We all have our favorite movies that we feel don't get enough respect. For me, one of the top films in that category has to be The Lost Boys. Yes, the movie was a financial success, and it's one of the few horror-related titles that most of the people that I know have actually seen, but many dismiss it as pop-culture fluff. In my opinion, The Lost Boys is an excellent film which offers a nearly-perfect combination of horror and laughs, all done with a great deal of style. Apparently, the rest of the world is coming around to this view, as Warner Home Video is now releasing a new 2-disc Special Edition DVD of The Lost Boys.
As The Lost Boys opens, Lucy Emerson (Dianne Weist) has gone through a divorce, and has moved from Arizona to Santa Carla, California with her two sons Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim), to live with her father (Bernard Hughes). The boys aren't thrilled about the move, especially when they realize that Grandpa is a bizarre taxidermist, and it gets even worse when they realize that Santa Carla is known as "The Murder Capital of the World".
Being a good mother, Lucy is afraid that her boys will fall in with the wrong element, but she has no idea what she is about to face. While comic book shopping, Sam meets the Frog Brothers, Edgar (Corey Feldman) and Alan (Jamison Newlander), who warn him that Santa Carla is full of vampires. At the same time, Michael pursues a beautiful girl named Star (Jami Gertz) down the boardwalk, and comes face-to-face with a group of leather-clad motorcycle riding badasses, David (Kiefer Sutherland), Paul (Brooke McCarter), Dwayne (Billy Wirth), and Marko (Alex Winter). Michael goes with the group and soon finds himself involved in a bizarre nightmare in which he begins to feel an insatiable hunger and he can't tolerate sunlight. Sam, fearing that the Frog Brothers may have been right, attempts to help his brother and together, they find themselves going up against a considerable force of evil.
Over the years, vampire films have come in many forms, ranging from subtle to graphic to cheesy to elegant, but few have been as entertaining as The Lost Boys. The movie features an incredible combination of horror, comedy, gore, style, music, and sex appeal. Director Joel Schumacher has taken the script by Jeffrey Boam and Janice Fischer & James Jeremias and crafted a post-modern vampire film which places the horror against a backdrop of youth and beauty. To be honest, the story in The Lost Boys isn't all that original, but having the vampires be disaffected youth and the vampire hunters paranoid comic-book freaks, the movie feels new and fresh. Or, at least in did in 1987. Looking back at The Lost Boys, it's amazing to see just how influential the film was on how we think about vampires today and on the look of movies in general. (What would Flatliners have looked like if Schumacher hadn't had success with The Lost Boys first?)
And while it's fun to look back at The Lost Boys and make fun of the Corey's (and most especially, Corey Haim's clothes in the film...and come to think of it, Corey Haim's Rob Lowe poster), it's hard to deny that the movie doesn't do its job. From the outset, Schumacher sets up a clear style with the film and never lets things get out of control. The movie is well-paced and has a nice balance of character development and action scenes. Sure, lines like "Death by stereo" are cheesy, but this isn't a film to be taken seriously. And I think that's the point that most critics miss with The Lost Boys. The movie doesn't have any underlying message and it's not there to change anyone's life. It solely exists to be a fun, exciting horror film and almost 20 years later, it's still a great ride.
The Lost Boys Special Edition DVD comes courtesy of Warner Home Video. This new DVD is certainly an improvement over the previous DVD release of The Lost Boys from January, 1998. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. When compared side-by-side with the older DVD, the new transfer is clearly better. That first release showed a considerable amount of grain and artifacting. Those errors have been corrected with the new release, as it features an image which is quite sharp and clear. The grain is gone and the artifacting is kept to a minimum. (The old version also showed a great deal of haloing around the credits, but those aren't present on the new release.) The colors on this DVD are very good, showing no oversaturation or bleeding. The scenes contains many nighttime sequences and those scenes look fine, as the black tones are very rich and realistic. Flesh tones look good and aren't waxy. This DVD definitely shows an improvement in the video department. (For the record, I watched the two DVDs side-by-side, with the new DVD playing on my old Daewoo players and the first release playing on a Samsung HD-931. So, the old version was playing in a better player and still looked noticeably worse.)
