Welcome back to another Friday Nightmare Reviews, wherein I tell you what Summer Nightmare you could be enjoying to take your mind off other things that might be making you feel all kinds of restless or uncomfortable or sad right now. This week, we’re going to enjoy one of my absolute favorite movies and one that has a special place in my heart when it comes to summer memories. Now, I’ll admit that this is hardly an unknown movie but I’m comfortable calling it a cult classic, considering that there are elements of this film that have been memed based on some of the most random parts that were likely added for background color and it has some of the best dialogue lines that have been quoted to death. Along with that, it also kind of celebrates a nice summer vibe without taking us to camp, which I predict we’ll be seeing more of soon enough. But for now, let’s get our favorite horror comics and enjoy the lovely Santa Carla twilight while we enjoy the antics of The Lost Boys.
Most people are aware of the basics of this movie but for the uninitiated, this is a Joel Schumacher film from 1987 and is probably the most beloved of all the films featuring “the Coreys”, as the two stars were called back in the day. That would be the very young Corey Feldmen, currently showcasing his documentary to expose the rampant sexual abuse that he and other young actors from the time period suffered through, and the late Corey Haim. Though the two teenaged Coreys were a big draw, the two actors were joined by a very talented cast of stars around them and it speaks to why this film is still a favorite for a lot of people today. Along with that, the script is full of great, quotable lines and the visuals were awesome and the music really set the tone for a place that, despite being full of creatures of the night, you still very much would like to visit.
Before we get into all of that, however, let’s get after that storyline. This is the pretty relatable tale of a couple of teenaged brothers making their way to a coastal town with their mother, post divorce. Mom is Lucy, played by Dianne Weiss, and she is sweet, somewhat too lax and clearly still recovering from having to uproot her entire life and family to come live with her eccentric father. Though the boys are seemingly taking it well enough, it’s pretty clear that they aren’t necessarily all that excited to have gone from Phoenix, Arizona to sleepy Santa Carla, California, also known as the Murder Capital of the world, according to residents. As the boys settle in, a few things become apparent to them. For one, Grandpa is kinda crazy, thirsty for a local widow and actually pretty impressively good at taxidermy. Lucy is in need of a job and ends up finding some financial aid and a little bit of a budding romance through a local video store. That leaves the two boys with a summer of being able to wander the midway carnival with basically no supervision, as was tradition back in ye olde 80s.
At this point, mostly our narrative focuses on Sam, played by Corey Haim. (No it’s not lost on me that the first Summer Nightmare film also featured a Sam main character. It’s also not going to be the last, I’m now realizing.) For his part, Sam is ridiculously likeable, somewhat nerdy but in an unabashed way and he isn’t complaining too hard but he would much rather be living back in Phoenix. One of the things that I really like about this character and the way the narrative treats him is that while it’s clear that he’s a young teenager (I’m guessing he’s supposed to be in that age range of somewhere around 15 or 16), he’s not obsessive about much of anything but he still feels well rounded. It’s clear that he likes comic books but his room isn’t a shrine to Superman or anything like that. He isn’t oblivious to girls but he isn’t all that worried about them either. One of the things I like most about this character is how he’s not slouching and awkward and a wet blanket, hiding away at the back of the first comic store he finds. He’s got some wit to him and he’s charming. What’s more, he doesn’t have the tough guy attitude, which really makes the funnier parts of the movie even better. When offered a comic about vampires by the Frog Brothers(I’m getting to them), he initially declines and tells them upfront that he doesn’t read horror comics. There’s no posturing or pretending that he’s something he isn’t. He leaves that to his big brother, Michael.
The older of the two, Michael, played by Jason Patric, kinda hits the ground running when he gets to California. He gets around on a little dirt bike, enjoys drifting around the boardwalk carnival stands and ultimately spots the free spirited Star, played by Jamie Gertz, during the world’s most sexy saxophone solo. (Fun Fact: The man that is mostly known to the internet as the Sexy Sax Man is actually Tim Cappello and not only is he an actual sax player but he is also still recording music AND he still rocks those chains that he was wearing in the film!) Michael and Star make eye contact but she decides to take off and Michael, who is clearly not great at understanding body language, decides that this means that stalking is go. He follows her (with Sam in tow because that will make conversation with a girl you don’t know go so much smoother) until he sees the woman of his dreams get on the back of a motorcycle of some guy with spiky blond hair and clad in leather. Said guy is David, played by Kiefer Sutherland, and he’s about to get a whole lot more important to Michael and the plot than Star is.
