Dec 7, 2016

Horror Revisited

The Lost Boys (1987) Pt.2 

"Death by stereo" 


by İnci German

Welcome back to Horror Revisited and to my review of the second half of the 1987 Joel Schumacher movie The Lost Boys, where the real action and good, gory stuff begins… and never ends, really. So let's take a look at it.

The Emersons (Lucy, Michael and Sam) move to Santa Carla, the worldwide vampire hub, and through a nasty trick on the vampires’ part, Michael becomes one of them. Warned by Edgar and Allan Frog, who are vampire hunters disguised as comic book sellers, Sam is horrified and alarmed by Michael becoming a vampire, but is determined to help him. The night it turns out that Michael is a vampire is a traumatic one for everyone involved and we’ll pick up from there:

Too many spoilers as usual

Michael sneaks out of the house while Grandpa comes back from his date with Widow Johnson.
Sam who was left freaked out by the events of the night sleeps in his mom's bed, wearing a garlic collar around his neck.
Max, who has been ditched by Lucy, returns home where he is received by David and his evil gang. But we still don’t know what's going on between them, is Max a steadfast vampire hunter who also fights for truth and justice and all? Or their next victim?

In order to find answers about what’s happening to him, Michael goes to the cave where he finds Star. She still isn’t able to contribute any meaningful input, so she sleeps with him. Before she does, she affectionately calls “Oh Michael, I’m sorry Michael” a felt few hundred times but doesn’t really actively join the plot. I kind of give up at this point, maybe it’s because she’s a girl and is supposed to be passive or maybe it’s just me being too harsh on her.

Since Michael hasn’t completed his metamorphosis yet, he has features of both human and vampire; while he can still walk around at daytime (although only with sunglasses) he needs to sleep a lot and his hand has healed by itself. He goes home where Lucy tries to talk some sense into him.

The next day Lucy wants to apologize to Max with a bottle of wine but gets attacked by his dog Thorn. Thanks to the comics he’s reading Sam immediately recognizes the Hound of Hell protecting its master. Lucy barely escapes Thorn’s raging attack. This is the first scene that throws shadow on the Magnificent Max and raises questions about his true purpose.

In a discussion with the Frog Brothers Sam again dismisses the option of killing his brother. His goal is to kill the head vampire – after which all half-vampires are supposed to turn normal again. The only problem is that no one knows who the head vampire is. Except Sam, who suspects Max: He always comes in when it’s dark and has his dog protect him while he’s sleeping. Now that they know he’s a vampire, the Frogs express at any occasion that they want to kill Michael. Or any vampire for that matter.

Breakpoint: What’s so amazing about the Frog Brothers that I keep gushing about them all the time, you say? They’re just a couple of kids, you say?
Well, yes and no. My theory is that the story writers (Janice Fischer and James Jeremias) wanted the Frogs to embody young geekdom. They stand for the wholeness of books/literature that are a geek’s best friend, source and guide throughout their childhood. Just take a look at these quotes: “We’ve been aware of serious vampire activity in town”; “I think I should warn you all: when a vampire dies, it’s never a pretty sight[…]. Some yell and scream, some go quietly, some explode, some implode. But all will try to take you with them.”; “Ghouls and werewolves occupy high positions at city hall”. Aren’t they great? Nobody else in the movie talks like this but head-Frog Edgar. They’re eager to take action even tough in the end their knowledge and actions prove to be the least efficient and let's face it, almost useless in real life.
There’s also an energy among the Frog Brothers that’s hard to beat and which is mostly due to the brilliancy of actors Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander. Kudos!

By now Michael looks drugged and can put out candles with his fingers but Sam won’t talk to him anyway.
Lucy has invited Max for dinner which upsets Grandpa since he doesn’t want company.
While leaving the house Michael bumps into Max who asks to be invited in, which he does. Again: Don't invite a vampire in! Even if you're ignorant of vampires, it's still highly dubious when someone says “Won’t you invite me in, Michael?”. Mainly because not all of us are called Michael, but also because it feels deeply manipulative.
Grandpa who is stuffing dead animals in his hobby room looks appalled to see Max. Now there’s no doubt: Max ISN'T magnificent, he IS the head vampire and has been invited in. Oh no, oh no, oh no.
Max isn’t the only guest though; Sam has also invited Edgar and Allan. This is going to be one fun dinner. In fact the dinner scene is in my opinion the second best scene of the movie.

