The Horror Film Project


©2019, by M. Keith Booker

In “San Junipero,” the fourth episode of the third season of the Netflix anthology series Black Mirror, computer simulation is used to create a virtual reality version of the year 1987 to which sick and dying patrons in the future can have their consciousnesses downloaded, allowing them to live a carefree life in healthy young “bodies.” Meanwhile, the sense of being in 1987 in the simulation is achieved largely through populating the virtual town of San Junipero with elements of popular culture from that year. To remove one’s consciousness into such a simulation is perhaps the purest form of escapism, so perhaps it is no surprise that the year 1987, when popular culture was dominated by an escapist impulse, was chosen for this enterprise. Perhaps it is also no surprise that one of the works of 1987 popular culture used in the episode is Joel Schumacher’s vampire film The Lost Boys. Thus, in one scene we see a giant poster for the The Lost Boys on the side of a building, bearing the caption “Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire.” Combined with the fact that The Lost Boys takes place in an idyllic California beach town that is much like San Junipero itself, the poster (sans the vampire reference) seems an ideal advertisement for the simulated town, where patrons can indeed party all they want and stay young forever.[1]

The Lost Boys was a true landmark in vampire film, bringing audiences a group of vampires who could still be menacing but who, by and large, were younger, cooler, and more fun-loving than virtually any vampires they had seen before. As such, it also influenced a number of youth-oriented vampire films that came after it, perhaps most importantly the 1992 film Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which eventually evolved into the television series of the same title, one of the most important vampire-related works of all time. The Lost Boys also triggered two undistinguished direct-to-video sequels, The Lost Boys: The Tribe (2008) and The Lost Boys: The Thirst (2010).

The Lost Boys begins (as does “San Junipero,” for that matter) as the camera glides across the waters of the Pacific, moving toward an oceanside town. Then we see the lights of a beachfront boardwalk amusement park, emphasizing the fun nature of the town. A cut to a carousel in the park shows happy young people enjoying the ride. But then we see a group of young punks walking through the horses, led by David (Kiefer Sutherland). They seem to be looking for trouble, and trouble indeed ensues when David starts to harass a young woman who is riding on one of the horses. A security guard pulls David away and reminds him that he and his friends have been warned to stay off the boardwalk. They back off, but one senses that the trouble isn’t over.

To this point, The Lost Boys seems to be very much like any number of other films featuring misguided youth. In the next scene, however, we see the guard walking toward his car through an empty parking lot, the boardwalk having just shut down for the night. Then something unseen and obviously terrifying attacks him from above. Whatever it is can apparently fly and is apparently powerful, because it rips he door off the guard’s car as he attempts to get into it. Whatever it is, of course, is vampires, David and his gang, having returned for revenge. The film doesn’t reveal this fact for a while, however, because it next cuts to a daylight scene in which we see the freshly-divorced Lucy Emerson (Diane Wiest) arriving, U-Haul trailer in tow, with sons Michael and Sam (Jason Patric and Corey Haim) in scenic Santa Carla, where they are to live with the boys’ grandpa (Barnard Hughes).

The seemingly idyllic town seems a perfect place for the little family to get a fresh start, though we already know that sinister forces are afoot in the town. This sense that the town has a dark underbelly is immediately reinforced when Sam observes, as they drive past the city limits, that the town “smells like someone died.” In addition, as they drive past a billboard promoting the town as a peaceful seaside retreat, we see that someone has spray-painted on the back side of the billboard the ominous declaration that Santa Carla is the “murder capital of the world.” To top things off, the soundtrack immediately kicks into a cover version of the Doors’ 1967 classic “People Are Strange” (performed by Echo and the Bunnymen), further adding to the vague atmosphere of eeriness and menace that is already building in the film’s first few minutes. Opening credits roll as the song plays over shots of an extremely diverse population of strange-looking locals, punctuated by shots of a bulletin board covered with missing-persons flyers. Something strange is clearly going on in Santa Carla.

