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The Lost Boys 3

Coming of Age with Teen Vampires: The Lost Boys

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I was a preteen when The Lost Boys was initially released. Because it was rated R, I was too young to attend the movie by myself — not that I was driving to movies alone at that time regardless. The primary obstacle: my sister, 11 years older than I was, had recently turned born-again Christian, and she and her similarly orthodox boyfriend/fiancé had seen the ad for the movie in the newspaper (remember those?). A single word on it shot out at them like a warning. It was a one-word quote from a movie critic, no doubt meant to be encouraging, printed at the top of the film’s poster, reading “SENSUAL” in big white letters. They shook their heads and warned my mother against taking me to anything so salacious. That they were more uptight about these things than she was, was an interesting dynamic.

And so, I was thwarted. 

We went to Catalina Island around this time — probably my first visit — and the majestic, historic, round building with, among other things, a movie theater inside, the Catalina Casino, had an ad for the film on its side. Memory distorts things, but it felt like the ad was big and red and wrapped around the entire building. It felt like a giant flag that might swat my face tauntingly in the breeze. I posed for a photo with the Casino over my shoulder, the poster filling up the frame.

I didn’t see the film then either.

I wept when no one would take me to see this movie, because I’d been fond of vampires since I was five. I had a dream around then that Dracula was talking to me — perhaps he was riding with me in the back of my mother’s car, I am uncertain. I mostly just remember feeling comforted as I looked into his reassuring face while he told me about life.

Eventually, somehow, after many tears of desperation had been shed, someone took me. Presumably while my sister and future brother-in-law were distracted by some more deservingly controversial movie — perhaps the existence of Angel Heart. At least that one had Mickey Rourke and sex scenes and voodoo in it: enough to cause a stink that was more seemingly justifiable.

My best friend accompanied me on the day of triumph, because I remember her giggling with delight every time Corey Haim, playing a 13-year-old, was particularly charming or animated. It’s hard now to imagine a 13-year-old boy being attractive to anyone, but I suppose as a preteen this is what qualifies as an “older man.”

In one instance, Haim could be seen grinning at the intensity of the Frog Brothers: the two other 13-year-old characters in the film he meets when they are inexplicably working at a comic book shop in the fictional town of Santa Carla, where perhaps child labor laws are more lax.

The Lost BoysSaid director Joel Schumacher of these characters, “I told the Frog Brothers — Corey and Jamie —that they were GI Joes, they were commandos, they were marines, and they had no humor about any of this.” (“This,” meaning the fact that vampires had infested their town.)

Ironically, The Lost Boys was initially intended to be a children’s film before Schumacher became involved.

When the president of Warner Brothers offered him the project, Schumacher’s immediate response was, “Is this some little kid’s vampire movie?’” The script was G-rated at the time and its characters much younger. According to Schumacher, “The Frog Brothers were two rotund, eight-year-old Cub Scouts.”

Admitted Schumacher later regarding his initial reactions to this earlier concept for the movie, “I was very condescending.”

Schumacher had come out of the New York fashion industry of the 1960s with associations with Halston and Andy Warhol. He transformed this movie into a sexier and more stylish one (in part by aging its central characters from children to teenagers), something that would go on to not only upset my relatives but also a few of the musical artists who were initially approached to contribute to the film.

Enter the very memorable appearance of a shirtless, neck chain-wearing, greased-up, saxophone-playing bodybuilder in a codpiece who had previously toured with Tina Turner named Tim Cappello. Cappello performs a cover of a song in the film called “I Still Believe,” originally by a band called The Call.

The reason the Call does not perform the song themselves is that they were Christian, and their appearance in a teen vampire film seemed to clash with their immediate values. One can assume the idea of them gyrating in codpieces was probably also less likely. 

Cappello’s is an amusing, now iconic presence. “Tina was the first person to give me a codpiece. She was shopping and she saw an S&M store and she said, ‘That’s what Timmy needs!’” As for the chains, Cappello discloses, “I go to Home Depot about once every six months, and I have a chain-cutter, and I make myself a new set for about 30 bucks.”

Another person who initially shied away from the film was actually Jason Patric, its lead. Patric originally didn’t want to do the movie at all, fearing it was an exploitation horror film. It took Schumacher six weeks to convince him.

Said Schumacher about his determination to get Patric, “There was absolutely no young actor that I met at the age of 18 with his looks and his talent.” Interestingly, if the film was shot in 1986, Patric was more like 20 during the time of filming (as was Kiefer Sutherland — Haim would have been 14), but perhaps Schumacher is thinking more of his characters’ ages.

Patric had world class Hollywood pedigree as well as a fascinating horror lineage. His grandfather was famed Honeymooners’ star Jackie Gleason, who, interestingly, died a little over five weeks before The Lost Boys was released. Patric’s father was Jason Miller, who starred in The Exorcist, the original William Friedkin-directed version, as Father Damian Karras, basically making Patric horror royalty. (Miller reprised this role in The Exorcist III.) And Patric’s half-brother by the same father was child actor Joshua Miller, who appeared in that other stylish modern vampire film, Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark, which was released just two months after The Lost Boys.

There are also weird real-life connections between Patric and The Lost Boys antagonist Kiefer Sutherland. After becoming friends on the set, four years after the film’s release, Sutherland was famously left by Julia Roberts shortly before their wedding in 1991, who without a breath flew to Ireland with Patric instead. The two dated for a year, and Sutherland and Patric didn’t speak for a decade. They’ve since reconnected. The battle between them in the film is weird foreshadowing for this seeming real-life battle over Roberts.

The Lost Boys 2Said Schumacher of Sutherland, “He has the least amount of dialogue of anyone in the movie, but his presence is extraordinary.” I would argue that while he seems to have more dialogue than the rest of his vampire posse, his onscreen charisma without saying a word is indeed powerful, and he’s a large visual part of what makes The Lost Boys the movie that it is.

The studio was concerned at the time of the film’s making about its tone which was split between horror and comedy, now a very popular recipe. The CEOs at Warner Brothers kept demanding to know if the film was a horror film or a comedy. Schumacher simply told them, “Yes” while they continued to explain to him why those two genres would not work together. Clearly, they were quite wrong.

There are so many other things that can be said about this film. In early moments it feels a little bit like a parable about peer pressure and substance abuse. At one point, it even illustrates the clichéd expression, “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?” quite literally. The atmosphere of the Santa Cruz boardwalk in this time period also serves as a vibrant background character during the first half of the movie.

But at its core, The Lost Boys is a crowd pleaser, as much now as it was back then. Schumacher spoke of an early test screening of the film where 750 audience members showed up. “It was like a rock concert.” Schumacher said there were a bunch of “surf punks” sitting in the third or fourth row, who got so excited during one portion of the film that “they ripped the upholstery out of their seats and started throwing the stuffing around.”

About the film’s enthusiastic reception, beamed Schumacher, “After that you never saw so many happy executives in your whole life.” For me, however hard won my initial viewing might have been, so many years later and largely due to its cast and Schumacher’s keen sense of style, The Lost Boys is still a satisfying watch.

The Lost Boys screens Thursday, May 2nd.


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