Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys—which turns 30 years old this week—has, in some respects, the very things you’d want from a 1980s horror-comedy: big-haired vampires, noisy motorcycles, big-haired vampires riding noisy motorcycles, Corey Feldman. True to ’80s form, the film embraces some of the best excesses of American popular culture, employing ridiculous blood baths and an over-the-top rock-infused soundtrack as it depicts a family’s struggle to fight the small army of leather-wearing teenage demons swarming their town.
But The Lost Boys offers much more than style, nostalgia, and genre thrills. At its core, even three decades later, Schumacher’s film is a remarkably prescient tale that mines the complexities of kinship. The movie’s portrayal of a seemingly wayward mother and her adolescent sons debuted at a time when many Americans feared the deterioration of traditional dynamics in the home—between parent and child, husband and wife. More so than the other films of its era, The Lost Boys subtly challenged dominant cultural expectations that saw the nuclear family as a social and moral ideal.
The movie begins with Lucy Emerson (Dianne Wiest), a newly divorced recovering hippie, moving with her sons, Michael and Sam (Jason Patric and Corey Haim), to the fictional California town of Santa Carla to live with her father, Grandpa (Barnard Hughes). Inauspicious signs abound from the start. Several young people have gone missing in Santa Carla, and Michael soon becomes obsessed with the mysterious Star (Jami Gertz), who hangs out with a gang of bloodsuckers helmed by David (Kiefer Sutherland). Sam eventually partners up with the vampire-killers Edgar and Alan Frog (Feldman and Jamison Newlander) to save his older brother from the undead. In other words, The Lost Boys is a tale of feuding families: the Emerson clan on the one hand, and David’s carnivorous squad on the other.