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THE LOST BOYS. Directed by Joel Schumacher; written by Janice Fisher, James Jeremias and Jeffrey Boam; produced by Harvey Bernhard for Warner Bros. Starring Corey Feldman, Corey Haim. Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland and Dianne Wiest. Rated R (violence).


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The idea of combining comedy with standard horror movie fare isn't a new one. (Does anyone else remember Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein ?) But The Lost Boys, sort of "Dracula Meets Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore," looks as up-to-date as the latest music video.

Unfortunately, it shares more with MTV than just a contemporary look. Like undeveloped characters, a pretty sloppy narrative, and a frantic, uncomfortable editing style. But it is funny, it is scary, and it is hip. So it will be a hit. And lots worse movies have made it into that fraternity.

Michael (Patric) and Sam (Haim) move with their mother Lucy (Wiest) to the strange California town of Santa Clara after her divorce. (The movie was actually filmed mostly in Santa Cruz.) They'll be living with her father, a delightfully eccentric amateur taxidermist played by Barnard Hughes, in a quaint cabin-like house with no TV.

While cruising the boardwalk carnival one night, Michael follows seductive Star (Jamie Gertz) and ends up getting inexplicably involved with her motorcycle gang friends. They're led by David (Sutherland) and, although they do possess a certain scuzzy charm, it's obvious to everyone except Michael that they're not the best crowd to fall in with when you're the new kid in town. In fact, it turns out that they're vampires (although Michael is the last to figure this out) and they want Michael in their band.

Sam, in the meantime, has made some pretty strange friends, too. Edgar Frog (Feldman) and his mostly silent brother. But these are the good guys, and they give Sam some comic book information that becomes invaluable later on when they actually have to battle the undead.

For the most part, The Lost Boys mixes its humor and its horror skillfully. The scenes with Sam and the Frogs are hilarious, and even during the tense climax Sam gets off some good one-liners. But Patric can't accommodate the movie's shifting gears nearly as adroitly as Haim. He plays Michael seriously throughout, and he's not a good straight man. (Or, more likely, just not a good actor.)

Michael's biggest problem, though, lies with the script. We don't get to know him well enough before he falls in with the vampires to feel anything about his real character. So it's hard to care whether he makes his first kill and becomes a real blood-sucker or not.

The storyline makes Michael its central character. But we're asked to focus on nothingness. His brother, his mother, his grandad—not to mention the gang of villains—are all lots more interesting than the hero. That's just poor storytelling.

The Lost Boys emphasizes style over substance. It's got a slick, sinister look and a great soundtrack. And it does get pretty scary before it's over. When the vampires get cooking they look pretty frightening and it's for this reason, mainly, that the movie's unsuitable for children.

The R rating is just barely deserved. It has less in the way of sexual references than a prime time soap, and little more vulgar language. Even most of the violence occurs just off screen, or in the middle of a dizzying quick-cut sequence that makes it impossible to tell what you've just seen.

[Hindsight note: Several years after seeing this movie and writing this review, whenever I hear the Doors' song "People are Strange," or when I even see that phrase, I think of this movie's opening credit sequence, so when I'm talking potent style, I mean REALLY potent.]

August 19, 1987

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