Twenty years on, I can still vividly remember the anticipation I felt in the summer of 1987, leading up to 'The Lost Boys' early-August theatrical release. In an era when slasher movies had finally worn out their welcome, and there was little "fresh blood" to be found in horror, the early buzz on 'The Lost Boys' pegged it as just the antidote needed to inject some much-needed life into a moribund genre. Hip and scary, yet comedic, the film not only promised to reinvent the vampire flick for the MTV generation, but cash in as an irresistible mass-market blockbuster as well. Given such breathless hype, as a lifelong horror fan and a thrills-hungry teenager I expected nothing less than the second coming.
Too bad 'The Lost Boys' failed to live up to such lofty expectations. Though a moderate hit at the box office, the film failed to truly crossover to the masses, but more disappointingly, it offered a bit too much comedy and not enough scares. Today, two decades after the film's release, 'The Lost Boys' falls into the dustbin of camp -- far too funny to take seriously, and too dated to be cool. Certainly, the film has its charms (and it's undeniably stylish and well-cast), but as a vampire flick it lacks bite.
The plot needs little recap, as "MTV vampires" just about sums it up. New kids Michael Emerson (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim) move with their newly-divorced mom Lucy (Dianne Wiest) to the boardwalk town of Santa Clara, California, to live with their daffy grandpa (Barnard Hughes). But Santa Clara is infested with a cult of teenage vampires, led by David (Kiefer Sutherland), who quickly attempts to lure Michael into the group using the sexy charms of vampire babe Star (Jami Gertz). Meanwhile, Sam befriends two pint-sized vampire hunters, the Frog Brothers (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander), setting up a bloody battle to the finish between teenage good and teenage evil.
'The Lost Boys' is actually a lot less interesting than it sounds. Directed by Joel Schumacher and shot by Oscar-winning cinematographer Michael Chapman, the film has a wonderfully glossy and rich visual look, but not much more going for it. The story of a teenager drawn to the dark side of vampirism had the potential to explore adolescent issues rarely touched by mainstream horror cinema, yet these facets are largely jettisoned by the obvious script that plays it too safe. Any subversive possibilities are largely tossed aside in favor of standard genre thrills and overt humor, which, while making the film entertaining, ultimately render it vapid.
I found it problematic that the vampire cult, particularly Sutherland's character, were never fleshed out with a backstory or, in fact, any background at all. Certainly they look good in their black leather '80s attire (Sutherland even manages to make a bleached mullet look cool), but none of the tragedy of innocence corrupted is conveyed by the narrative. Ditto Michael's slow realization of his own predicament, which Patric admirably attempts to dramatize against Schumacher's reliance on style over substance (most futilely in the weakly-drawn romantic subplot with Gertz, which is shot like a bad Whitesnake music video). Only the dynamics of the Emerson family are portrayed with any realism, though even this success is constantly counteracted by the comedic intrusion of Sam and the Frog Brothers, who come across as way too goofy for the film's own good. It's just a huge mishmash of styles and intentions.
More fatal is the fact that 'The Lost Boys' is far more of a comedy than a horror film. Unlike the tonally similar 'An American Werewolf in London,' where the humor was usually borne out of the tension of the situation and actually increased our uneasiness, in 'The Lost Boys' the jokes simply deflate any atmosphere of dread, letting the film quickly devolve into camp. 'The Lost Boys' is undoubtedly fun, but it never quite walks that tight wire of scares and laughs to truly emerge as an effective genre film.
Perhaps I'm being too hard on 'The Lost Boys.' Without a doubt, the film retains a devoted cult following that speaks to its lasting entertainment value. Sartorial nightmare aside (Haim's costumes in particular are heinous examples of '80s fashion crime), 'The Lost Boys' is slick fun, and the game cast (particularly Sutherland and Patric) elevates it above most '80s horror-comedy dreck. It's a shame, though, that the film just isn't scarier and more disturbing -- here's a story that cries out for a more complex narrative and deeper thematic substance. As it stands, 'The Lost Boys' is great nostalgia and always amusing, but it's hard not to lament the fact that it could have been a great deal more.
Warner finally brings 'The Lost Boys' to Blu-ray in a spiffy new 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. I wasn't expecting such a noticeable leap over the standard DVD (which Warner re-issued a few years back to solid reviews), and am quite impressed with how good this remaster looks.
'The Lost Boys' has been preserved in fine shape over the years. The source is surprisingly spotless -- not even minor blemishes or speckles distract. Grain is also much improved over the previous DVD, which often looked fuzzy and indistinct (particularly with red, which is a dominant color throughout the film). Hues are wonderfully saturated -- rich, but not overdone. Fleshtones are also accurate. Sharpness and detail excel for a film from 1987, with a very dimensional image never marred by softness or poor shadow detail. The encode is also superior, with no obvious artifacts and even a welcome lack of edge enhancement. Warner has done a terrific job bringing 'The Lost Boys' to Blu-ray.
'The Lost Boys' receives a first-ever high-res mix on Blu-ray, with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit) presentation. It's perfectly fine, if not providing nearly as much of an improvement as the video.
Boasting first-rate audio back in 1987, 'The Lost Boys' now lacks a concentrated surround presence. Ambiance is lacking, and even discrete effects are sporadic. The film's best aural effect are the vampire flying scenes, but otherwise only the occasional stinger is apparent. Tech specs are solid, however, with a clean and polished sound and strong dynamics. Low bass supports the action well, and dialogue is only marginally subdued in the mix. I didn't really need to adjust the volume, but some of the track's louder moments sounded a tad too forceful. 'The Lost Boys' doesn't really gain much in the jump to high-res audio, but this is certainly not a bad soundtrack.
Originally released in 2001 as a two-disc special edition DVD, 'The Lost Boys' returns to Blu-ray with the same bonus features intact. Unfortunately, Warner has not made use of the format's interactive capabilities and upgraded the picture-in-picture elements, nor bumped up the video beyond 480p/i/MPEG-2. But this remains a strong batch of extras that finally gives 'Lost Boys' fans the special edition they've long requested.
'The Lost Boys' is a still-entertaining slice of '80s vampire nostalgia. The film isn't all that successful on many levels, but it retains undeniable cult appeal. This Blu-ray is excellent, with terrific remastered video and tons of extras. The audio isn't that spectacular, but that's hardly a fatal flaw in an otherwise strong catalog release. For fans, 'The Lost Boys' is worth checking out, and it's worth a rental if you've never seen it.