Nov 20, 2016

Horror Revisited

The Lost Boys (1987) Pt.1


"Michael, how can a billion Chinese people be wrong?"


by İnci German

We all have some movie that marked our childhood. A movie which, every time we watch it, makes us weirdly and cozily feel at our childhood home and in our childhood skin again. To me that movie is Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys (1987). As I hinted in the introduction to our Horror Re-watch series, I’m a huge fan.

Lost Boys is a kid-friendly horror comedy about vampires. As the title reveals, the original inspiration behind the story is in fact a child protagonist: Peter Pan. Who, much like a vampire, could fly and never grew old. Many people I’ve talked to hated this movie but more people I found on the net think it’s a freaking horror classic! Even though the plot is kind of weak and it surely doesn’t set an example in diversity, this movie is full of so many little awesome details that I'm going to write this review in two parts to fit in everything I want to talk about.
Also: In October DC Vertigo has finally published the comic The Lost Boys #1, a direct sequel to the film! It’s pretty hard to get hold of the comic in Germany though, so I thought I’d content myself with writing a recap until it is available. And so here we go:

After her divorce Lucy Emerson and her two sons Michael and Sam move to Santa Carla, California, back to her eccentric father’s home. What they don’t know is that Santa Carla is full of vampires who soon enough will get to them.

Even though this movie is a master of the obvious, there’s massive spoilery ahead

Kiefer Sutherland and his vile gang spend their evenings at an amusement park somewhere in California strolling around, scaring people and making trouble. On a merry-go-round they pick on a couple and are stopped and shooed away by the local cop. They leave, but Evil Kiefer’s face screams bale.

There are two things you should know about the gang: First, they look like your average hair metal band and second, they are vampires.

The amusement park closes, the lights go out and we see the policeman walking on an empty parking lot, which is, as we all know, one of the deadliest mistakes you can make in a horror movie. Apparently nobody told him, so he eventually dies.

We skip to Lucy, played by Dianne Weist, her sons Michael (Jason Patric), Sam (Corey Haim) and Sam’s dog Nanook moving from Arizona to Santa Carla, California. She has had a divorce and is now broke, so she has to move back to her father’s.
Everything about this car scene tells us that this is a happy cute little family and they’ll be just fine if they stick together.

And everything about the following shots rubs in our faces that there’s something not quite right about Santa Carla. If the graffiti “Santa Carla Murder Capital of the World” wasn’t enough for you, then maybe the hundreds, thousands, billions of poorly xeroxed “missing child” leaflets plastered about everywhere will do. Apart from this, the place seems pretty cool though; the boardwalk, punks, cool kids, The Doors playing in the background.

The ultra cool Michael drives the last meters to Grandpa’s house on his motorcycle. Whatever happened to Jason Patric anyway? I miss him.

Grandpa’s home is as eccentric as himself: a shabby, dusty, old wood cabin, full of stuffed animals - in whole or in parts.
Things you have to know about Grandpa (Barnard Hughes): He’s cranky, in his free time he practices taxidermy, he grows marijuana in his backyard and he has no TV but likes to read the TV program anyway. What a character, really. I love it! (Apart from the dead animals, of course.)
Sam doesn’t. He wants to go back to Phoenix. While lifting weights (because training our biceps is the first thing we all do as soon as we settle in a new home) Michael tries to explain to Sam that they couldn’t turn back even if they wanted to, since they have no money.

If anything should have traumatized me as a child watching horror movies, it’s not vampires, not Evil Kiefer, no zombies, no hell priests but the saxophone player in the following scene. I can’t even begin to describe what awaits you, should you decide to watch this movie, so you have to see it for yourself…
What’s most remarkable about the saxophone player is the uniting force of his music: in the crowd you have people twerking, headbanging and doing your average 80’s pop moves. Truly remarkable.

So Michael and Sam watch the saxophone-rocker play and sing and in comes our second female character: Star (Jami Gertz). But we don’t know that yet. She will, for another few minutes, stay the racy brunette from the gig of that guy who looks like Steven Seagal when he had long hair, covered in chains and dipped in oil and playing the saxophone.

She instantly enchants young Michael (The parts where he pretends not to look at her are true "awwww"-moments). She also holds a little boy by the hand, who wears a Sergeant Pepper-jacket and who I’m pretty sure should be in bed and NOT exposed to the hypnotizing hip swing of that guy who looks like Steven Seagal when he had long hair, covered in chains and dipped in oil and playing the saxophone.
What we know about her is that, apart from hopping among fan crowds, she hangs out with Evil Kiefer and has some sort of secret concerning her brother Laddie (played by Chance Michael Corbitt). I wonder what that might be…
This, I’m sorry to say, is about all we’ll find out about her.

Let’s take the time here for a mini character-check:

So we have exactly two female characters.
Star is obviously the trophy of this story; she’s the princess that needs to be saved. A princess with a disappointingly plain character, that is. Throughout the whole movie she doesn’t utter a meaningful sentence except for the time she tries to warn Michael not to drink the wine that will make him a vampire. As you can see above, all we need to know about her can be summed up in two sentences.

We can cite Lucy as one of the main characters; she becomes gradually more important towards the end. As the perfect mother, what she does best is to kill with kindness. She doesn’t accept any support whatsoever from her ex-husband, even though she takes care of the kids. This could be a sign of an independent character, if she hadn’t told her father that her motivation in doing so is to keep it friendly. In the opening scenes she buys food for homeless children, she helps a lost boy finding his mother… She’s the mother we all want to have, really. The twist at the end of the movie will even further solidify this role.

This leads us back to the fact that, even though it is rated R in the US and FSK 16 for Germany, The Lost Boys arguably targets very young adults in general, and very young boys in specific; children. Which in turn leads us to the character I actually want to talk about: Sam. We’ll get to him later though.

While helping a little boy who got lost, Lucy meets Max (played by the magnificent Edward Herrmann) who owns a video store. Lucy is great really; if I were a lost kid, I’d want Lucy to find me. Max is immediately interested in Lucy. In the background we see Evil Kiefer and his hair band preparing for trouble, yet again.
The lost boy’s mother appears miraculously and the kid gets a lollipop and so does Lucy.
Meanwhile Evil Kiefer gets shooed away, yet again. Max and Evil Kiefer give each other bad looks, could it be they’re arch-enemies? We’ll see.

Michael and Sam follow the mysterious girl with the child. Being the smart kid that he is, Sam eventually prefers hanging out at a comic store. Behind yet further missing flyers emerge one of the coolest duos you’ll ever know: the Frog Brothers (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander).
Things you should know about the Frog Brothers: Their names are Edgar and Allan (how cool is that?), they run a comic store (whoa!) and they have extensive knowledge on how to fight vampires (speech… faculties…perish…).

Initially they don’t take Sam seriously but he slays them with his knowledge on comics, after which they eventually start liking him.

Remember that troublemaker guy from the beginning of the movie? The one with the girlfriend that Evil Kiefer isn’t done with yet? Yeah, he suddenly appears at the comic store.
The Frog Brothers warn Sam about Santa Carla. Edgar gives Sam a comic book that I’d very much like to read: “Vampires Everywhere!” These two have it all figured out.

In times where young people doing the zombie drug eat each other’s faces and teen pregnancy has become so casual it has its own TV show, it’s comforting to see that things weren’t always like this.
The troublemaker couple steals some comics and is chased away by the Frog Brothers. A few minutes later they're sitting in the backseat of a car and… read the comic book they have stolen. Good old times, honestly.
Nevertheless the guy wants to make out and after the obligatory “What was that noise?” he just in time manages to throw himself on top of his girlfriend before the roof of the car, yes the roof of the car, is neatly taken apart by something and the screaming couple is exposed to vampires. They had it coming.

We’re then shortly introduced to Grandpas princess: A baby blue 1957 Ford Fairlane Convertible 500 Skyliner, which he never drives and which he doesn’t let Sam drive.

Annoyed by his grandpa’s prissiness, Sam goes back to the comic store where the Frog Brothers again try to warn him against the imminent danger of vampires, which Sam dismisses. The second comic they give him has the arguably lesser creative title of “Destroy All Vampires”. That one’s on my tbr-list too.

Michael doesn’t feel cool enough for Star, so he buys himself a leather jacket and wants to have his ear pierced when he coincidentally meets her. And they even talk this time. She leads him to Evil Kiefer and his glam metal band, who challenge him to follow them (Even though they know his bike isn’t as fast as theirs. Now that’s vile). After a spooky motorcycle race they all end up in a cave, decorated with dried sea stars, rotten pieces of furniture, burning trash cans, the graffiti of Frankenstein’s monster and a big size portrait of Jimmy Morrison, yes.

Evil Kiefer is friendly with Michael and offers him a joint, and Michael, who desperately wants to fit in, accepts. One thing that’s hard to miss in this movie is the constant “har har har” of Evil Kiefer’s hair band; throughout the whole movie each time Evil Kiefer says something, no matter how harmless, the gang cheers and laughs as if they’re watching a football game. Ah, to be young again… and a vampire.

Until now Michael’s behavior has been so obviously and overtly masculine it’s kind of annoying. Yes, this movie is about “boys”; we have Michael, who is our main guy even though his character is somewhat dull, we have the wretched vampire gang which will hunt on Michael and we have the Frog Brothers who are dedicated to a higher purpose; truth justice and “the American way”.

Sam is a teenage boy also but he’s different. Even though it’s Michael’s story that we’re watching and the point of view is pretty evenly distributed among Michael and Sam, Sam breaks the generally masculine and grave vibe of the movie, not least due to the “female” features we find in his character and to the late Corey Haim’s adorable performance. In Sam we find THE attribute which, in classic horror tradition, is purely female: Fear. He’s afraid of monsters in his closet; he’s terrified of Michael when he turns weird; he’s freaked out by the stuffed animals his grandfather produces. He has posters of a half naked Rob Love and the 1986 movie Reform School Girls hanging in his room. He’s also a comic nerd and he’s really the link that made this movie what it is, even for the little girl I used to be. You go Sam!

