It’s classic vampire storytelling for vampires to seduce their victims. Innocents are entranced by an inescapable aura, swept up in the vampire’s desire. There’s a formalist sense to vampire horror, that they’ll take the time to handle murders with class so as not to ruin their favorite suits. With Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys, that formalist horror unfolds in an unbridled 1980s. Gritty punk aesthetics, rebellious teens and an inescapable sense of constant entertainment. Even during the day, there’s a feeling that the nightlife never truly stops in Santa Clara. Not while the underbelly of the beach-side town is harboring vampires.
Even with the spellbinding world of Santa Clara around the recently arrived Emerson family, it’s clear there’s a nasty element burrowing beneath it all. When Michael Emerson is brought into a coven in an attempt to win over the affection of young Star, the vamps play mind games. “Maggots, Michael. You’re eating maggots. How do they taste?” It’s a cruel prank showing the extent of the glamour imposed by The Lost Boys and a depraved example of reverse psychology. After dealing with maggots and worms, and David offers him a drink from a ritualistic bottle, Michael sees it as another test for his own acceptance into the circle of cool kids. In a great example of why not to give into peer pressure, David ends up drinking a mysterious red liquid… blood. It’s painfully obvious it’s blood to the naked eye but as of that moment, it’s too late for Michael. He’s been enthralled. On the surface world, it’s all fun and games. One giant party that never ends.
For the younger cast of characters, they see through the faux-cool of the community. They may have overactive imaginations, but for an environment like Santa Clara that might be exactly what they need. For vampires updated with 1980s mannerisms, it only makes sense for the child protagonists to have modern wit to match. Sam Emerson and The Frog brothers manufacture a variety of traps for unorthodox vampires ranging from a bathtub of holy water, death by arrow/stereo and just some good old fashioned stakes to the heart. Although the Frog Brothers consider themselves child soldiers for “truth, justice and the American way,” there’s also the feeling they too are caught up in their own glamorized world of vampire hunting. Every corner of the town grabs hold of people in its own way.
No sequence better encapsulates the intoxicating atmosphere better than the nearly two-minute long sequence set to Tim Cappello’s “I Still Believe.” Schumacher’s visuals resemble an almost neon glaze, bouncing from the hypnotic concert into our eyes and ears. The sight of Cappello’s ponytail, greased abs and heavy chain around neck and wrists is one of the defining visuals of 1980s cinema. His gyrating performance and blaring saxophone launch us through the cheering crowds. The level of confidence required to pull this off is astounding and we should all take a moment to be thankful it exists.
When Michael Emerson and Star lock eyes in the crowd, unable to look away from one another, the connection between the two is immediately electric. The music and atmosphere would do heavy lifting even if Schumacher’s direction and the two gorgeous young adults didn’t sell the hell out of it already. When Michael chases after Star, it’s impossible not to understand where he’s coming from. Shame about the whole vampire situation. Nonetheless, Schumacher presents a magnificent ephemeral sequence to wrap the audience around the glamour of Santa Clara.
“One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach: all the damn vampires.” Grandpa’s last line would certainly ring true for the characters, but I’ll get swept up in the mystique of Santa Clara every single time.
Featured Image: Warner Bros.