The overzealous kids want to find out if Max is in fact the head vampire and apply a series of tests to prove it. Only it goes wrong. Terribly wrong.
First he is offered grated garlic instead of grated cheese.
They later throw water on him (Holy maybe? Later in the movie we see that the Frog Brothers are indeed no strangers to the holy water dispenser at the church).
Then they turn the lights off and realize that he’s not glowing in the dark and confront him with a mirror when the lights are turned back on.
But Max passes all the tests; he likes garlic, the water doesn’t burn him and he has a reflection in the mirror.
In fact he’s so believable that the Frog Brothers, and eventually Sam too, believe him. So he can’t really be the head vampire. A worried Grandpa still watches them from his room. Grandpa can’t be wrong, so he must be the head vampire. Or can he? Can a billion Chinese people be wrong?

The Carnage


The next scene is actually really good, so I decided it should be a separate chapter with its own title: The Carnage. This is in fact my favorite scene in this movie.

Michael confronts David who acts provocatively and uses Star to make him come with him and his glam metal band to the beach.
They all climb a misty tree, as vampires often do, and watch some young people having fun on the beach; dancing around a campfire, listening to Aerosmith.
David calls Michael to join them. You never really know with David: Does he want to bully or degrade Michael? Does he want to include him in their activities involving hanging around at misty places? Is he a friend or a foe? While the young ones dance around the fire the vampires in the tree show Michael their real faces, their vampire faces and of course, laugh some more. They then jump ahead and start a bloodbath: they butcher the horrified kids, eat them, drag them along the ground, burn them, dismember them and tear them apart. At one point I even think I saw one of the vampires pop open the skull of one of the boys. Even though I have no idea why a vampire would want to burn a human being, it’s a great gore scene which should satisfy every fan. All the while they call Michael to join them. Who, horrified and aroused at the same time, begins to look like them. He screams and jumps off the tree in an attempt to stop himself from joining them.
Having finished eating David states that he has given him the answer he wants and reminds him that he needs to feed. They laugh some more.

Lessons we learned about vampires so far:
They are cheery people who like to laugh a lot,
They like spending time in misty places,
They love eating garlic,
Don’t hang out with them; they’re trouble.

Sam wakes up to find a stuffed owl on his bed side. He puts it in his closet, where a considerable amount of stuffed animals has amassed. This is important! Grandpa's taxidermy actually plays a major role in my final conclusion (see below) of this movie!

Suddenly Michael appears in his room and they argue some before Star swiftly appears outside the house. She’s apologetic again. She tells Michael that he doesn’t become a full vampire until he makes his first kill (So I was wrong about Star not saying anything meaningful, this one is actually quite useful). Star and Laddie are also half-vampires who haven’t eaten yet, which is getting harder and harder by the day. David wanted Michael to be Star’s first kill, which she couldn’t do because she fell in love with him etc. She then says she came because she needs help and as a logical consequence to that, vanishes.

Returning to the eponym of the flick; I previously complained about the high quantity of male characters in this movie. Well, James Matthew Barrie, writer of the Peter Pan stories, had actually given some thought to that and there's a logic behind his writing. The original “Lost Boys” were boys "who fall out of their prams when the nurse is looking the other way and if they are not claimed in seven days, they are sent far away to the Neverland” and there are no "lost girls" because girls are far too clever to fall out of their prams. So what does that say about Star?

Interestingly it’s Sam who makes the first move towards what he thinks will get her help by calling the Frog Brothers.
While Grandpa is mending the fence with huge, pointed wooden stakes (nudge nudge) he sees Michael, Sam and the Frogs driving away in his princess.

I think it was Michael who had the brilliant idea of breaking into the vampires’ nest to kidnap Star and Laddie.
The overzealous Frogs don’t want to leave it at that. Having found the chamber where the vampires hang on the roof and sleep (that’s probably why Michael had taken off in his room the first night he became a vampire) they bloodily kill the vampire with the cherubic face. David witnesses the death of his friend and gets very very angry. Not being able to do anything about it, because it’s daytime and he can’t go out, he swears he'll get revenge at night while tears roll down his face. Poor David, that seems to comfort him a bit.

Sun will be down in exactly two and a half hours. So while Michael, Star and Laddie sleep some more, Sam tries to warn his mom, who thinks this is all a tantrum and Sam rejects Max as a father figure.
So Sam and the Frogs prepare quickly for the night: they fill their supplies on holy water and make sure Grandpa’s away for the evening by telling him he has a date that he forgot about. They block the windows with boards, crush garlic by the masses and fill the bathtub and their squirt guns with holy water.

Before the action begins we get a shot of Lucy and Max having dinner and Lucy starting to tell Max what Sam has been telling her about vampires.

Night falls and it’s show time!