While the DVDs show a noticeable difference on the video side, the audio shows little improvement. As with the old DVD, the new DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The track provides clear dialogue with no overt hissing or distortion. The film's nearly constant rock soundtrack sounds very good here, showing effective stereo separation. The track is sorely lacking in both surround sound and subwoofer effects. During the action scenes, there is some subtle rear speaker action, but it's not enough to make a real difference. And the LFE effects are few and far between. To my ears, the soundtrack on the new DVD sounded exactly like the track on the old one. It's not necessarily bad, but a more dynamic track could have added so much to the film.
There are many good extras spread across the 2-disc set. Disc 1 features an audio commentary from director Joel Schumacher. Some quiet spots aside, Schumacher speaks at-length throughout the film. He comments on the cast, the locations, and the challenge of shooting a film filled with teenagers with a limited budget. Acknowledging the fact that many aspiring filmmakers like to learn trade-secrets from audio commentaries, Schumacher points out several specifics in the film, such as what it takes to get maggots to wriggle. Some of his comments are forgettable, but the track is educational.
The rest of the extras can be found on Disc 2. We start with "The Lost Boys: A Retrospective". In this 24-minute featurette Schumacher does most of the talking as he discusses how he came to the project and how the film was cast. There are also comments from executive producer Richard Donner, actors Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Haim , Corey Feldman, and Jamison Newlander, and director of photography Michael Chapman. They discuss the look of the film and the film's eventual success. Next up is "Inside the Vampire's Cave", which is split into four sections (totaling 18 minutes) and does have a "Play All" option. With "A Director's Vision", Schumacher talks about his dislike for the original script for The Lost Boys, which featured much younger characters and how he changed the story to give it more sex and more of an edge. (However, they never mention the fact that Spielberg was once connected to the project.) In "Comedy vs. Horror", Schumacher and Donner comment on how The Lost Boys deftly mixed two genres and how no one at Warner Bros. had any idea what they were doing. "Fresh Blood: A New Look at Vampires" doesn't focus on how the vampires in The Lost Boys actually look, but rather explores how the film incorporated vampire myth and lore. And finally, "The Lost Boys Sequel?" simply features rumors and speculation on what a second film would bring. (Completists will note that much of the information in those two featurettes is repeated in Schumacher's commentary.)
"Vamping Out: The Undead Creatures of Greg Cannom" (14 minutes) examines the special effects makeup in The Lost Boys. Cannom talks about how he got his start in films and then goes on to talk about the various makeup designs used in the movie and how it was tailored to Schumacher's vision. This is followed by "The Vampire's Photo Gallery", which features over 75 stills, most focusing on the vampire makeup.
The next section is called "The Return of Sam and the Frog Brothers". This is kicked off by "Haimster & Feldog: The Story of the 2 Coreys" (5 minutes), in which Corey Haim and Corey Feldman discuss how they met and what it's been like to work together so many times. (And Corey Haim seems to think that everyone in the world is familiar with the terms "Haimster & Feldog". OK...) The second part of this section is a Multi-angle Video Commentary with Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, and Jamison Newlander. Using the DVD players multi-angle function, the viewer can choose to watch any of the three participants, as they comment on five scenes from the film, ranging from the scene in Sam first meets the Frog Brothers to the finale.
Next, we have "The Lost Scenes", which features 16 deleted scenes, which are shown as a continuous reel. This footage is somewhat interesting, but there is nothing new here, as most of the scenes simply fill in the blanks between scenes and moments which exist in the finished film. This footage does contain a very extended take of the love scene between Michael and Star. "A World of Vampires" is my favorite extra on the DVD, as it explores vampire myths from around the world. Some of them are quite scary and I just have to ask, what the hell is going on in Malaysia?! The extras are rounded out by a music video for the song "Lost in the Shadows" by Lou Gramm and the theatrical trailer for The Lost Boys, which is letterboxed at 1.85:1 and is 16 x 9.
The Lost Boys was a very important part of my teenage years (I even wrote about it for my high school yearbook) and I'm glad to see it getting the respect that it deserves. The film contains a great mix of humor and horror and was a catalyst in a neo-vampire movement. This new DVD contains a good transfer, but it's the extra features that will have fans of the film staying up all night.