As the quintessential vampire movie of the MTV generation, The Lost Boys has a great deal to offer: the sounds of INXS and Echo & the Bunnymen, Kiefer Sutherland looking sexy-scary even though he’s sporting a mullet, the first appearance of both Coreys in recorded film history, and Tina Turner’s saxophone guy tearing it up on a California boardwalk stage. But perhaps the most impressive element in The Lost Boys is the fact (yes, I said fact) that it contains the best last line of any vampire movie ever made.
Have I watched every single vampire movie that has been committed to film? Admittedly, I have not. But I still stand by this statement because the last line of The Lost Boys puts one of the absolute most perfect buttons on a movie of any kind, vampire or otherwise.
For those whose memories of The Lost Boys are a bit murky, allow me to set the scene for that final moment. (Note: If you haven’t seen The Lost Boys, put aside whatever digital device you are reading this on, go watch the 1987 Joel Schumacher film in its entirety, then please resume reading this article.)
The Lost Boys was and still is very much a teen movie. With its MTV-friendly soundtrack, ’80s-boho–meets–hard-rock style, and a cast of attractive young stars, it was one of the first vampire flicks designed as a coming-of-age story and marketed heavily to high schoolers. It’s surprising that it took so long for vampires to occupy the teen-movie space; teenagers sleep late, like to go out at night, aren’t always great about hygiene (long nails, bad breath, etc.), and will often drink weird liquids when pressured by their peers. In some ways, they’re all basically vampires.
It makes complete sense in this movie that an outlier like Jason Patric’s Michael, who has just moved to Santa Carla, California with his younger brother, Sam (Corey Haim), and their freshly divorced mom, Lucy (Dianne Wiest), could be persuaded to join Sutherland’s blood-slurping David and his vampire posse, especially given Michael’s attraction to semi-converted vamp Starr (Jami Gertz). The vampire lifestyle is kinda goth and hard-core and hot in The Lost Boys. Being goth, hard-core, and hot in the ’80s was very appealing.
But despite its being a teen movie, the adults in The Lost Boys are not afterthoughts. The grown-ups are played by formidable actors. Wiest, appearing in her first motion picture after her Oscar win for Hannah and Her Sisters, is a believably nurturing, struggling mom, albeit more patient than most would probably be. Edward Herrmann does a spectacular turn from nice potential boyfriend for Wiest to grotesque, childhood-ruining head vampire. And then there’s Barnard Hughes, an Emmy- and Tony Award–winning actor who plays eccentric Grandpa, a budding taxidermist, a man who uses Windex as aftershave, and the owner of a sputtering car with a horn that squawks out “La Cucaracha.” Hughes was 72 when The Lost Boys was released, the film’s oldest principal cast member. And yet in this extremely teen movie, it is he who gets the last, best line.
In the minutes leading up to that line, the vampires and the anti-vamps — Michael, Sam, and the Frog Brothers (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander) — face off in a climactic showdown. A lot of shit goes down during this sequence, which unfolds in the home occupied by Sam, Michael, Lucy, and Grandpa. A vampire murder involving garlic soaked in holy water results in blood shooting out of every faucet in the house. There is an infamous “death by stereo”; an in-flight fight between David and Michael; and the ultimate killing of the head vampire, Herrmann’s Max, by Grandpa, who drives his beat-up car through a fence and into the house, driving a stake through Max’s heart. By the end of it all, the characters are breathing heavily, and the audience may be too.
During the comedown from all that violence, Grandpa walks into the kitchen, grabs a root beer from the fridge, and chugs it down, completely ignoring that all the appliances and walls are coated in vampire blood. Lucy, Michael, and Sam follow him into the kitchen, wondering if he’s all right. Then he says, “One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach: all the damn vampires.” The fridge closes slowly, its interior light fading out on the slack-jawed faces of Lucy, Michael, and Sam in what feels very much like an homage to The Godfather’s final scene. End of movie.
I saw The Lost Boys in theaters multiple times when it was first released, and every time, this line, rightly, got a huge laugh. Grandpa could have mentioned the vampire issues in Santa Carla at literally any point. Like before his daughter decided to move herself and her two sons there, or right after they arrived, or when he acknowledged that the town is the murder capital of the world, or when Michael started to engage in behavior that reeked of vampiric tendencies, or during the scene in which Michael and Sam carry Starr and her young charge, Laddie (Chance Michael Corbitt), into the house after extricating them from the underground lair occupied by David and the other night crawlers. There are so many opportunities for him to say, “Oh, by the way, be careful. There’s a real chance you could become a Dracula while you’re living here.” But he doesn’t.
The absurdity of all that makes the line land in the way you need a line like that to land at the end of a horror movie. It provides a release after all the tension that preceded it and lets everyone watching exhale and stop fearing the next jump scare. It also cements that The Lost Boys belongs in and really excels at a genre that isn’t horror at all.
Although there are some mildly scary moments in it, The Lost Boys is largely a comedy. I recently watched it after not having seen it all the way through in a few years, and the gags and comedic dialogue hold up much better than any of the moments that were deemed “frightening” at the time. The absolute self-seriousness of the Frog brothers: very funny. The dinner scene when Sam tries to prove Max is a vampire by serving him garlic and dumping holy water on him: hilarious. Grandpa’s tendency to put weird taxidermied animals on Sam’s nightstand, constantly scaring him to death: a wonderfully macabre touch that is very amusing. It helps that all of the actors really get the tone and can rise to the humor baked into so much of the movie.
We tend to revisit this film at the time of its August anniversary, during the month of Halloween, or in conversations about vampire pop culture. But what makes The Lost Boys the kind of movie you want to revisit over and over isn’t the INXS, or the Kiefer, or the Coreys, or even all the damn vampires. It’s the way that, as that kicker of a last line does, this movie still allows for so many damn laughs.
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