"One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach: All the damn vampires."
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 finding it laugh-out-loud funny.
Apparently, the folks at Warner Bros. have also noticed the film's popularity rise over the years, because they released the movie initially on a single disc in 1998, and here in 2004 they have reissued it in a two-disc, special-edition set. With improved audiovisual elements and a multitude of new bonus features, the package makes a tempting prospect for one's DVD dollars.
The connection between sex and violence has often been explored in literature and films. 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 stories go, well, they're at the head of the list for sex and violence. You don't think vampires are sexy? I had a lobby poster for "The Lost Boys" hanging in my high school classroom for over fifteen years, and every year without fail at least two or three female students asked 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 to a basic horror tale. 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 the villain doesn't pay off?
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 James 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, 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 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 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 like "From Dusk Till Dawn." There is no nudity, profanity, or excessive gore in "The Lost Boys." Say, do you suppose the Frog brothers grew up to be the Geckos in "From Dusk Till Dawn"? Just asking.
For this latest special-edition set, Warners Bros. provide an all-new digital transfer that improves upon the older one in subtle but impressive ways. First, though, there's what they don't give us anymore; namely, a pan-and-scan rendering to go along with the widescreen as they did before. No, here we get just the widescreen version, and a slightly less wide screen at that. The new DVD edition features a widescreen transfer that measures an anamorphic ratio approximately 2.40:1.
The main thing is that the new transfer appears to be done at a slightly higher bit rate, resulting in a touch greater depth and richness to the colors. More important, the general screen image is cleaner than before, with fewer specks and less grain. There are still a few scenes in the new transfer where grain does show up, second-unit shots at night, mainly, and there are a couple of instances where the picture shows signs of fade; but, overall, the disc exhibits an excellent picture quality.
Even the Dolby Digital 5.1 sonics seem better than before. I kept putting first the old disc and then the new one in the player, listening to the same passages over and again, each time convinced that the sound of the newer edition was tighter, clearer, and better concentrated, the older sound appearing brighter and harder. It may have been imagination, I don't know. I didn't have two identical DVD players hooked up to make any instant A-B comparisons. In any case, the sound is still a little hard and forward, but let me just say that I doubt anyone is going to be displeased with it or its occasional rear-channel effects.
Probably the main reason for considering the new edition is for the bonus items. Whereas the earlier edition had very little in the way of extras, this new set is loaded with stuff. Disc one contains the widescreen presentation of the film; the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack; English and French spoken languages; English, French, and Spanish subtitles; an audio commentary with director Joel Schumacher; and thirty-two scene selections.
Disc two, of course, contains the bulk of the supplemental materials. The first item is "The Lost Boys: A Retrospective," twenty-three minutes of cast and crew reminiscences and tributes. The next is "Inside the Vampire's Cave," which includes four featurettes: "A Director's Vision," six minutes; "Comedy vs. Horror," four minutes; "Fresh Blood: A New Look at Vampires," three minutes; and "The Lost Boys Sequel," two minutes. Incidentally, as of this writing there is no sequel in the planning. After that is "Vamping Out," thirteen minutes on the makeup and creations of Greg Cannom. Then, there's "The Vampire Photo Gallery"; "The Return of Sam and the Frog Brothers: The Story of the Two Coreys"; and a "Multi-Angle Video Commentary with Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, and Jamison Newlander." The part I liked best, though, was "The Lost Scenes," fifteen minutes worth of deleted material. Finally, there is a music video, "Lost in the Shadows," with Lou Gramm, and widescreen theatrical trailer.
Popularity for "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 tends to build an amiable relationship with its audience that promotes repeated viewing. Certainly, the new and improved picture and sound encourage that kind of thing.