Back at home it’s 10 pm, Sam has brushed his teeth and reads Vampires Everywhere in bed. He asks his mom to close the closet door. In comes Grandpa with his root beer and gives Sam a stuffed beaver as a present (!) while Lucy smiles her nice “Oh shush!”-smile. I love Sam’s expression when she says “Oh dad really you shouldn’t have”.

Back in the cave the young ones have ordered some Chinese takeaway. Evil Kiefer offers Michael some rice. When he declines, Evil Kiefer replies with what is arguably one of the most absurd lines of all times. OF ALL TIMES. “You don’t like rice? Michael, how can a billion Chinese people be wrong?”. What kind of argument is that to make someone eat something? And a convinced Michael actually starts eating.
Evil Kiefer then points out that Michael is eating maggots and poof! The rice in the box turns into maggots! Michael spits them out and gags. The band laughs particularly loud. But it’s all a mindfuck and the maggots turn back into rice again. They repeat the same trick with noodles turning into worms. Arrgh my brain hurts! Finally they pass around a bottle of wine. Michael, determined not to be fooled a third time, drinks from the bottle – despite Star warning him that it’s blood. So this is basically the story of how he becomes one of the undead. Michael visibly enjoys his new way of being while the gang’s cheers and excited roars reach unprecedented heights and they’re dancing around like it was 1987. He’s one of the wretched now.

The gang then goes to hang around on a misty bridge, as vampires often do. One by one they jump off the bridge and hang underneath it. When a train drives over them they let themselves fall down. Afraid that he will die, Michael freaks even more out when he sees them falling. He screams “Daviiiiiiiiid”.

This is the exact point where I realized that Evil Kiefer’s name is David and not Evil Kiefer. The name Michael, on the other hand, is called an astonishing 114 times throughout the whole movie, as the horror site BLOODY DISGUSTING points out in this article.

Michael is out of strength and falls also…landing on his bed…where he has been sleeping for the last few hours.
Sam wakes him up.
Lucy calls to tell the boys that she has a date with Max, so Michael will have to watch Sam. While Michael was busy becoming a vampire, Lucy has already started working at Max’s place.
I like this family; not only Lucy, but also Grandpa has a date and in order to become more attractive for his date, the Widow Johnson, he uses Windex as aftershave. Ahahaha!
Michael on the other hand, has become a badass vampire: He starts wearing sunglasses ALL the time, he makes mean jokes and uses strong language like “piss off”. It’s not easy being a vampire. Sam even suspects he’s been watching too much Dynasty lately.

The hair band calls for Michael in a rather scary fashion to come play with them but Michael takes his responsibility of babysitting Sam very seriously and sends him to the bathtub. He then suffers a kind of seizure as he opens the fridge to drink milk from the cartoon. Vampires, kids; please use a glass.

The scene with Sam in the bathtub, soapy and bubbly and singing to Clarence Frogman Henry’s Ain’t Got No Home with Nanook at his side was truly one of the joys of my childhood. It’s such a cute and innocent and cheery scene… Until, of course, his creepy vampire brother comes creeping out of the dark, succumbing to his thirst for human blood and attempting to attack his own flesh and blood.
But not on Nanook’s watch, no. The dog gives exactly three warning grunts before he jumps on Michael to make him come back to his senses. Michael’s hand is injured. He wants to explain himself but before he can, Sam sees that his brother has no reflection in the mirror. Forewarned by the Frog Brothers, Sam immediately understands what he’s dealing with and threatens Michael to tell his mom (!) and locks himself up in his room, with Nanook of course.

This is too much for Michael, who faints on his bed.

Sam calls the Frog Brothers who confirm that Michael has become a vampire. They recommend Sam pierces his heart with a sharp stick, which Sam will surely not do.

A few hours later Michael has taken off and wakes up on the ceiling. Yes, ceiling. He tries to get back on the floor but gravity fails him. He floats out the window, holding on to the only thing that keeps him from flying away; the telephone receiver. The scene where he floats in front of Sam’s window trying to convince his mom on the phone that everything’s OK while Sam is freaking out and screaming for his mom to come home is gloomily funny and in my opinion one of the best scenes of the movie.

Afraid for the life of her children, Lucy leaves the fancy restaurant where Max calmly sits, drinks his wine and watches her drive away. Did she actually ditch THE Edward Herrmann?

Michael finally convinces Sam not to tell on him by reminding him that they’re brothers and that he needs help. They decide not to tell anything to Lucy. She is understandably pissed. And like every mother who's pissed, she starts clearing up the kitchen. She then finds the milk cartoon that Michael had dropped on the floor, puts it on the counter aaaaaannd on it is the picture of the missing little Sergeant Pepper, Star’s brother.

Stay tuned until next time where we'll witness that members of David's hair metal band have feelings too, we'll suspect that Max (played by the magnificent Edward Herrmann) might not be as great after all, we'll take a closer look at the Frog Brothers and where Grandpa will save the day!

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