Normally I don’t write about horror. This is mostly because normally, I don’t watch horror. However, because it’s October, my thoughts have turned toward all that is spooky. And the first scary movie I can remember watching – a movie that left a rather big impression on me – is The Lost Boys.
Most of my siblings are much older than I am, so they were right in their junior high and high school years when I was small. One night, my sisters were having an impromptu sleepover in the living room, and wonder of wonders, they actually let me hang out with them (even then, I thought everything they were doing must be the coolest thing in the world).
“What are you watching?” I asked.
“It’s a vampire movie,” one said. Noticing my nervous look, she said, “Don’t worry, it’s not really scary. It’s just about a bunch of boys with really long teeth.”
I glanced up at the TV – just in time to see a shot of one of the vamps hanging upside-down, with the most grotesque feet imaginable. I ducked my head under the covers.
“Oh, and long toenails,” my sister hastily added. “Come out, it’s really not that bad…”
Being that this was a family favorite, I had soon seen the movie many times, and heard the soundtrack ad nauseum, and lived with the poster above a sister’s bed. Twilight fans have got nothing on the teen fanaticism that was in my house. So what did I absorb as a young, impressionable geeklet?
Well, number one, knowledge of comic books can save your life.
The protagonist, Michael, is an attractive young manly type… and a clueless moron that gets duped into becoming a half-vampire. Apparently landing a mysterious girlfriend and surviving massive falls is not enough of a tradeoff for him once he witnesses a gory feeding. Soon he’s panicking and clinging to the curtains as he struggles not to float out the window.
To the rescue is his scrawny younger brother Sam. Sam just made friends with a couple of geeks at the local comic shop – militant geeks who just happen to think their town is overrun with vampires. Luckily, there’s nuggets of truth in their horror comics, and ultimately it’s three dorky kids who save the day.
Looking back, this is one of the first vampire films I can think of that played with the expectations of vampire lore. They introduce garlic, only to find it ineffective, and there’s several other “everyone knows…” references. In my opinion, it’s that sort of cynical, self-aware humor that would eventually lead to movies like Scream.
It’s also one of the first vampire films to feature vamps that are hot, young, and totally in the moment. The cast is full of teen heartthrobs: Keifer Sutherland, Jason Patric, Jami Gertz (who probably influenced my affection for flowy skirts and wild hair), the two Coreys, and various other people that would be at home in a hair band video. David could have been a vampire for two years or two hundred; he’s not lounging about in period clothes or cackling from a castle turret.
The Lost Boys resonates with teens, not just because it’s a vampire film, but because it’s got a typical new-kid-in-town storyline. As a kid who moved around a lot, I could totally appreciate the apprehension of starting over in a new place where anything could happen… even if “anything” was a gang of vampires.
If you happen to know a young Twilight fan who hasn’t managed to catch this film, they should see it just to get a sense of history. But even if you’ve seen it before, it’s worth watching with fresh eyes – and October is the perfect month to do so.