LOST BOYS, THE – Blu-ray review

“You never grow old. You never die. But you must feed.”

Some things just get better with age. Take yours truly, for instance. OK, bad example. Take “The Lost Boys” from 1987, for instance. The first time I saw it, I thought it was cute but silly, a little too diffuse and unfocused to be very effective as either a horror movie or a comedy. Yet time has aged it well. Each time I’ve revisited the film, I’ve enjoyed it more, this latest time on high-definition Blu-ray finding it laugh-out-loud funny.

Apparently, the folks at Warner Bros. also noticed the film’s rise in popularity over the years because they released the movie initially on a single disc in 1998, again in 2004 as a Two-Disc Special Edition, and now on Blu-ray. With further improved audiovisual elements and a multitude of bonus features, it makes a tempting prospect.

“The Lost Boys” touches on the relationship between sex and violence, something literature and films have often explored. Tarantino played with the idea in “Pulp Fiction”; Hitchcock practically made a reputation on it; Kubrick parodied it through innuendo in “Dr. Strangelove” and then dealt with it more openly in “A Clockwork Orange,” and so on. And as far as vampire tales go, well, they’re at the head of the list for sex and violence. You don’t think vampires are sexy? When I was teaching high school, I had a lobby poster for “The Lost Boys” hanging in my classroom for over fifteen years, and every year without fail at least two or three female students would ask if they could have it or buy it. One year a girl actually stole it, and it took some strong persuasion to get it back. “They’re sooo fine; I just love that movie” was the usual comment I got from young women.

“Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire,” to quote from the film’s promo. “The Lost Boys” combines a mild dose of sexuality, a medium dash of violence, and a major splash of humor for a basic horror romp. The result is a fairly amusing film that suffers only slightly from the lack of focus I mentioned earlier.

The story begins with a single mother, played by Dianne Wiest, and her two teenage sons, played by Jason Patric and Corey Haim, moving in with their grandpa, an old codger played by Barnard Hughes, in the hills above a small town on the West Coast. Santa Cruz, California, with its extensive beach and boardwalk stand in for the fictional town of Santa Carla. No sooner do the family arrive than the older son gets involved with a beautiful young woman, played by Jami Gertz, who just happens to belong to a band of young vampires led by Kiefer Sutherland. The younger Sutherland, Donald’s son, had been in several previous films, but it was “The Lost Boys” that made him famous. Who says playing a villain doesn’t pay off? In fact, this is one of those films where the villains and the supporting players are far more interesting than the hero.

With a nod to J.M. Barrie and “Peter Pan,” these vampiric Lost Boys are living out every child’s fantasy, but they would probably rather be normal kids than hanging upside down from the ceiling of a derelict, underground hotel. Add to this mix a bizarre pair of kids, the Frog brothers, Edgar and Alan–fearless vampire killers played by Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander–and you get more silliness than is probably necessary. But there are some nice twists along the way, a good character part played by Edward Herrman, and enough danger and excitement to satisfy most moviegoers.

It isn’t easy to combine comedy with horror. Just ask Eddie Murphy, whose “Haunted Mansion” hit the bottom of the charts in no time flat. The most successful of the breed, however, have emphasized the comedy aspect–things like “Ghostbusters,” “Men in Black,” and “The Ghost Breakers.” But “The Lost Boys” has the distinction of blending comedy and horror in almost equal portions. Not that the movie is very scary, mind you, but the atmospheric sets, Eighties’ music, costumes, lighting, and photography do wonders to establish its creepy, comedic mood.

Incidentally, the film relies on character, setting, and tone rather than on elaborate special effects to create its spooky atmosphere. Its thrills are more of the old-fashioned human variety than computer generated. For those of you getting a little tired of animated monsters, the change of pace may be a relief. And even though the film received an R rating in 1987, director Joel Schumacher delivers action that is pretty mild by the standards of more-recent and similarly inspired R-rated films. There is no nudity, profanity, or excessive gore in “The Lost Boys.”