By this point, we’ve seen David a few times, mostly getting in trouble on the boardwalk, hoping on rides and wandering around getting in fights with people. He usually travels in a small group of similarly attractive guys who ride on motorcycles and, apparently, Star travels around with them with her pet(?) child, creatively named Laddie. (I would dig on the name a bit more but said child literally has only one relevant scene later that I won’t spoil if you haven’t seen it. Honestly, they could have done more with the name but why?) Anyway, David, being the observant type, notices that Michael is somewhat lots interested in Star and when the two do finally get to that whole talking thing, he decides he likes playing with this newbie and invites Michael on a drive through the dunes to a cliff point that nearly gets him killed. Turns out that survival of this little dangerous feat is all that it takes to almost impress David and his band of merry troublemakers, so they introduce Michael to their little hideout to get him tripping balls and drunk. Or so he thinks. After playing with him a bit more, they convince him to drink something and start patting him on the back, saying he’s one of them now. For the record, I know this is meant to show him “getting mixed up with the wrong crowd” but at this late hour, I really fail to see how Michael didn’t see this as him joining a cult. Seriously, you didn’t question at all why they all started being all kinds of more friendly to you after you drank some mystery mind control liquid??
Anyway, while Michael is off making new friends and developing a bad case of teenage attitude issues, Sam has noticed that his brother is acting a lot weird. Sure, it might be the vampire comic that the Brothers Frog had shoved in his hands (at no charge even!), but after a little awkward incident where Michael tangles with the family dog, they discover that there might be a little bit more to this whole vampire thing than they originally thought. Sam, being a paragon of great ideas, decides that his hope resides in the great Edgar and Alan Frog and they try to figure out what the fuck is going on. The Frogs are nothing if not direct and initially their first bit of advice is for Sam to murder Michael out of self preservation. Not taking very well to their first suggestion that he shove a stake through Michael’s chest, Sam eventually convinces them to help him on his quest to figure out who the head vampire is and destroy it so that all the little halflings, like his brother, will go back to normal. While I’m not entirely sure that this is how biology works, everyone decides to go for it and eventually Michael teams up with them to try to save their family.
So where to start on the characters? They’re all fun and surprising in how well rounded most of them feel. While Star isn’t exactly great as far as characters go, she doesn’t really entirely seem like an after thought either. She’s a bit on the casual side and has that hippy, devil may care kind of vibe to her to start with so it’s easy to see how she could have fallen into this almost by accident. They really could have made her more of a bimbo but I do think that she’s likeable enough that you don’t really worry too much about her. Besides that, she is protective of Laddie and she shows that there is more going on with her than just that initial flighty side that you see when she’s first flirting with Michael. That said, aside from Laddie who has that one killer scene and that about does it for his character, she’s about the only character who is a little lighter on development side.
This film has a lot of people in it, you might have noticed. In fact, there’s a lot of supporting cast to take into account and if Star is the really the only one with a certain amount of talking part that is a little bit thinner than the rest of them, that’s actually pretty impressive. Take Lucy, for example, who could very well have been just any generic mom, but she’s actually given things to do and Weiss adds that warmth and depth that make her someone you actually remember and care about. And the filmmakers don’t waste her because she’s actually important to the plot. Same with the Frog Brothers. Of course, everyone knew that Feldman was going to be a bit of a scene stealer as Edgar but he has great chemistry with both Haim’s Sam and his onscreen brother, Alan, played by Jamison Newlander. The trio of boys have some of the best lines, they play off each other flawlessly and they’re just fun to watch. When it becomes obvious that they’re out of their depth, it creates some of the best scenes in the movie. And then there’s the major roles.
First off, Corey Haim is just delightful in this role. He makes Sam a bit mischievous but charming in the way that he goes about his life. He also has some of the best lines in the movie and he pulls off some of the best sass that you’ll see, especially when he finds out what’s going on with Michael. And, of course, the person he plays off best with is Corey Feldman. As the leader of the Frog brothers, Feldman meets Haim’s happy-go-lucky Sam with a kind of unearned cynicism that is both hilarious and adorable. What’s even better is that when it’s very clear that he’s out of his depth, Edgar Frog just kind of doubles down on the act and makes like he meant to do that, honest. It would have been so easy to just let him be a wannabe teen Rambo but Feldman plays it so straight and knows exactly how to ham it up when he needs to that it’s all the funnier when the lie is exposed. What’s more is that dialogue between him and Sam is perfect and never feels stilted or awkward or forced. It’s part of what has made this a favorite movie for a lot of people.
