Case Number 14149


Warner Bros. // 1987 // 97 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // July 29th, 2008

The Charge

Sleep all day. Party all night. It's fun to be a vampire.

Opening Statement

Once upon a time, director Joel Schumacher made an awesome movie (I know, right? Who'd've guessed?). Let's reminisce.

Facts of the Case

In the sleepy little town of Santa Carla, California (which looks suspiciously like Santa Cruz), the nights belong to a gang of motorcycle riding teen vampire toughs with spiky mullets, dangly earrings, and leather jackets with so many zippers it sounds like they're wearing spurs when they walk. Into this crucible of evil comes brothers Sam (Corey Haim, Lucas) and Michael Emerson (Jason Patric, Rush), along with their recently divorced mother Lucy (Dianne Wiest, Hannah and Her Sisters). Lucy is moving back in with her eccentric father (Barnard Hughes, TRON) because she's having trouble making ends meet.

During an open-air metal concert featuring a shirtless, oily, saxophone-playing Jon Mikl Thor lookalike, Michael spies a brunette hottie named Star (Jami Gertz, Twister) and is smitten. Unfortunately, she leads him to the gang of teen bloodsuckers. David (Kiefer Sutherland, 24), the gang's leader, promptly turns Michael into a half-vampire (he won't become the real thing until he makes his first kill). When Sam learns of his brother's scary fate, he turns to the only people he can: Edgar (Corey Feldman, The Goonies) and Alan (Jamison Newlander, The Blob [1988]) Frog, brothers who work in their parents' comic book shop and fancy themselves mini-Van Helsings. What follows is an '80s-style showdown between the living and the undead.

The Evidence

The Lost Boys is an adolescent phantasmagoria of every excess of '80s Hollywood horror-comedy moviemaking (except for profanity and nudity). There's blood and guts by the gallon, grue galore, cheap scares, bad haircuts, video arcades, headbands, shoulder pads on pastel dusters, power ballads, Rob Lowe poster art, enough Aqua Net to destroy the entire ozone layer, and, of course, the Coreys. Throw in a Rubik's Cube, Pac-Man, and some references to Iran-Contra and it'd be like an episode of VH1's I Love the '80s.

Before you dismiss the flick as a hopelessly dated relic, consider that The Lost Boys is part of that slim subgenre of true horror-comedies. By "true," I mean movies that are fully functioning comedies but also entirely committed to their horror elements. Schumacher's teen vampire flick isn't an unabashed classic of the subgenre like, say, An American Werewolf in London or Evil Dead II, but it's an awfully fun ride. There's a steady stream of well-executed laughs (Corey Haim's gratuitous bathtub scene notwithstanding) and nearly every actor in the flick (except Jason Patric) is up to his or her eyeballs in quirk. On the flip side, the vampire violence is just damned cool. Corey Feldman may look like a dork in Army fatigues and a red headband, but it's pretty awesome when the innards of a staked bloodsucker are dumped all over his head -- and who doesn't like to see a nosferatu sizzled in a bath of holy water and garlic or gallons upon gallons of blood spraying from every plumbing fixture in a house? I know I do.

One of the The Lost Boys's less renowned charms is the fine work by cinematographer Michael Chapman. It should come as no surprise that Chapman delivers a heap of beauty and visual style -- the man's résumé includes The Last Detail, Taxi Driver, Personal Best, and Raging Bull. The movie's opening title sequence, which consists of a series of helicopter shots of Santa Cruz's boardwalk, is maybe the single most artful thing created under the direction of Joel Schumacher. Moreover, Chapman helped Schumacher stay within the bounds of his limited budget by executing energetic vampire's-eye-view crane shots so that the director didn't have to show his monstrous teens swooping down on their terrorized victims. This meant Schumacher could spend his budget where it really counts: during the extended mayhem that closes out the picture.

