On the surface, The Lost Boys is a 1987 film about teenage vampires in a Santa Clara, a California beach town. Upon taking a closer look, viewers can discern that The Lost Boys is a tale riddled with traditional gender roles, Oedipal rivalries, and the consequences of excess.

The film opens with Michael, a surly older teenager who is relocating to the beach town of Santa Clara in order to live with his Grandfather. Michael is accompanied by his younger brother, Sam, and his divorced mother, Lucy. The name of the mother in The Lost Boys is arguably significant. Lucy is also the name of the first victim of Count Dracula, the star of Bram Stoker’s titular Dracula, and is a woman who betrays her gender roles to succumb to a vampire’s call. The move is jarring for the entire family, as their Grandfather is a dour, quarrelsome elderly man with a proclivity for taxidermy.

In order to get out of the house, Michael and Sam start frequenting the local Boardwalk, which is plastered wit a plethora of images of missing persons. Lucy, in lieu of staying home with her boys, takes a job at a local video shop, run by a dashing gentleman by the name of Max. Max soon successfully woos Lucy, and begins dating her. Sam also attempts to assimilate in the local culture (while feeding his comic addiction), and meets brothers Edgar and Alan Frog at a comic book shop. The Frog brothers proclaim themselves as being vampire hunters, and warn Sam that Santa Clara is crawling with legions of the blood-sucking undead. The Frog brothers provide Sam with fistfuls of horror comics to serve as both an educational tool and a warning.

Michael attempts to meet locals in a different way, as he soon becomes infatuated with Star, a beautiful woman who is frequently found on the Boardwalk. Star is often found spending time with David, the leader of a gang, the eponymous Lost Boys (although this is never explicitly stated within the film). Michael, not content with lurking creepily, staring at Star from afar, finally approaches her. Michael is immediately confronted by David, who challenges him to a motorcycle race. The race ends with Michael almost being thrown off of the edge of cliff. Not perturbed by his near death experience (because the pull of Star is just that strong), Michael joins David, Star, and the rest of the gang at their underground lair. The lair is a garish luxury hotel that had been sunk beneath the ground as a result of an earthquake. Tapestries and posters of Jim Morrison are strung side by side on the walls.

David then encourages Michael to join the group, and offers Michael a sip from a bottle of what is presumably wine, insinuating that he is cowardly if he doesn’t oblige. Star attempts to stop David, insisting that the bottle is full of blood. Michael, suddenly furious that his grit (and arguably, his masculinity) is being threatened, scoffs at Star and drinks anyway. Later that evening, all of the teenagers in the gang hang off train tracks before dropping into the gorge below. The fall would kill a human...but not a vampire, which Michael has inadvertently become.

Michael awakes the next morning with a loathing of the sun and a lust for blood. Michael attempts to attack Sam, but the family Alaskan Malamute, Nanuk, successfully drives Michael away. Realizing that Michael’s reflection is not in the mirror, Sam panics, shouting at Michael:

”Look at your reflection in the mirror. You’re a creature of the night Michael, just like out of a comic book! You’re a vampire Michael! My own brother, a goddamn, shit-sucking vampire. You wait ‘till Mom finds out, buddy! “

Michael, hurt and confused, runs to the underground lair to find Star. Michael succeeds in this mission, and begs Star for help and answers. Star cannot provide Michael with such, but she can provide him with sex, which they have. Meanwhile, from extensive comic book research, Sam discerns that Michael is not doomed to a vampire fate for all eternity. Because Michael has yet to make his first kill, Michael is a “half-vampire,” and can be killed by destroying the “head vampire.” The “head vampire” is also the individual who created, and is responsible for, the teenage vampire gang roaming Santa Clara’s streets.

Sam and the Frog Brothers soon become convinced that Max is the head vampire. After Sam invites Max inside for a dinner date with Lucy, Sam and the Frog Brothers test their hypothesis. Max passes every experimental test, and appears to be human.

During Sam and the Frog Brother’s field work, David takes Michael for a night out, in an attempt to lure him into his first killing. David does so by having himself and his gang feast on a group of beach goers in front of Michael. Michael is horrified, and escapes. Michael returns home. Star follows him there, revealing herself as a half-vampire who is too in search of a cure. Star also spills that at David’s urging, Michael was intended to be Star’s first kill, completing her transformation as a vampire.

Later that day, Sam and the Frog Brothers go to the underground lair. The group successfully stakes a vampire (although the kill is not David) and also have a harrowing encounter with Star’s little brother, Laddie, who is a child half-vampire. That night, while Lucy and Max are on a date, and their Grandfather leaves the house, the boys and the Frog Brothers prepare the house for battle. Vampires die in a myriad of exceedingly difficult ways, from Holy Water, death by stereo, and being impaled by antlers.

Yet Michael, Star and Laddie remain half-vampires. Lucy and Max return. Max is reveled to be head vampire. During his monologue, Max explains that inviting a vampire into your home, like Sam had done previously, renders you powerless against them. Max then tells Lucy that all he wanted was a mother for his “boys.” He says that he may have given up on that aspect of his family, but that he has not changed his mind about having Lucy to be his “bride.” Michael attempts to battle Max, but is overpowered. Max is then defeated in a rather uproarious fashion, via Grandfather driving his Jeep through the wall of his home, impaling Max on a wooden fence post. Max explodes into flame, and when the fire subsides, Michael, Star, and Laddie are transformed back into normal.

Nina Auerbach provides excellent analysis of The Lost Boys in her book Our Vampires, Ourselves. Auerbach reflects that while Michael is becoming sicker and sicker via his vampire transformation, Lucy is out gallivanting with her boyfriend, Max. Lucy has abandoned her children (and her gender role) to pursue her own sexual fulfillment. Auerbach points out the Oedipal rivalries in The Lost Boys. Both of Lucy’s sons are on a quest to kill the Max, the “bad father” of the vampire brood, and the man Lucy that is dating, in order to repossess their mother. The Lost Boys, from Auerbach’s analysis,can also be viewed as a cautionary warning to women who “want it all.” The Lost Boys was filmed in the late 80’s Reagan era, which coincided with a Republican push towards traditional family values in the United States. Lucy does not follow those values by placing her dating life and personal happiness before her children. Lucy is not focused on parenting, Lucy is focused on working and dating. By doing so, Lucy nearly pays the ultimate traditional gender role price and consequence: losing her sons.

Lucy also has similar traits to Lucy Westenra, a character in Dracula. Lucy Westenra, upon her vampire transformation becomes a smoldering temptress that feasts on innocent children that she promptly callously discards. As the wounded child lays howling on the floor of her crypt, Dracula’s Lucy begs her former fiance, Arthur, to kiss her. Both Lucy’s, in Dracula and in The Lost Boys, disregard the needs of the children around them to succumb to their own carnal delights.

The Lost Boys at first look is nothing more than a late 1980’s teenage vampire romp. Upon closer inspection, The Lost Boys is instead a reflection of gender roles, 1980’s Republican values, and Oedipal constructs. The vampire gang may appear to be the epitome of freedom itself, but, like the rest of society, it is controlled by the whims of an ancient patriarchy that should be overthrown.

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