Of course, in such a such a youth-oriented film, one would expect the soundtrack to be important, and one of the aspects that makes The Lost Boys an ongoing favorite with vampire films fans is the music. Thomas Newman’s score effectively creates a sense of horror where needed in a film that might otherwise have become a bit too cool and light-hearted to be effective as a vampire film. Much of the other music enhances the atmosphere of threat, including the haunting theme that opens the film, Gerard McMann’s “Cry Little Sister.” But this is a fun film, and some of the music is added mostly for entertainment value, as in the cleverly chosen “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” performed by rock legend Roger Daltrey during the closing credits, and two tracks by the Australian band INXS, just moving into their peak period of popularity in 1987.

Building the film around the notion of an idyllic small American town that hides a dark secret was, of course, not new to The Lost Boys. Only one year earlier, in Blue Velvet, David Lynch had employed a similar motif in exploring the crazed criminal forces that lay beneath the surface of the quiet town of Lumberton, North Carolina. But perhaps the most direct predecessor to The Lost Boy in this sense was Alfred Hitchcock’s 1943 thriller Shadow of a Doubt, which did something similar for the real California town of Santa Rosa. The Lost Boys was filmed mostly in Santa Cruz, California (including the boardwalk scenes), but the name of the town was changed in the film to avoid offending the locals.

What The Lost Boys adds to the motif, of course, is the fact that David and his gang of motorcycle delinquents are vampires—in many ways fairly traditional ones. They share the traditional lust for blood and intolerance of sunlight, for example, and they also have common vampire abilities such as flying and the ability to create illusions in the minds of others. Thus, in one memorable scene in which the group is sharing Chinese food with Michael, they cause him to perceive rice as maggots and noodles as worms. They also appear to share the evangelical urge to convert others to vampirism, though it is not clear how much of this particular urge actually emanates just from Max, their older-generation vampire sire (Edward Herrmann). In any case, the most important vampire characteristic for the purposes of this film is eternal youth—as the title (which is taken from the name of the group of boys who never age in J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan) indicates. This motif, of course, also allows the film to be cast with attractive young actors who might appeal to a young movie-going audience.[2] For example, in addition to Sutherland’s David, the young vampires include Marko Davies, played by Alex Winter, who would go on to achieve fame two years later as Bill S. Preston, Esq., in the teen cult classic Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. But the real draws in The Lost Boys for teen and college audiences are the romantic leads Patric and Jami Gertz, who had starred together a year earlier in the science fiction film Solarbabies. Gertz—who had appeared in such 1980s teen films as John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles (1984)[3]—plays Star, a young woman who is in the process of becoming a vampire, a process into which Michael is soon initiated as well, bringing him into contact with Star (whom he had earlier spotted during a concert scene featuring a performance by shirtless sax player Tim Cappello[4]) and sparking a romance between them, much to David’s jealous disapproval.

Star is a vampire with a heart of gold—presumably because she has yet to be entirely divested of her human characteristics and is still merely a vampire in the making. At several points, she attempts to warn or protect Michael as he moves down the road toward vampirism, and she seems to develop genuine feelings for him. She is also very protective of Laddie (Chance Michael Corbitt), a young boy who is also in the process of transforming into a vampire—and thus seems fated to remain a child forever. Luckily, the film stipulates that such half-vampires will revert to their human state if the head vampire in charge of their transition is killed, which of course does eventually occur. There are moments of bloody violence in this film, moments when the attractive young vampires turn literally ugly, but there are limits to how dark a film can go and still hope to market itself successfully to a young audience.