In the interest of not bagging on Joel Schumacher (who's certainly taken his fair share of brickbats over the years) by giving credit for The Lost Boys' success to everyone but him, let me say a few words about what he brought to the table. The Lost Boys might currently reside with any number of long forgotten low-budget horror movies from the '80s if not for Schumacher's eye for casting. Kiefer Sutherland and Jason Patric were teens with thin resumés when cast to face off against each other. The intensity that each brought to his role in The Lost Boys is the driving force of the movie's horror elements. For a flick that's pretty much built on well-worn comedy and horror conventions, the battle between David and Michael over Michael's soul is surprisingly palpable. Better still, it's hard to go wrong with an adult cast that includes Dianne Wiest, Barnard Hughes, and Edward Hermann (The Gilmore Girls).

Props must also be given to Schumacher for the film's breezy pace and the natural ease with which it switches back and forth between light comedy and bleak, bloody horror. Eighties anachronisms aside, The Lost Boys remains a fun 97-minute ride.

The money and attention to detail that Warner Brothers invested in creating fully restored high-definition video masters for their lush Two-Disc Special Edition line of DVDs is paying off as Blu-ray becomes an increasingly viable high-def format. This Blu-ray edition of The Lost Boys is basically a straight port of the Special Edition DVD with a notable upgrade in image quality and sound. The 1080p VC-1 transfer is colorful, detailed, and nearly pristine (a surprise considering the low quality of film stocks in the 1980s). Colors are always accurate -- vivid and bright during daytime exteriors and warm in the vampires' lair. This is as good as I've ever seen the film look. The TrueHD 5.1 surround track is surprisingly rich and enveloping considering the age of the movie. I have no complaints.

The disc is rich in featurettes. "The Lost Boys: A Retrospective" is a solid look backwards at the making of the film that includes most of the primary cast and crew. Four shorter featurettes under the heading, "The Vampire's Cave," cover Schumacher's vision for the film, the movie's balance of comedy and horror, the filmmakers' attempt to put a fresh spin on vampirism, and the persistent rumors of a sequel over the years (since realized as the direct-to-DVD dreck, Lost Boys: The Tribe). "Vamping Out" examines the excellent creature effects created for the movie by Greg Cannom (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl).

Finally, there's a collection of deleted scenes, an interactive map that details vampire lore from around the world, a photo gallery, and a music video for Lou Gramm's "Lost in the Shadows" (what '80s flick DVD would be complete without a Lou Gramm video?).

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Extras are identical to those found on the two-disc DVD release. While Joel Schumacher provides an audio commentary full of good will and anecdotal information, a multi-angle video commentary with Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, and Jamison Newlander examining scenes from the movie involving Sam and the Frog brothers is less interesting. It's mildly interesting to see each of the men twenty years down the line, but the fact that they were recorded separately makes the tracks less interesting than they would've been if this had been a reunion. Also, the actors spend much time describing what's happening on screen and little adding observation, analysis, or recollection.

Closing Statement

The Lost Boys isn't a great movie. I'm not even sure that it's a good movie. But it's definitely an awesome movie. If you dig it like I do, this Blu-ray release is easily the best option available for home viewing.

The Verdict

Not guilty. Oh, and how are those maggots?

Review content copyright © 2008 Dan Mancini; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 95
Audio: 90
Extras: 90
Acting: 80
Story: 80
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)

Audio Formats:
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (German)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Italian)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)

* English
* Danish
* Dutch
* Finnish
* French
* German
* Italian
* Japanese
* Norwegian
* Portuguese
* Spanish
* Swedish

Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary by Joel Schumacher
* Additional Scenes
* The Lost Boys: A Retrospective
* The Return of Sam and the Frog Brothers Multi-Angle Commentary
* Vamping Out: The Undead Creations of Greg Cannom
* Inside the Vampire's Cave: Four Featurettes
* Photo Gallery
* "Lost in the Shadows" Music Video
* A World of Vampires Interactive Map
* Theatrical Trailer

* IMDb