The Camp, Creepy Appeal of 'The Lost Boys'
We look back on Joel Schumacher's 80s cult classic, 30 years after it was made.
Joel Schumacher's 1987 film The Lost Boys is now known for being leather-clad, violent, youthful, and kind of sexy but it was very nearly none of that. When the film was first conceived of, The Goonies, also starring Corey Feldman, had come out two years prior and had been a massive hit. Goonies director Richard Donner was even originally attached to The Lost Boys and the film was intended to be a "Goonies-style adventure aimed at children", inspired by the idea of Peter Pan as a vampire. That was until writer Jeffrey Boam of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade fame got on board, and took The Lost Boys from a PG kids' film to the violent vampirefest it ended up becoming. Despite that, the film still hasn't escaped Goonies comparisons – partly because of Feldman's presence, but mostly for its silly, energetic vibe.
This July marked 30 years since the release of The Lost Boys, and in that time, its cult appeal hasn't waned. The film is screened at LGBT film festivals and maintains a strong gay fanbase both because of the film's homoerotic and campy overtones and because Schumacher himself is gay. There are Lost Boys themed club nights and film screenings, and the Santa Cruz boardwalk, where the film was shot, is currently celebrating the anniversary.
The 1987 film, which stars Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric, Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, opens on a long shot of a boardwalk soundtracked by Cry Little Sister by Gerard McMahon. A group of vampires, rampant in Santa Carla, get into a fight which is broken up by a police officer. The same officer who is killed later in the night.
From there the plot follows two boys who are forced to move to Santa Carla with their mother – the eldest of the brothers, Michael (Jason Patric) starts hanging out at the boardwalk where he falls in with a gang of vampires. The youngest, Sam (Haim), meets vampire hunters, and when Michael is turned into a half-vampire, they work on turning him back. The film was well-received on first release but its the rampant cult following that has kept it alive for the last three decades. What is it about The Lost Boys that still appeals to new generations of fans? Here are the things you might miss on a first viewing, that mean people are still talking about this Vampire movie.
The title itself, while having its obvious Peter Pan roots, in retrospect reflects the darker aspects of the story, and speculation that author J.M. Barrie was himself a paedophile. Early in the film we see boards covered in "missing child" posters. Of course we know that vampires are eating victims, but the majority of missing people are children and teens. We also see a triangle with a spiral symbol on the board, a "symbol" of paedophile rings used by the FBI. In 1987 this was just a fun thing to notice that gave the film a little depth, but in 2017 armed with new knowledge, it takes on a new significance. Corey Feldman recently revealed that he and Haim, who both star in the film, were the victims of sexual abuse in Hollywood as children which allegedly contributed to Haim's addiction issues and ultimate death. What was once a Easter egg for the heads becomes a tragic signpost for what is to come (or has been) in the boys' lives.
Santa Cruz now proudly boasts about its relationship to The Lost Boys but it was once reticent to allow them to film there. The film is set in "Santa Carla" and includes shots of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, the Pogonip open space preserve, and the mountains. The producers wanted to film there as Santa Cruz was known as, "Murdersville, USA" and "The Murder Capital of the World" due to three serial killers – Kemper, Carpenter, and Mullin – having hunted victims there. Eager to distance the city from this reputation the council refused to grant filming permits unless the producers changed the name of the city.
The Lost Boys' nods to very real occultism gave it the depth to elevate it beyond the fun, schlocky, horror comedy that it is. Schumacher, who is familiar with occult symbolism and numerology, sprinkled this knowledge throughout The Lost Boys to again appeal to those in the know. He plants hints of Native American and Egyptian symbolism throughout, as well as vampire folklore. We see all-seeing eye and ankh symbols in the comic book store. There also are references to human sacrifice, as Michael is intended to be Star's first "kill", in order to turn her into a fully-fledged vampire.
The rockstar-esque leather jacket style of The Lost Boys has its roots in 80s fashion and has still not really been separated from vampire sexuality, all the way through to True Blood. Sex is not only central to the film's plot, as Michael must have ritual sex with Star, but central to vampire lore generally. Vampires are seductive, sexy, and must draw victims in somehow – they couldn't do that if they were ugly. But it cannot be a normal, conventional sexiness – and so Lost Boys vampires are alternative, dressed similarly to the subcultures of the late-80s, with bleached blonde hair and eyeliner-rimmed eyes.
More on pop culture vampires: