this one, which he was not allowed by his mother to see, such as Nightmare on Elm Street, Wicker Man, Satanic Rites of Dracula, and more. But to him, what made this film stand out was the fact that it had several things that the other films didn’t have or, at least, didn't have all in the same film. He went on to say that this film had everything, that it had relationships and humour, among other things, of course one of those being horror. This, I suppose, makes sense as even nowadays we have films like Twilight getting more attention when talking about vampires, which seems to more focus on the relationship between the two main characters, making it lack somewhat in humour (which it clearly wasn’t aiming to include) and action.
Looking at the other films Steve said he had watched before watching Lost Boys, the Satanic Rites of Dracula had the similar thriller/horror aspect that we would usually associate vampire films with, making it entirely different to the direction that Lost Boys took, as Lost Boys went for being slightly humorous and relatable to teens, through the relationships and the ages of the main characters. And then there's The Wicker Man which, interestingly, uses the combination of thriller and mystery to make this scarier film different from others. Although it does have a mention of finding a missing child in the plot, it’s different in the sense that it involves rituals and follows the more detective side, as opposed to in the Lost Boys, in which it focuses on kids that are finding out what is going on and try to take matters into their own hands. And then there's Nightmare On Elm Street, which is far from a light form of horror as it’s a slasher/indie film that involves killing teenagers in their dreams. Of course, the difference with Lost Boys is that you don’t see much of the people being eaten alive, making it a little lighter, but it is similar in the fact that it involves teenagers, so it can interest them and make it scarier for them as they relate to it. One of the things that I noticed being different in particular about the Lost Boys film is that they use a more mysterious form of horror throughout most of the film, like the kind that would creep you out in the build up to the final climax, which ends up being more fun than terrifying really, as it uses a comical side to vampires when one of them gets killed in a bathtub.
To quote Steve "the film is kind of like Peter Pan" which, in many aspects, is right because of the many references it has to flying, the fact that Michael is left flying outside of his house, and the fact that he's taken to live with kids of his age to be like them. Of course, there are some key differences like the fact that these kids do have a parent, and the obvious fact that they're vampires, but it's interesting how this idea was inspired by Peter Pan and it works because, with the mixture of the music and the mystery, you get a very mystical and magical feeling from watching it, but it’s a creepy sort of uncertain mystical feeling, and that’s what makes this film clever.
It's also quite clever how we see another side of being a vampire that you don’t really see in films like The Satanic Rituals of Dracula, and that is a teenager, Michael, who doesn’t want to be a vampire and almost dies because he refuses to drink blood. That’s what helps to make this film a little lighter but, at the same time, it’s tense because we're wondering what's going to happen to him and we keep wondering who the head vampire is from the moment that they reference it. Those that were probably scared throughout the film, would relate the character of Sam, Michael’s brother, in the sense that as a kid you do tend to have fears, as I am aware that Steve did at the age that he watched it, and I myself had fears of certain films growing up, which is why the audience can relate to him.
The film also has a few good scenes to begin that set up the villains, such as through the first person that the audience sees, getting killed, and the continued build up when we see a couple in a car getting killed. The film also tries something new with the fact that garlic doesn’t seem to work with these vampires. This subtly hints at previous events like when they're convinced that Sam and Michael’s mother’s current boyfriend is the vampire father and they try to give him garlic to prove it, but it’s the scene later on that tells us that these are a different kind of vampire, a different take on them altogether. So, the surprising twist of this man we met earlier being the vampire's father doesn’t become so surprising if you notice the hints leading up to it, almost as if this film were a detective story, but a kid's take on it, like the Secret Seven books, but as a film. This might have been what made the film appeal to Steve growing up as he, today, watches TV detective shows such as NCIS and A Touch of Frost.
