To the Shock of Miss Louise

I was never much into horror when I was a kid. My best friend, Becky, and her older sister were hugely into it – they’d seen every Stephen King adaptation going by the time we were 12, and I remember reading the copy of It she’d lent me… or trying to, anyway.

I think I got as far as page 24 before I had to close the book and put it in a drawer. On the other side of the room. Under another book. And then put a cushion in front of the drawer. Just in case.

I wasn’t exactly a robust child.

The aversion to horror evaporated soon after: literally, overnight, when I saw “The Lost Boys” for the first time.

I can’t remember quite why, but we (my parents and I) were staying with my aunt & uncle overnight. The house wasn’t that big, and my parents were sleeping in the spare room, while I had the sofa in the living room. I was 13, and my aunt put a video on.

No prizes for guessing what that was.

After everyone else had gone to bed, I remember opening the living room curtains and looking out of the window at the night. My aunt’s house was opposite a large area of open ground – a sort of common-slash-playing field – and I stared straight at the dark. To this day, I have no idea what I thought (hoped? feared?) I was going to see. And yes, I do feel like an idiot every time I think back to it. But I was 13. We’re all idiots when we’re 13.

The thing about “The Lost Boys” was how immediate it felt. As a teen horror-avoider, I was vaguely aware of vampires in the sense that they lurked in mansions wearing big black capes and… stuff. It wasn’t scary. It wasn’t particularly interesting, either.

But my encounter with these particular vampires coincided with my American phase. I had pictures of American landmarks stuck on the ceiling of my room, and was planning my roadtrip. Beyond that, even: I had it in my 13 year-old head that America really was the city on the hill (yes, not only was I an idiot, I was probably the only teenage girl in Wales to be obsessed by JFK). So suddenly, I was seeing vampires in a whole new way – a way that dovetailed with the stuff I did care about.

Blew. My. Mind.

I fell in love with the Frog Brothers’ comic shop; with Santa Carla’s boardwalk (my husband, all too aware of my love for the film, is convinced this is why I love Brighton’s pier as much as I do…).

I fell in love with the cave David & his boys carved for themselves, all candles and Jim Morrison posters (along with vampires, my love for The Doors was another infection that stemmed squarely from the film). I fell in love with the utter amorality and absolute freedom the Lost Boys stood for. And I was quite taken with the bikes, too.

I was completely oblivious to any subtext – there’s the usual vampire themes rattling around in there, but being a film of the 80s, and a West Coast one, there’s more than a hint of gang mythology in there (the dinner in the cave smacks of a hazing, and the attack on the Surf-Nazis on the beach is a gang initiation if ever I saw one). But that was what made it frightening – particularly so. Not because this was the first time you saw the vampires for what they were, but because you saw them through Michael’s eyes. These were his friends: the people he thought he belonged with… suddenly become truly monstrous. When you’re a teenager like I was, the idea of belonging is so important, the desire to belong so all-consuming that it made Michael’s dilemma even worse. Lose your soul or lose your friends… you’d actually have to stop and think about that, wouldn’t you?

“The Lost Boys” was my vampire gateway-drug. After that, I convinced my dad to buy me the first three of Anne Rice‘s vampire books. We were on a ferry, and the newsagent-slash-bookshop happened to have all 3 of them in the wire spinner-rack outside. I knew enough to realise that if my parents were to pick one up and really look at it, I’d never be allowed to get the rest… so I went for broke. I read them back to back through northern France. I still have those same copies, broken-spined and dog-eared and smelling of teenage rebellion.

I scoured bookshops for vampire collections (chief among them, Parragon’s 1994 edition of The Giant Book of Vampires, edited by none other than Stephen Jones… Sometimes, I wish I could go back and explain to my younger self just how amusing I find that. She wouldn’t get it: how could she?) and smuggled them into the house, under the nose of my by now disapproving mother. I watched every vampire film I could get my hands on – and even waded my way through a not-terribly-well-dubbed version of “Der Kleine Vampir“.

It wasn’t all bad: watching all those vampire films meant I eventually discovered Near Dark – which I maintain is the best vampire movie ever made. It’s better than “The Lost Boys”, I admit… but while I love it, it’s never quite managed to edge David, Marco, Paul & Dwayne out. Nothing has. In such appalling affection do I hold that film, I’ve bought it three times (once on VHS, when I wore out my aunt’s copy; and twice on DVD. It was the very first DVD I bought).

If it had been the film it was originally intended to be, complete with the tweenage, not teenage, vampires and the set-up for the sequel that never happened, “The Lost Girls”, I don’t think I could have loved it as much. Perhaps if I’d seen it at a different time, it wouldn’t have had such a hold on me – a hold that has lasted 17… 18 years thus far and shows no sign of letting up.

But these are moot points. I saw it when I saw it, and it was the film it was: noisy, snarky, silly, flashy, bloody in places and heavy on pop-culture. I’ve written about my love for it before, and a lot of what I’ve said here echoes that earlier article. I’m consistent, you have to give me that. This particular outpouring of Lost Boys love stems from two places: the wonderful article on Ghostbusters from the Guardian’s site, and Damien Walter’s piece on vampire novel, “Stainless” (as well as his referring on Twitter to “The Lost Boys” as “Probably [the] most influential vamp movie ever.”)

It certainly influenced me.

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7 comments

  1. Heh, I was rather older when I saw “Lost Boys” (and had already read “The Vampire Lestat”, I think), so it made less of an impact on me. Still, great film, and a great soundtrack too.

    Funnily enough, my own first DVD purchase involved vampires. It was the awesome Channel 4 mini-series “Ultraviolet”, starring Jack Davenport, Susannah Harker and Stephen “True Blood” Moyer (the latter as a vampire, obviously). Well worth looking out for!

    1. “Ultraviolet”! Yes, I remember that. Funnily enough, given that “The Lost Boys” came along at such a crucial time for me, “Ultraviolet” was on TV the night before I left home for university.

      I watched it again not long ago, actually. What struck me (apart from how badly the 90s have dated… even worse than the 80s!) was the tension in that scene with the warehouse & the coffins. It really did get me this time around…

  2. I love the Lost Boys – never die, never grow old, fly around and look cool, what’s not to like? The soundtrack made it for me, and of course Michael’s amazing resemblance to Jim Morrisson. The scene under the railway bridge, the Frog Brothers, the whole emo-before-emo busted thing,and even all the lovely drugs / rebellion / AIDS whackingly messed-up subtexts, all great. Vampires and funfairs go together like clowns and cannibals. Lovely. 🙂

  3. I think I saw this when I was about 15 or 16. Loved the climax and the twist. And I loved this track from the soundtrack too, which I had on cassette. And in my first year at uni I had a Lost Boys poster on my wall – one with Keifer Sutherland’s face half in and half out of shadow, looking all mean and moody and beardy.

    1. I still love the soundtrack – and I have a little painting of that same picture sitting in my study, staring at me right now. Mean and moody and beardy and… *sigh* 😉

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