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The Lost Boys

I’m still struggling with a backlog of awards contenders and blockbusters, but I just can’t help it that I’m in a Halloween state of mind right now. So, when presented with the chance to see an ’80s horror cult classic for the first time, who am I to refuse? Even if it is directed by that notorious hack, Joel Schumacher.

Right off the bat, it’s easy to see why The Lost Boys has achieved cult status: It’s a prime slice of raw and unfiltered ’80s kitsch. The costumes, hairdos, and colors are all overdone to a ridiculously flamboyant degree. And there’s very little to distract from it, since the story is paper-thin. Some teenager moves with his family into a town that doesn’t seem to have much of anything except for a deluxe boardwalk. Said teenager is befriended by a group of punks who just happen to be vampires and they make him one of their own.

The premise is undercooked, primarily because the film takes typical horror movie cliches and then goes too far with them. For example, it’s generally accepted that if something strange and unusual is going on, those characters who know about it never talk about it directly. They only talk in cryptic and oblique references, to foreshadow the scare that’s eventually coming up. But in this movie, we’ve got a whole town full of characters who steadfastly refuse to explain anything until the last possible minute, if that. This means that a whole ton of shit spontaneously happens without explanation, and we’re supposed to go along with the implicit trust that everything somehow makes sense. To say nothing of the plot holes that open up with the question of why someone didn’t pre-emptively stop any trouble by saying something in the first place.

This ties in with something else about the movie: None of the characters act in any kind of sensible way. Even by the usual standards of horror movies — which wouldn’t really exist if every character always did the sensible thing — these characters can always be trusted to make the dumbest possible decision at any given time. Everything they say and do is a dated cliche, and the characters themselves are presented with all the depth and complexity of a playing card.

Then again, this goes back to the ’80s charm I was talking about earlier. There’s a certain kind of fun in watching something so simple, so brain-dead, and so completely unafraid of looking ridiculous. That’s exactly the kind of charm we’ve come to expect from ’80s pop culture, and there’s a kind of retro kick in all the dated cliches as well. Of course, there’s a great deal of nostalgic fun to be found in the cast as well. Fans of ’80s pop culture can have some fun watching Corey Haim, Dianne Wiest, Corey Feldman, and Alex Winter in their prime, and more modern viewers get to see Kiefer Sutherland and Jason Patric when they were just getting started.

But of course, the real stars of this movie are the vampires. Grown men acting like juvenile delinquents because they’ll never grow old and they’ll never die. They can party all night, pull all sorts of crazy stunts, and kill whoever they want, all with absolutely no fear of any consequence. Yet we also have a couple of bumbling prepubescent wannabe vampire hunters. In both cases, there’s a childlike sense of trying too hard. No matter how scary these characters try to be, they only come off as adorable. Which is pretty emblematic of the film as a whole, really.

In terms of visuals, the film is all over the place. A lot of that has to do with the direction, but I think lack of budget was a factor as well. It’s obvious that the effects weren’t up to par, and the filmmakers tried to compensate for that with obnoxious camera movements and cutaways that don’t look scary so much as they look cheesy. Like I said, everything about this movie seems to come back to that.

I get the impression that The Lost Boys was trying and failing to hit a scary/funny sweet spot. But the comedy wasn’t funny enough and the horror sure as hell wasn’t scary enough, so it all just kinda fell apart (mostly thanks to Joel Schumacher’s direction, I’d wager). In the end, all we’re left with is a pile of ’80s excess that’s goofy, unintentionally hilarious fun.

It’s not my thing, but I can understand the appeal. And I’d recommend anyone looking for some Halloween thrills to go and look elsewhere.

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