As Michael, Jason Patric sells the role. He comes across as less self assured than Sam and that works perfectly for his vampire buddies, but he still manages to pull off that he can overcome that and still stand up when he’s called to. His romance with Star is a little on the meh side and honestly, it’s not like you get the sense that they’re going to stick it out for the long run but that doesn’t really matter in the end. His connection with David is a lot more intriguing because you never get the sense that Michael likes him but he goes along with him anyway and is often manipulated by him as he slowly discovers what it is that’s happening to him. The tension between them is a lot more interesting and when it builds to the final fight, it hits all the right notes.
Speaking of which, Sutherland is awesome as an antagonist. He perfectly embodies that sense of the bad boy vampire, walking the line between the young, troublemaker and the lurking monster. This is also a good time to talk about the vampires themselves. The young men who make up the tribe of David’s followers all have that same sense of the wild hellion teenagers who just seek out any kind of mischief to get into and you get immediately why it would be appealing. They’re having the time of their lives and even though when Michael joins them, he’s not exactly having fun, it’s easy to see why he would still be attracted to this. The thing is, weirdly enough they’re also pretty welcoming, despite mocking Michael at every turn and intentionally fucking with him. There’s some sense that there’s a kind of ribbing in it and all of it is in service to getting Michael on board with the rest of their plan, which is to have him come into the fold. The twist at the end does reveal why they were so eager to have him join but Sutherland and company never sell it like an obligation. Even when Michael hooks up with Star, David doesn’t give a shit because he knows that Mikey is all kinds of interested in sticking around now.
Even the way the tribe bonded is pretty unique. They’re very clearly monsters, especially when they’re feeding and they have no remorse for their prey, nor do they seek out evil people. They go after average jerks just hanging out on the beach or just people who piss them off. That’s not to say that they don’t care about anything and that their bloodlust is the only thing that matters, however. At one point when they lose one of their members, they absolutely give a shit about that. The fact that it not only pisses them off but it shows David kind of mourning his loss in a subtle way, gives this a sense of family, which isn’t an accident. It gives David a depth that he didn’t really require but makes the movie and the antagonist so much better for it.
And finally, before we get to the end here, I have to put in a word about the soundtrack. Normally music is just kind of set dressing and unless it has a killer theme or a particular song that is meant to be highlighted for whatever reason, it’s just there. Most of the time, the soundtrack isn’t even something you notice that much. This one, however, I feel like has almost an iconic feel. It really captures the setting so well that just hearing the songs, I can not only recall the moment I heard it in the film, but I can almost feel like I was there too. The whole soundtrack really embodies the feeling of that late summer night on a midway that is filled with people screaming on rides, the smell of greasy food and booths that are very eager to part you from your money. But with that said, let’s get to our weekly
Food: I mentioned the grease factor there and this film really does have some great midway visuals, so why not celebration that a loaded hot dog or some incredible loaded fries that will be guaranteed to give you heartburn? Other things that I highly suggest are things like cotton candy and mini donuts. Indulge in the carnival foods and don’t forget the Pepto if you’re my age. Trust me, it’s all fun until you realize several hours later that grease no longer agrees with you.
Beverages: Again, try something that’s going to remind you of wandering off between those booths with the stuffies hanging from the top that you know you’ll never win unless you’re gifted with some incredible aiming skills. Nothing hits the spot quite like one of those slushie drinks with the syrup. Syrup is easy to come by and really, if you can get you some crushed ice and have access to a blender, there is nothing easier to make. Alcoholic varieties are also pretty easy to make but go light on the alcohol or the ice will melt. That said, if you are looking for a more adult drink to enjoy while watching this, you could get a dixie cup beer but why not join David in a glass of “red wine” and really join the party? Come on and be one of us!
Extras: You have options on how to make the space over to feel a little more in the groove of things. If you’re going with the midway dinner, why not grab a blanket or a beach towel, light some jar candles (seaside breeze, anyone?), dig out your biggest stuffed animal and grab a comic book or two to enjoy for after the movie? A little too much for you? Maybe before you even watch the movie you could enjoy making a little bit of faux taxidermy, plaster your wall with posters and enjoy with the lights down low.
Seriously, though: If you’re eating any of the junk that I suggest, PEPTO!!! Any kind of antacid will suffice but make sure you have it or you will suffer a fate worse than David’s and probably be wishing for said fate while you’re stuck in the bathroom.
And that brings us to another close of another Friday Nightmare Review of the Summer Nightmare variety. Join us next week for another movie review with pairings. Until then, keep your holy water bottles filled, your underground lairs guarded well and stay out of the sun.