Monday, October 14, 2013

The Lost Boys - The Trilogy

It’s clear that my writing ability has taken a bit of a hit, as lately it’s been harder for me to write pieces like this.


To wit, this is the third time I’ve started this essay/review, and I’m still not sure I’ve nailed it.  But I’ll leave that for you to decide.


The Lost Boys


Let’s just get this out of the way – The Lost Boys is a classic of 80s horror cinema, and perhaps of horror cinema, period.  Sit down and watch it today, and you can see the DNA of all the self-referential horror that came after it.


Unlike, say, The Walking Dead, which seems to exist in a world where no one has ever heard of zombies, in The Lost Boys, people have heard of, fear, loathe, and actually know how to fight vampires, more or less.  And as you watch it roll by, you can see things like Scream and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a few other progeny as a gleam in the movie’s eye.


If you’ve never seen it, here’s the setup:


A mom and two brothers move to an odd little town in California, where they crash with their eccentric grandfather.  The older brother accidentally falls in with a group of vampires, and is half-turned into one.  His younger brother and his new frenemies, the Frog Brothers, try to help the younger brother locate and kill the master vampire, which will allow the older brother to revert to human.


It falls into a weird crack, in a sense, because it was a horror comedy.  Bits were scary, and bits were funny, and in the middle of it there was even some actual drama, as the mom tries to figure out just what is going on with her son.


Most horror comedies don’t really work all that well, as they can’t quite get the mix between horror and comedy to come out.  Either the funny undercuts the suspense, or the horror just kind of takes hold and there’s no more funny to be found.


But The Lost Boys doesn’t have that problem, and the reasons are many.  It’s an impressive cast, for one:


Jason Patric - He never got to major stardom, but he was certainly a known and reasonably respected entity.

Corey Haim  - A sad end to his life, but a solid acting career that went for maybe ten years.

Dianne Wiest - Academy Award nominated.

Barnard Hughes - Not a huge name, but if you look through his credits, he was around just about forever, and did quality work.

Edward Herrmann - Still well-liked and well-respected.

Kiefer Sutherland  - Aside from some personal issues, he's had a long and well-respected career.

Jami Gertz  - Still around, still acting, still pretty well-liked.

Corey Feldman  - Had some years of rough road (and seems to be headed back that way) but at the time, he was coming off several years of really respected kid acting.  (Check out his work in Stand By Me, if you’ve never seen it.)


Then there’s the script, which in addition to catching that rare balance I mentioned gets some other things very much right.  The characters are well drawn.  The “jokes” are rarely jokey, or dopey one-liners that you used in find in action movies in the 80s.  Instead they sprout out of character.


Watching it 25 years down the pike, there are a couple of flaws.  The female characters are, for the most part, pretty inert.  They have little moments of mom-ness style protection, but none of them ever pick up a weapon and fight back, and in a post-Buffy world that doesn’t quite work.


The other issue is that the fashions are, at times, so comically 80s-esque that today they feel like a parody of the 80s.


But overall?  This is one of those movies that keeps getting released on VHS and DVD and Blu Ray and will probably eventually be released in a version you can attach to your brain stem, and it deserves it.


The Lost Boys: The Tribe


This one, on the other hand…


Okay, let’s go ahead and get this out of the way – people HATE this movie.  I mean really, actively, hate it.


But let’s back up and examine, for a moment, what the movie is.


By… uh… looking at another movie.


Okay, let us consider the movie Terminator.  A great movie, made for little money, and it still works all these years later.  Terminator 2 is also a straight-up classic.  A flawless film that anyone who enjoys action and/or sci-fi will almost certainly love.


And then there’s Terminator 3.


Here’s the truth: Terminator 3 is not a bad movie.  It’s well written and well-directed, and the cast is a solid plus.  The movie works, and if 1 and 2 didn’t exist, it would be a well-respected flick that bounces around on cable from time to time.


But compared to 1 and 2?  It’s a retread with an exceptionally good ending.


Now.  I am not going to say that The Lost Boys:  The Tribe, is anywhere near that good.  Terminator 3 had a massive budget, really talented actors, and a returning actor who was, at the time, still a big star.


Tribe, on the other hand, has… Corey Feldman.  And Kiefer Sutherland’s brother, who has a really strange accent for reasons I don’t understand.


But the movie is competently directed by P.J. Pesce, who has done a few direct to video movies and some good TV work. 


And when it comes down to it, this movie was one of those things that was going to come out, no matter what.  Warner Brothers wanted a sequel, and they wanted it cheap and they wanted it done by a certain date, so quality was not really of the utmost importance.


And it’s mostly a retread.  A brother and sister come to town to stay with their aunt, and they encounter, yep, vampires.  The sister becomes a half-vampire, and the brother turns to one half of the former Frog brothers team (Edgar, Alan is MIA) for help.


The big difference here is that it takes longer for everyone to accept that there are really vampires, and when they put together a plan to beat them… they try it, and it works.  In contrast to the original movie, wherein they kept failing.


My suspicion is that if people saw this first, without the original Lost Boys, it’d be one of those movies that’s watched and forgotten, but not really loved or hated.  (With the possible exception of a water balloon gag that comes off so perfectly I laughed in delight for almost a full minute.)


I’d say if you’re curious, it’s worth a look, but go in with very low expectations, and be aware that you’re looking at a sketchy photocopy of a near-perfect original.


The Lost Boys: The Thirst


Thirst, on the other hand, got nicer reviews, and watching it, it’s easy to see why.  Whereas the second movie was basically the first one done over again, this one at least shoots off and tries hard to go its own way.


And honestly, it mostly works.  Edgar is still on his own, but Alan is around, though he’s been half-turned into a vampire.  Edgar is given an opportunity (or so it seems) to kill the Alpha vampire, thereby allowing Alan to revert back to his human state.


There are other subplots, and more importantly, this movie adopts a bit of a team-building atmosphere, as Edgar adds more people to his caravan of vampire hunters. 


Which is to say, we could have gotten the same movie a third time, and instead we started to head somewhere.


More importantly, there are actual surprises to be had in the flick.  There are a few cases of concealed identity.  And when you find out the big bad’s plans, it isn’t a very good one, but if you squint it makes just enough sense to pass in an action movie.


And finally, the movie works overtime to try to tie itself to the first flick.  Footage is pulled from the original movie, and little ideas (mainly based around a Batman comic) from that first flick infiltrate this one and try to give it some depth.


Roughly two-thirds of the way through the movie, I remarked to my wife, “It’s not exactly good, but it has a certain charm…”  and really, that sums it up pretty succinctly.  I suspect that hardcore fans of the original don’t like this movie much, but…


Here’s a quick metaphor.


Back in the day, there were two Halloween movies, and then a third that had nothing to do with the series, and then a fourth…


And the fourth should really be terrible.  It was written at the last minute, just before a writer’s strike, and there’s really no reason that the movie should be passable, let alone good.


And yet, it’s a pretty good entry, complete with a solid closing scene that wraps up the story, but provides an open-ended option for future entries.


It shouldn’t work, but it does.


And Thirst is much the same.  If you go in with reasonable expectations, you can (and should, really) enjoy yourself.


Am I hoping for a fourth?  Or, as has been hinted at, a TV series?




Truthfully, it’s not the worst idea, but anything they do with likely feel like a retread.  There’s a hint at the end of the movie that they might try to take on werewolves next, and in a movie context, I think that wanders too far off the central spine of the series.


And honestly, if they went the TV show route, it would likely come off as a lesser version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or, more likely, Supernatural.


I think it’s time to just let it rest.

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