The film also features a budding older-generation romance, as Lucy begins to be courted soon after arrival in town by Max, who is the owner of a local video store. Max’s store, which features an entire wall of television screens, seems to be the embodiment of media-oriented late-1980s consumer culture. As Rob Latham puts it, “What Max represents is the incarnate power of consumer culture itself. … His glitzy video parlor vends mass fantasy to all of Santa Carla, a fact of which he is notably proud” (62). Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that Max is also the sire of the youthful gang of vampires, providing a not-so-subtle suggestion that America’s contemporary youth have been led into their wanton ways by the corporate culture of their elders. Meanwhile, in an echo of a dynamic often found in the culture of the 1980s, Max is courting Lucy largely because he needs a mother for his unruly gang of young vampires, hoping that her maternal influence will help to tame them a bit.

For additional appeal to young audiences, The Lost Boys also features Michael’s younger brother Sam in the role that solidified the fifteen-year-old Haim’s status as a rising teen star. Just as Michael falls in with David’s gang, Sam finds friends in Santa Carla when he happens into a comic-book store staffed by the Frog Brothers, Edgar (Corey Feldman) and Allan (Jamison Newlander). Feldman—who had already appeared in such films as Gremlins (1984), The Goonies (1985), and Stand by Me (1986)—was also a rising star at the time. He and Haim clearly clicked in The Lost Boys and subsequently became widely known in American pop culture as “The Two Coreys,” appearing together in additional films such as License to Drive (1988) and Dream a Little Dream (1989), as well as in their own television reality show, “The Two Coreys” (2007–2008).

The Frog Brothers, avid readers of horror comics, seem to be the only locals who are aware that Santa Clara is infested with vampires. Sam himself is quite skeptical of their claims about the infestation or about their status as vampire hunters, but he is eventually won over to their cause. Having studied up on vampire lore, the boys then employ every weapon in the traditional vampire hunter’s arsenal—crosses, holy water, garlic, stakes—as they take on the gang, which they manage to defeat with the help of Michael, who uses his growing vampire powers against the gang, killing David in a climactic battle by impaling him on a set of antlers. However, it is only after Grandpa kills Max by impaling him on a sharpened fencepost that Michael, Star, and Laddie once again become human.

When they first arrive at Grandpa’s house, Sam suggests that the place looks like something from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, a diagnosis that seems especially apt when he and Michael discover the gruesome-looking room where Grandpa practices taxidermy. Sam is particularly concerned that Grandpa doesn’t have a TV, which means no MTV, which (for Sam) means no civilization. In this film, however, television culture is inextricably linked with vampirism, suggesting that television is sucking the life out of America’s youth, so Grandpa’s lack of a television ultimately sets him up as a force opposed to television-driven consumer culture. It is thus not surprising when he ultimately saves the day by staking Max, which also releases Michael, Star, and Laddie from their incipient vampirism, turning them back into humans.

The Lost Boys is sprinkled with the iconography of a potentially more authentic popular culture that stands opposed to the thoroughly commodified MTV culture that the film overtly criticizes. For example, the Doors song that plays over the opening credits seems to function in this way, standing as a warning against the degraded nature of the culture of Santa Carla rather than as an example of that culture. On the other hand, that the actual song used in the film is a 1980s cover of the original suggests the ways in which the vampirical culture of the 1980s appropriates and feeds on its predecessors, making all things grist for its mill. Meanwhile, the suggestion of 1960s music as more authentic than the glossy music of the 1980s also potentially inheres in the Sgt. Pepper’s-style drum major jacket that Laddie wears throughout the film, marking him as a bearer of innocence who has yet to be thoroughly corrupted by the vampires (and who will ultimately be saved from their influence). Grandpa’s home, in particular, contains a number of such images, as in the case of his vintage Ford Fairlane, which sports on its dash a bobblehead of Dodgers star Sandy Koufax, a clean-living icon of 1960s baseball. Grandpa also, in lieu of watching television, reads TV Guide, suggesting the inherent superiority of print culture to television culture, though TV Guide is certainly a problematic example of such culture .