Say, do you suppose the Frog brothers grew up to be the Gecko brothers in “From Dusk Till Dawn”? Just asking.

For this Blu-ray, VC-1, 1080p, BD50 edition, Warners Bros. worked with restored and remastered elements in a widescreen transfer that measures its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. Like WB’s previous standard-definition release, this high-def Blu-ray version displays a reasonably clear picture, with very little grain except that which is inherent in the print, noticeable mainly in outdoor location shots, especially at night. The overall picture quality is a tad dark, but colors show up vividly–deep, rich, and true. The picture is well detailed most of the time, with occasional periods of softness.

I compared about a dozen identical, side-by-side still shots from the Blu-ray disc and the anamorphic widescreen standard-def disc and found in all but a few cases that the BD looked sharper, crisper, and clearer, as we might expect. I could far more easily decipher license plate numbers in high-def, for example, and I could discern subtle facial features more easily. In the several cases where the Blu-ray was not markedly superior, I thought the two images looked pretty much alike. Understand that I was using a Toshiba HD DVD player to upscale the standard-definition image, which was already pretty good. So, for the BD to look even better in most comparisons tells me the Blu-ray is a distinct improvement over the SD, which, as I say, is as it should be. Otherwise, what’s the point?

On Blu-ray, WB provide a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track in addition to regular Dolby Digital. Here, the comparison was easy because both soundtracks come from the same disc, so there was no need to switch between players. Needless to say, I thought the TrueHD sounded best, although the differences were quite small. Indeed, without the almost instant comparison, I doubt that I or most other listeners would notice any difference. Anyway, midrange clarity seems marginally improved in TrueHD, dynamic impact strengthened, and general smoothness increased. While there is still a slightly bright, forward, metallic-sounding lower treble that is hard to tame, the lossless track does its best with what it has. You’ll also find some decent surround activity on the disc, even though the filmmakers probably didn’t have five-point-one playback in mind when they initially recorded it.

The Blu-ray disc contains all of the extras found on WB’s Two-Disc Special Edition, and more. As on the SD edition, though, they’re in standard-def. First up is an audio commentary with director Joel Schumacher. Next is “The Lost Boys: A Retrospective,” twenty-three minutes of cast and crew reminiscences and tributes. After that is “Inside the Vampire’s Cave,” which includes four featurettes: “A Director’s Vision,” “Comedy vs. Horror,” “Fresh Blood: A New Look at Vampires,” and “The Lost Boys Sequel,” about eighteen minutes total. Then, there is “Vamping Out,” thirteen minutes on the makeup and creations of Greg Cannom. Following that, there’s “The Return of Sam and the Frog Brothers: The Story of the Two Coreys,” about four minutes; a “Multi-Angle Video Commentary with Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, and Jamison Newlander” in three parts; “A World of Vampires,” an interactive map that provides brief remarks about vampires around the world; and “The Vampire Photo Gallery.” The section I liked best, though, was “The Lost Scenes,” around fifteen minutes of deleted material. Finally, there is a music video, “Lost in the Shadows,” with Lou Gramm, and widescreen theatrical trailer.

Things conclude with thirty-two scene selections; English, French, Spanish, German, and Italian spoken languages; English, French, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese, and Swedish subtitles; English captions for the hearing impaired; and pop-up menus. Oddly, I could not find any bookmarks or a guide to elapsed time on the disc. Also, Warner Bros. do not include a chapter insert, but they do provide a paper that lists a series of “Lost Boys” photographs you can order from the WB Photo Collection (www.wbphotocollection.com).

Parting Thoughts:
The popularity of “The Lost Boys” has grown steadily since its release, and today it enjoys a distinct cult status. The movie may not offer a lot in the way of serious frights or even originality, but it is most definitely weird and decidedly funny. So, if it’s not taken too seriously, it builds an amiable relationship with its audience that promotes repeat viewing. Certainly, the improved picture and sound of high-definition Blu-ray encourage a person to watch it again.

“One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach: All the damn vampires.”