The action begins with them realizing that they forgot Nanook tied to the fence outside the house and saving him in a suspenseful last-minute-action.
The vampire who looks like Mötley Crüe makes his intro by exploding through the chimney and landing in the living room!
The vampire who looks like Twisted Sister goes after the Frog Brothers who attack him with squirt guns but fail to push him in the tub. The Frogs are defenseless against this powerful vampire that they can't beat with garlic. Honestly that was weak, you guys… It takes Nanook to give it the last push in the garlic/holy water bath. The vampire's death in the bathtub then somehow activates some pipe connection and every sink in the house starts sprouting blood, which is pretty disgusting.

In the living room Mike has passed out with the impact of Mötley Crüe’s arrival. The vampire attacks Sam. Compared to his pals Sam proves pretty brave and witty and even manages to kill the vampire by nailing it with an arrow into the only good system, the sound system…which starts playing Aerosmith immediately…while exploding. I guess there must be some connection between Aerosmith music and people dying that I know nothing about.

Michael is awake again and David ambushes him.

Meanwhile Sam and the Frogs boast about being the baddest vampire killers (as if!) and Laddie awakens as a vampire and scares them. He’s a really ugly little vampire and they discuss whether or not to kill him. Finally it is Star who saves the little guy.

The fight between David and Michael moves on to the next level:
Ladies and Gentlemen, before Gandalf the Grey vs. Saruman the White, before Neo Anderson vs. Agent Smith, there was Michael vs. David battling and circling in the air.

The subject of the battle can be summed up in the following brief conversation they have:
"Join us!"

Michael finally lets his wild side show and kills David by skewering him on what I guess are some animal’s antlers. It doesn’t work though; Michael and Laddie are still vampires, which means David wasn’t the head vampire. Which again leaves only one option.

While they puzzle about whom it might be, Lucy and Max arrive. Max finds David's dead body who looks like a little vampire angel sleeping. You can say anything about David, but not that he wasn't loyal to his kind...

Max starts talking nonsense in a fit of what I hope was caused by seeing too many dead bodies at this abominable scene. His boys have “misbehaved”, he says, all they needed was a mother. He confesses to Lucy that all along it was she that he was after and the boys were just a means to the end. All he wanted to have was a big happy vampire family. Twisted! That at least explains the looks David and Max have been giving each other.

A hysterically laughing Max then single-handedly beats everybody in the room, so that Lucy is forced to accept becoming his vampire bride.
Just as she is about to be bitten by Max, Grandpa crashes his vehicle into the living room, causing all the sharpened fence planks to fly around. With a little help from Michael, one of the sharp stakes pierces through Max who’s then conveniently hurled into the fireplace where he… explodes.

In the end every half-vampire turns into human again, everybody gives everybody a hug and Grandpa gets himself a root beer while expressing his distaste for vampires.

This war has been fought on many fronts; Michael against David, the Frog Brothers against Glam Metal, but it is age and wisdom that won the final battle. This wisdom includes the fact that we die. Yeah, sorry folks. It is unnatural to live forever and it has a price. Grandpa hasn't only accepted this fact, he also embraced it and displays it all around his house (which is admittedly morbid). But isn't the representation of what we fear, the illusion of fright exactly what a horror movie is all about?
Even though he's arguably a minor character, Grandpa is always in the background, he's aware of everything going on. He sees the potential in Sam and his struggles and reminds him of mortality every day with the "presents" he gives him. Sam on the other hand, not ready to be confronted with this reality yet, hides them in his closet until he can't ignore it anymore. And in the end, he even fights for his brother's right to die.
Almost 30 years after this movie has come out, having amassed plenty of age and wisdom myself, I am more than satisfied with this conclusion.

They’re only noodles Michael!


  1. The Lost Boys is one of the movies I wasn't able to make any sense of when I watched it, which was probably about twenty years ago ... I remember that the end with Grandpa and the fence came totally out of the blue for me. It's nice to see that there might actually be some thematic resonance to that scene. Oh yes, and I remember the blood shooting out of the pipes! Never got the Peter Pan reference until now, even though it totally makes sense ...
    However, what sticks out most for me on reading these articles is how much TLB must have influenced Buffy. There seem to be so many thematical and visual connections (the vampire faces, the whole teenage rebellion thing, the smalltown with the extremely active vampire underground), with the one big difference being the gender politics. I guess I'll need to re-watch TLB after all.

  2. You know, that never occured to me but you might be right. Sunnydale is in California too (unlike most Hollywood-movies) and with Giles who guides her, Buffy also has the wisdom of someone older on her side. When I retire we should definitely start a very detailed Buffy rewatch series here on this blog!

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