Episode 96: The Lost Boys (1987)

Film chosen by listener Louis Naum, introduced by Matt

Anyone who’s ever upped and moved to a new town recognises The Lost Boys’ eighties, tropey Karate Kid vibes. I responded immediately to the plight of the Emersons—not because I ever relocated myself as a child, but as I’m from Catterick Village—ten minutes from Catterick Garrison, which remains the biggest army base in the UK, my school friends’ dads would regularly get posted, meaning they were history. I was relieved to have stability—to feel comfortable, but it was always sad to lose friends so often. This was also the first film in my life that induced a nightmare, and without me even seeing the full film. It was merely a trailer, or a clip, which showed the vampiric lads initiating Michael into their flying bloodsucker gang by dangling beneath violently juddering tracks, as an approaching train neared, until the inevitable happened, and their weakening grips faltered, sending them plummeting into a misty abyss—only their voices still carried, undead; alive in the wind. In my dream, I was also hanging from the same rattling rails, and unless I let go in time, would’ve had my fingers severed. Of course, as soon as the rollicking train was overhead, I woke up startled.

I don’t know what planet this is—Planet Schumacher, I suppose, but I don’t care. It’s so compelling to watch, and his liberal use of the fantastical has a welcoming, inviting feel. Yeah, it goes haywire. On one hand, you’ve got Corey Haim singing in the bath, and on the other, Jason Patric, going full, existential Brando, amid a junkie crisis, and it amazingly plays. It’s a remarkably odd fluctuation, and combination of tones, but it works. It turns farcical at the end, but wraps up excitingly with a final, action-packed sequence. The comedy lands, there’s enough at the core, enough subversion, and it’s enough of an update to the vampire subgenre, with a myriad of improvements and additions. Vampires have always had an applicability—they’re a readymade device for exploring the human condition. Although ever-evolving, the vampire lore archetypes are pre-established, and well-known by audiences, so Schumacher could immediately play with them here—the nature of the half vampire, garlic, holy water, crucifixes, transparent reflections, hypnotic abilities, inviting a vampire into your home renders you powerless, regenerative healing, sunlight burns their flesh, the ability to fly, and the bat bit, where the guys are all kipping upside down, hanging from the rafters. It’s a movie that cleverly adopts certain tropes, and discards others.

Death by stereo!

Sam, The Lost Boys

Is The Lost Boys, in fact, a gay parable? I believe it to, at the very least, contain elements of one. The openly homosexual helmer, Joel Schumacher (FlatlinersFalling DownPhone Booth), hung a poster of Rob Lowe with his midriff out in Sam’s room, which again, could be some kind of in-joke, or nod, as he was in the director’s previous picture, St. Elmo’s Fire. I don’t want to get too Tarantino in Sleep with Me, with his Top Gun subtext spiel, but it’s all a bit, “Go the gay way,” isn’t it? It’s a forbidden initiation. Michael—with an already established absent father, gets an earring, and a leather jacket, and rides a motorcycle. We don’t have to get into what drinking the blood represents. They’re all male surf-Nazis around the bonfire—not a female in sight, just lustful looks and liquid spurts—like a decadent, fires of hell urge that Michael miraculously manages to resist. He’s essentially watching a gay orgy at that point, and fighting his powerful, preternatural desire to participate. It’s not a battle for Michael’s soul; it’s a battle for his sexuality—it’s David versus Star. The “appetizer” reefer offering in the cave lair is crucial, because if you remove the joint, that particular scene could be interpreted as being covertly about peer pressure and drug or alcohol use, but because the filmmakers included weed, it arguably becomes metaphorical for a sexual initiation. This is right about where Schumacher’s childish, “Goonies go vampire” (sorta) romp turns politically subversive. Theories aside, it’s certainly about our fear of people who, more generally speaking, live outside the mainstream—whether it’s entirely sexuality-based, or broader.

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