Friday, June 17, 2011

LOST BOYS: THE THIRST: Voice of the Undead Countdown Minus 37

With Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead coming out on July 26, I'm counting down 60 cool vampire things. Today:

Understand: when the original THE LOST BOYS arrived in 1987, the vampire was mostly dead. The Gothic vampire resurgence that had begun in 1958 with Christopher Lee's Dracula had fallen apart some fifteen years earlier, wrecked on the shores of the fierce post-modern double blow of THE OMEN and THE EXORCIST. Hammer stuck around for a few years, but the vampire of old in his period costumes was well and truly staked.
Oh, there were vampires in the lean years that followed-- 1979 saw two of them; Werner Herzog's insane remake of NOSFERATU and Chris Langella's sexy-- and still Gothic-- Universal DRACULA, a filming of the Hamilton Deane stage play. There was also David Bowie, vamping and preening with Catherine Deneuve in the Cinemaxy 1981 THE HUNGER, a fine enough film. But even as Anne Rice was bringing back vampires in a big way on paper, the vampire world was drifting on the big screen.
In 1987, all of that changed. THE LOST BOYS (and yes, NEAR DARK, and right, I skipped COUNT YORGA, twice, but let's not make this a white paper, okay?) breathed new life into the genre. Keifer Sutherland's vampire lead David was a New Romantic vampire, very 80s, haunting a beautifully-realized California boardwalk and seducing young men and women alike with a crew of flying vampires who feasted on sun-bathing patrons and surf nazis. After 1987, vampires were back.
As I write this, that was twenty-four years ago. I mention all of this because LOST BOYS: THE THIRST, which you can catch on Netflix streaming as I did or pick up at Itunes or rent on Youtube (or heck, get a DVD, a format that did not exist in 1987 and will not exist much longer) stands at the other end of a long tunnel back to that period in the 1980s. Unlike the THE TRIBE, first Lost Boys sequel, THE THIRST has an idea about where vampire movies have gone. It's a direct-to-video sequel, yes, but that means the makers have some room to play and experiment. What I loved about is that it takes time to comment on a whole world of vampire tropes that simply did not exist when Joel Schumacher filmed the original, such as: sexy vampire raves, raves themselves, designer drugs, paranormal vampire novels, familiarity with X-Files-ish alien invasion scenarios, vlogs, ebay and the slow disintegration of the direct-market comic book industry, Lara Croft, and more. Oh, this is a B movie, with a lush Capetown, South Africa standing in for the West Coast. But I'd much rather watch a B picture like THE THIRST that knows something about vampire films-- that has some real heart pumping under the deliberately cheesy dialogue-- than sit through self-important and ultimately empty AAA stuff like Coppola's dull BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA or Wes Craven's wasted DRACULA 2000.
So what have we got here? In LOST BOYS: THE THIRST, Corey Feldman, doing his best Snake Plissken impression, returns as burnt-out vampire hunter Edgar Frog, accepting a job to look for the teen brother of a famous vampire romance novelist. The brother has been kidnapped by X, a rave DJ who has a plan to turn thousands of teens into vampires. Not a bad plan, since in today's universe, many of them want to be vampires anyway.
The movie plays games with people's expectations of vampires, with Feldman arguing with the sexy novelist about how she's "making people think vampires are sexy." But of course they are-- Feldman is a zealot who refuses to see it. And besides, it's his universe, where in the end, the vampires deserve to be killed. The movie follows all the rules set up for the Lost Boys universe previously-- here, a vampire who creates a bunch of vampires remains tied to them, and when he dies, those who have not completely "turned" have a chance at humanity again.
I love how this movie moves like lightning while remaining totally aware that Edgar Frog is a character who was absurd in 1987 and has grown middle-aged and absurd and still fighting what he regards as the good fight. Edgar cracks wise and the movie knows he's got a screw loose, but the man is sincere about head vampires and the havoc they wreak. I also love a late call-out to Matheson's I AM LEGEND, proving that these guys who have known how that movie should have been made.
We get vampire wire-flying and vampire sword fights and lots of awesome street-level vampire weaponry. Lots and lots of exploding vampires, who either burst like brilliant starshells or splat like blood-filled balloons. (I'll admit I have never glommed onto when they do one versus the other. Maybe it's random. Who cares?) It's as though Edgar Frog has been set loose in the Twilight universe and promptly started trying to blow everyone up.

The movie makes a genuine attempt at both telling a drive-in-level followable story while filling it with winking one-liners and vampire pop culture references. I really enjoyed THE THIRST for what it is: a great time kicking vampire butt and reminding us that there was a time when vampires were the bad guys.

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