THOU SHALT NOT DIE
Midlife Reflections on 'The Lost Boys'
As a teenage Cory in the ‘80s (yes, I'm old), I despised the Two Coreys. Well-meaning peers added a superfluous vowel to my name — what purpose does that “e” serve, anyway? Girls expected me to be cuter, more feathered and impish, and wouldn’t my lips benefit from the pulley-yanked smirk that made Corey Haim’s smile appear lopsided, as if he were a lascivious young drunk? Why did fair hearts flutter for that mutation? I much preferred the Corey Haim of Lucas (1986), the sensitive Poindexter, to the heartthrob rapscallion he became. His partner in Corey, the smartass Feldman, bore a metal mane to die for over a mouth that in reality would invite more ass-kickings than lip-locks.
I took a date to see their License to Drive (1988) — basically Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with a Bueller-esque fuckfaced Cameron at the wheel, Billy Ocean on the radio, tooling around a movie-rich suburbia — and the girl seemed like she’d prefer to be on the screen in Heather Graham’s stead. For this reason, I committed to memory the following quote from Graham in People magazine regarding Haim, her costar loverboy, then struggling with a bout of mono: “I didn’t want to kiss Corey. He had the kissing disease.” You go, girl.
Alas, the Coreys' days of wine and roses passed with a quickness. We later learned of the traumas they endured as young men. Both careers plummeted, separately and together, into direct-to-video tit-fests and an ill-advised music career. The troubled Haim never saw 40; he checked out too early on a cocktail of addictions. Feldman prospers, sort of, in returns to the Lost Boys well, a jaded, middle-aged survivor losing friends both onscreen and off.
But the original Lost Boys, the tandem's 1987 debut, remains a campy pip, before the cynical machine took hold. If John Hughes’ teen films represented the genre’s Woodstock, in 1987, we’d finally reached the Altamont (see, also: River’s Edge and Permanent Record, both featuring Keanu Reeves — coincidence?), a sweaty, comic quagmire of bloodlust and maggots where reckless adolescence refuses to die.
Haim stars with Dianne Wiest, on loan from the Woody Allen milieu, and Jason Patric, before he grew a grimy beard and went totes Method, as the Emersons, a mother/sons trio that moves to Santa Carla, California, a beach town of 24-hour carnivals and intrigue, to live with a relative known only as Grandpa (the tarnation-throated Barnard Hughes in full eccentric flower). Santa Carla seethes with a curious underbelly of twilight-skulking fashion plates on motorcycles, led in leather-clad insouciance by Kiefer Sutherland, his big star turn after a menacing appearance in the previous summer’s teen drama, Stand by Me. His crew (Billy Wirth, the late Brooke McCarter, and the pre-Bill and Ted Alex Winter) resembles a sultriness then in tattered vogue: long, spray-coiffed hair; torn jeans; leather jackets; and naughty-tough expressions. At the rear saunters Jami Gertz at her most delectable, summoning sparks from a fragile, feral smolder into Star, a new recruit who falls hard for Patric’s Michael Emerson.
Despite the soapy trappings, the movie belongs to Haim as Michael’s little brother, Sam, a comic-book geek (his last geek, I believe) who comes to realize the town baddies aren’t just thugs; they’re honest-to-God vampires pulling Michael into their bloodthirsty web. Sam's realization that his older sibling is developing a mysterious aversion to daylight and an even stranger ability to levitate is among The Lost Boys’ funniest sequences, a deft blend of horror and little-brother pest. Few child actors played comic bewilderment with such natural relish.
He reluctantly teams with the illogically named Frog brothers, Edgar (Corey Feldman) and Alan (Jamison Newlander), self-proclaimed vampire experts thanks to their own obsession with supernatural comic books. Feldman adopts a deep Stallone timbre as Edgar, effectively goofing on Rambo — a voice he’d maintain through subsequent sequels until it was more grizzled and tired than parody. Newlander’s performance, on the other hand, is not especially memorable beyond a heavy-lidded sneer. Yet both understand that despite the characters’ bravado, they’re still kids in a boardwalk comic shop, novice assassins at best.
The Lost Boys ends in a shadowy good vs. evil throwdown at Grandpa’s house, a death trap of elk horns with a fridge full of soda, the perfect coda for an evening wrestling Nosferatu. Its denouement features two classic final reveals: that despite his stature and billing, David is not the head undead (therefore, his demise is inconsequential); and Grandpa’s final casual line as he pulls a long tug from a post-fracas drink: “One thing about living in Santa Carla I could never stomach: all the damn vampires.” They were a common, everyday scourge, to be dispatched as one would starve a mild cold.
It left the door open to sequels, none of which came to fruition under director Joel Schumacher. It works better as a competent stand-alone statement, anyway, far removed from its eventual prodigy of postmillennial, Feldman-led cash grabs. One featured Kiefer Sutherland’s much younger half-brother, Angus, as the sexy vampire king, his limpid sensitive-beach-bum locks less toxic than his predecessor’s. Haim returned briefly as Sam, who apparently never left Santa Carla untouched by the damned — a shitty end for both the character and the actor, who died less than two years later.
The Lost Boys remains an interesting commentary on its era, reviving the vampire genre as younger and sexier, owing more to the slinky romanticism of Jim Morrison (the soundtrack even features a Doors cover, “People Are Strange,” by mood-meisters Echo & the Bunnymen; Morrison protégé Michael Hutchence trading raw growls with Cold Chisel’s Jimmy Barnes on “Good Times”; and the sensual crawl of Gerard McMann’s “Cry Little Sister”) than to Bram Stoker. It also used vampirism as a metaphor for the very real phenomenon of child abduction; here, faces on fliers and milk cartons were casualties of sinister appetites. Decadence was predatory, an all-too-familiar evil. And nearly 35 years later, the vampires remain to feed. (cf)