It's an hour into The Lost Boys before new kid in town, Michael Emerson (Jason Patric), comes face to face with the truth everyone else knows—his new friends are vampires. He spends the majority of the film dismissing the concerns of his younger brother, Sam (Corey Haim), who’s been reading horror comics convincing him that vampires exist and that Michael might be one of them. He flat out ignores lost girl, Star (Jami Gertz), who warns him not to drink from the bejeweled bottle of blood offered by leader of the pack, David (played with bleached blonde mullet perfection by the voice of Kiefer Sutherland). Cue one of many "Cry Little Sister" montages as Michael scoffs "yeah, sure" and takes a big swig anyway. And with that, after just one night out with the boys, he’s a half-vampire craving blood and levitating off his bed. Welcome to Santa Carla. It’s “a haven for the undead.”
It's easy to believe vampires exist in Joel Schumacher's rock and roll playground, where the people are strange and it feels like summer could last forever. The endless party atmosphere on the Santa Carla boardwalk fuels the fantasy of this fictional town, where monsters ride motorcycles, fledgling vampire hunters, Edgar and Alan Frog (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander), run a comic book shop, and head vampire, Max (Edward Hermann), owns the local video store. The view from above (a vampire's view) is all carnival lights reflecting off the ocean and the screams piercing the air come from the roller coaster on the horizon. Throw in a sexy young cast in gypsy rock star costumes combined with a killer soundtrack (“death by stereo!”) and the photography of Michael Chapman (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) and you have all the ingredients for what could have been just another silly vampire movie to attain cult status. Thirty years later we're still riding the roller coaster and The Lost Boys is still living up to its tagline: Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It's fun to be a vampire.
Unlike the numerous cinematic tales of the reluctant vampire, “The Lost Boys” don't live a tortured existence. They aren't clinging desperately to some sliver of humanity or questioning the morality behind killing to survive. They're monsters and they embrace it. Hell, they downright enjoy it, which is demonstrated at that one-hour mark when Michael looks on in horror as they ruthlessly rip into the flesh of their victims before tossing them on the bonfire. It's Michael who is the reluctant one, refusing to succumb to the killer inside him. Yet it was recklessness and the cool confidence of the boys that first lured him to follow them to their lair. Well, Star helped a little. Admittedly, as a girl I wanted to be Star, but looking back I would have gladly made her my first kill just to steal every scrap of her bohemian wardrobe. Seriously, though, who wouldn't want to spend eternity with the immortal eye candy gang? Living it up in their "Vampire Hotel" with the image of Jim Morrison watching over them with Dionysian delight. "You’ll never grow old, Michael. And you’ll never die. But you must feed.” Ay, there's the rub for the half-human—the blood of the innocent. And, so, the final battle of good versus evil is inevitable.
It’s family that ties Michael to his humanity. And who could blame him when Corey Haim is a ray of flippin’ sunshine as Sam, standing up for his brother even when he’s scared to death of him. It’s a goddamn shame the boy who had the charisma to make us love a guy in such hideous clothes is no longer with us. He comes by it honestly, though, being that his mother, Lucy (Dianne Wiest), seems to share his clueless fashion sense. And bless her heart for her terrible taste in men. Her first date since her divorce and the guy ends up being the head vampire. Typical! The family dynamics are what breathe humor into the horror, making The Lost Boys a perfect conglomeration of scary and fun. One of my favorite cinematic dinner scenes is still when the Frog brothers and Sam try to prove Max is the head vampire. Oddly enough it’s family that drives Max as well. After all, he enlisted “The Lost Boys” to turn Lucy’s sons to ensure she couldn’t say no to becoming his vampire bride. But with serious allies like the Frog brothers and Grandpa (Barnard “Old Fart” Hughes) on their side, let’s face it, “the bloodsucking Brady Bunch” was never gonna happen.
Before Buffy the Vampire Slayer came along, The Lost Boys was the first time we saw the cool teenagers as vicious monsters. Where family and friends band together against the big bad to save the day. Some people write off love for this movie as nostalgia, but from my perspective the comics, the video stores, the motorcycles, the killing people at bonfires—I mean, I think we can all agree we’re still doing these things, cause they’re cool. I still want Star’s wardrobe. And I think most of us are still waiting for a rock star vampire to show up and take us for a ride on his motorcycle. The point is, between the performances, the production design, and Michael Chapman's cinematography all the pieces somehow magically came together to bring Joel Schumacher’s visual playground to life. A place so otherworldly that it’s easy to forget reality and just enjoy the ride. We can forgive the mullets—except for Marko’s (Alex Winter), I never understood what the hell was going on there. Sure, it was the '80s, it was another time, but Santa Carla was another world and there’s no rhyme or reason to letting reality break the fantasy. It doesn't matter if you're watching The Lost Boys then or now, if you’ve seen it hundreds of times, or you’re watching it for the first time. Welcome to Santa Carla. Check out the boardwalk. Ride the roller coaster. Lift up your hands. Let go. Keep your distance from Hudson's Bluff overlooking the point. Don't drink from fancy bottles offered by bleached blonde strangers, no matter how cool he looks. Sleep all day. Party all night. It's fun to be a vampire.