With the mix of being like a detective film, have mystical elements, relatable to Peter Pan, and having horror elements, it's definitely a film that could appeal to many, but within the ages of teen and above, as there are some bloody scenes. But I gather this is why the film had such success at the time, with it also seeming darker than other films, and the fact that they didn’t even use blue screen that much back then, let alone green screen. It’s clear that they used effects of some sort, possibly in the scene where Michael is flying uncontrollably outside Sam's bedroom window, or even when we see that small shot of the gang of vampires driving away on their motorbikes, but those shots are so short that it’s hardly noticeable that these aren't done as well as they could be nowadays. However, in terms of other visual effects, the explosion of the leading vampire and the use of the fire is done to look pretty realistic and it’s moments like this that really don’t appear to have aged and help to make this film that little bit more watchable to the next generation.
There are also the makeup/costumes that had a pretty big impact on the films realism, and that’s shown when we see the vampires which, to be honest, look just as realistic as the TV show Teen Wolf that I watch nowadays, and it is clever make-up artists such as this that probably contributed to making this film so impactful and memorable during its time. As well as this, credit is due to the costume designers also, as the costumes chosen for the vampires, not only fit the types of clothes that a teenager would wear at the time, making it a perfect cover for a vampire, but also fitting a vampire's human form look in general. It brings across their dark beliefs and desires as well as making them blend in well in the night. And the teenagers who wore those types of clothing would also often ignore their family in the same way as those that might have been into goth, or in a bike gang of sorts would likely behave. As in real life, clothing can reflect the mood of a person, and it is done very well in this film.
It's also interesting to note there are several things now regarded as a bit of a cliché that this film seems to create. For example, when Edgar Frog says "vamp out" in the final sequence of the film, which later ends up being used in the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other vampire stories, Lost Boys seemed to have an influence on future vampire stories by creating a new phrase. Things like this also make the film a good fit for teenagers and it could even be said that this film introduced a new audience to the vampire concept. Towards the end sequence of the film especially, it uses a very playing army feel to it when fighting off these vampires and making it fun for those that are the age of the characters, and possibly encouraging them to try other vampire films like the Satanic Rites of Dracula.
To give my personal opinion on the film, I think that the camera is used very cleverly to make it look like the vampires are flying and the effect would seem very real to those Steve’s age at the time it was in cinemas. And the music does a very good job at making the film mysterious, both in the build up to the end scene and in the end scene itself where the film starts to go more into the horror genre, as it uses the typical piano that presses down on many keys to emphasise the fear that the vampires are trying to make the kids and audience feel. The film also follows a lot of the usual activities that a kid would do at the time, such as going to a comic book shop or hanging around with friends, like both Sam and Michael do in this film, making it sort of appropriate for older kids to watch and understand the curiosity and the adventure that kids usually desire, which strengthens their connections to these characters. It also does a very good job of influencing these kids to stay close with their family or they will end up being almost vampire like in the sense that they won't talk to them or show affection for them. However, towards the end of this film, Michael ends up being more human when he stays with his brother in the end sequence which helps him remember who he is and stops him from eating those around him that are human.
Overall, I think in many ways the film has aged well. There are some places where it is clear that the film is not of our time, such as when the camera effect is used to show the vampires flying, but many other moments in the film draw us away from this with mind meddling moments like when Michael thinks he's eating maggots/worms, as well as the incredible costumes and make up that not only reflect the personalities of the characters but also the mood of them and when they are injured or are taken over by their vampire form.
The film still works for me as an enjoyable film and nowadays I would even go as far as to say that many teenagers younger than me would particularly enjoy this film as they would be more likely to remember the games they would play as a child when they played at being an army, which is the feeling I got in scenes such as the one when they try to make a stand against the vampires at their house. This is why I would recommend watching this film to anyone my age who hasn’t seen the film because the action is clever in the sense that its relatable. It’s not some epic showdown but it’s more just kids trying to survive against these vampires and using comic books to influence their decisions, as well as the positive message it brings in the strength and importance of family.
Follow Kraig on Twitter @kraigandhismac
Images - IMDb