In 1987, I saw Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys on a sneak preview and had mixed reactions, to say the least. I couldn’t deny, however, that it was scrupulously crafted, showcased a number of fine actors both young and older, and took fictional vampire conventions into some new places. A few of its innovations, such as the vampires’ ability to fly like Superman, immediately caught on and were widely imitated.
Many of today’s vampire hits owe a large debt to Schumacher’s blackly humorous film. Despite all this sincere flattery, The Lost Boys became a cult classic and for two decades remained sui generis. Fierce controversy erupted in fandom over every rumor of a sequel (often suggesting a “Lost Girls” storyline with a band of female vampires). But all proposed sequels remained on the drawing board until Lost Boys: The Tribe (2008) was released directly to DVD and immediately sank beneath the scathing dismissal of most fans.
Reportedly, Corey Feldman — who reprised his role of vampire nemesis Edgar Frog in Lost Boys: The Tribe — took the criticism seriously. As one of the executive producers for Lost Boys: The Thirst (as well as its star), he worked hard to raise the standards of what is being called “The Lost Boys franchise.” He was partly successful. Lost Boys: The Thirst is a better film on many levels than its immediate predecessor. Unfortunately, its production values are uneven.
After a very striking and well-done opening credit sequence, the movie starts with a flashback. Edgar and Alan Frog (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander), apparently seasoned and busy vampire killers, prevent a vampire Senator from chowing down on a fellow legislator in Washington, D.C. Alan Frog is forced to swallow vampire blood in the ensuing melee and turns into a “half vampire.”
Edgar Frog awakens from his dream about this disaster, five years later, to an eviction notice on the door of his decrepit trailer in San Cazador, California. He’s flat broke, alone, and selling off what remains of his precious comic book collection to survive. We learn that fellow vampire-hunter Sam Emerson (played in The Lost Boys by the late Corey Haim, who refused to appear in this movie) had been turned into a vampire and killed by Edgar in self-defense, while Alan Frog is struggling to resist drinking human blood and lives in seclusion.
Edgar is somewhat surprised to be approached by stunningly beautiful (in fact, she’s played by a South African super-model, Tanit Phoenix) paranormal romance author, Gwen Leiber. Gwen tells Edgar that her brother, Peter, disappeared after attending a rave in Spain. The rave was one of a series put on around the world by fabulously hip and successful DJ X (Seb Castang), who is distributing a “new designer drug” called The Thirst. Now DJ X is about to host a rave in a secret location in San Cazador. Gwen tells Edgar that the rave organizers are vampires and using the raves to infect hundreds of people with vampire blood, the real “drug” in The Thirst, creating an army of the undead. She asks Edgar to help her rescue her brother.
Eventually, Edgar, his friend Zoe (Casey B. Dolan), Gwen, a narcissistic reality show star named Lars Van Goetz (Stephen Van Niekerk) and a cameraman are all sneaking into an abandoned slaughterhouse on an island offshore from San Cazador, where DJ X, his minions, and hundreds of oblivious ravers are assembling. Just as with the first film, there are some unexpected twists to the plot and several key players aren’t what they seem.
The core character of Lost Boys: The Thirst is Edgar Frog, whose role is played far more seriously than he was in the original movie. In The Lost Boys, Edgar and Alan Frog are deadpan comic parts (as their names telegraph the second we meet them). They proclaim their vampire-fighting expertise to hapless Sam through most of the movie, but when they finally meet real vampires, it’s obvious that they don’t have a clue.
But the Edgar Frog of Lost Boys: The Thirst is a battle-weary soldier facing real-world problems and weighed down with painful memories. He’s carrying the entire movie on his back, and the character was never intended to have that degree of depth and complexity. It’s to Feldman’s credit that he manages to add both elements to his portrayal of Edgar, as well as some genuine self-deprecating humor which his grim younger incarnation entirely lacked.
Corey Feldman does a fairly good job with the role, although the gruff, deep voice he affects limits his emotive range. He’s better than most of the cast, at least: the acting in this movie is inconsistent and sometimes wince-worthy.
Although the movie is short at 81 minutes, it still doesn’t have enough story. The pacing is uneven and gets very slow as the intrepid team penetrates the slaughterhouse — so much so that I lost my suspension of disbelief and was too aware that I was watching a bunch of actors pretending to prowl around in a big empty building. The entire storyline could easily have been tightened up into a 50-minute episode of Supernatural or True Blood. There’s quite a bit of gore and violence, including a graphic scene of a heart being ripped out. But it was probably some completely gratuitous bare breasts in several scenes that earned the movie its R rating.
Lost Boys: The Thirst is a more deliberate sequel than Lost Boys: The Tribe attempted to be. Numerous characters in the first film are at least mentioned, so we have a sense of what’s happened to them in the interim. The screenplay, by Evan Charnov and Hans Rodionoff, is written with some craft and attention to detail. There are some parameters about vampirism that viewers have to remember from the first film, because they’re followed but not articulated in Lost Boys: The Thirst. The camerawork is done well, and the South African locations are convincing stand-ins for southern California.
Much more than Lost Boys: The Tribe, Lost Boys: The Thirst pays self-conscious homage to the original film and its cult status among fans. There are several clips of footage from the first movie interspersed through Lost Boys: The Thirst, either in explanation of current situations or representing Edgar Frog’s memories. A number of the original film’s iconic lines are repeated or paraphrased by characters in Lost Boys: The Thirst.
The teenage Frog brothers of The Lost Boys work in their parents’ comic book store; in Lost Boys: The Thirst, Edgar’s friend Zoe works in a comic book store. The Lost Boys’ Grandpa is a taxidermist, whose hobby is not only a running joke but ends up playing an important role in the final vamps vs. kids showdown. The grown-up “half vampire” Alan Frog is also a taxidermist with a workshop similar to Grandpa’s. I won’t give away more, but true fans of the original The Lost Boys will find Lost Boys: The Thirst to be one long wink and nudge. There are also a few tongue-in-cheek modernisms; I laughed out loud when a character scans a moldering tome of secret knowledge into his Kindle.
Unlike most fans, I thought that I’d seen far worse vampire movies than 2008’s Lost Boys: The Tribe. Of course, with vampire movies, that doesn’t say much — most of them are dreadful. Lost Boys: The Thirst improves on the first sequel, but “the franchise” has a long way to go before it will be anything close to the original movie. Apparently, a fourth film is planned, featuring Chance Michael Corbitt reprising his role as Laddie from the original film, but details are sketchy. Lost Boys: The Thirst leaves some loose ends that could come into future stories. As it stands, it’s a decent popcorn movie with several engaging characters. If it was the pilot for a new TV show, I’d probably tune in for a few episodes, just to see where “the franchise” was headed.
Lost Boys: The Thirst has a run time of 81 minutes, and is rated R. DVD is in color with stereo sound, optional subtitles, and widescreen format. Extras include a twelve-minute featurette, “The Art of Seduction: Vampire Lore,” hosted by Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel), in which author David J. Skal (V is for Vampire), screenplay writer Evan Charnov and others discuss the modern vampire’s appeal. Also included are several trailers.