The comics read by Sam and the Frog Brothers also potentially stand as an alternative to the vampiric culture of the modern media, though the fact that the best literary alternatives the film can muster up are TV Guide magazine and comic books suggests a poverty in American literary culture that makes Americans easy prey for the vampirism of modern media conglomerates. In the same way, the counterculture of the 1960s serves as a rather ineffectual Other to the media culture of the 1980s. The parents of the Frog Brothers are apparently ex-hippies who have found their own way of turning on and dropping out: their ownership of the comic-book store where their sons apparently do all of the real work allows them to sit about in a drug-induced haze, completely unaware of what is really going on in Santa Carla. Lucy herself is an ex-hippie from the 1960s, and, while she certainly means well and does her best to be a good mother, she, too, is clueless about contemporary reality. As far as she can see, the youth of the 1980s differ very little from the rebellious youth of her own generation—except perhaps that they have snazzier clothes.

This off-the-cuff suggestion is not meant by Lucy to be a serious analysis, but it contains an important grain of truth, even though the film seems to want us to take this statement as an example of her cluelessness. One thing that has clearly advanced between the 1960s and the 1980s is consumerism, of which clothing is a leading element. One thinks here of Thomas Frank’s argument that, while the counterculture of the 1960s was ostensibly opposed to capitalist orthodoxy (and especially to the staid conformism of the 1950s), much of what it did was thoroughly aligned with and supportive of the ethos of consumer capitalism. For Frank, treating fashion as a key indicator of the trends he describes, the counterculture of the 1960s was actively encouraged by Madison Avenue, which saw the movement as a way more to open markets than to open minds, creating a new demand for “cool” products. Indeed, for Frank the parallels between the counterculture and certain changes in capitalist business practices in the 1960s suggest that, instead of a revolution against mainstream capitalist values, the 1960s counterculture “may be more accurately understood as a stage in the development of the values of the American middle class, a colorful installment in the twentieth century drama of consumer subjectivity” (29). In other words, the apparent liberation of the 1960s actually extended the penetration of capitalism into every aspect of American life, allowing capitalist ideas to exercise an unprecedented hold even on the minds of those who thought they were actively resisting it.

The Lost Boys seems to support Frank’s view that the youth rebellion of the 1960s did little to stem the tide of capitalist development and might, in fact, have been largely a part of that development, leading directly to the Reaganite 1980s. Viewed in this way, we must question the inefficacy of the various forms of counterculture that appear in the film. The various eccentric locals who are shown during the opening credits might appear, on the face of it, to be rebelling against conformism. Or maybe they are simply displaying a different form of conformism, in which everyone feels compelled to be different, rather than feeling compelled to be the same. And it is certainly difficult to see how all the characters on the beach could possibly mount anything like a coherent political movement. Even Laddie’s Sgt. Pepper’s jacket, emanating from the presumably more authentic rebellions of the 1960s, becomes suspect.[5] The Beatles, after all, were themselves one of the great media and marketing successes of the 1960s, in some ways epitomizing the phenomena that the film, through its representation of Max and the youthful vampires, seems to want to criticize. And what could encapsulate Frank’s vision of the ideological complicity between the 1960s counterculture and modern consumer capitalism more than the use of the Beatles’ song “Revolution”—which dates from 1968, the same year as “People Are Strange”—in a commercial for Nike sneakers that aired in 1987, the same year The Lost Boys was released? Finally, it should be noted that, in addition to ex-hippie types such as Lucy and the elder Frogs, the members of the vampire gang are themselves images of youthful rebellion. Yet, in point of fact, they are the metaphorical offspring of Max, the film’s representative of American corporate power—who has been the creator of their rebellion all along, even if it is never made clear just how thoroughly he controls David and the other young vampires, whom he seems to regard as being somewhat out of hand.

In short, it might well be that the 1960s counterculture is not the Other of the consumer culture of the 1980s, but is in fact the progenitor of that culture. This suggestion then highlights the importance of Grandpa in the film, given that he is the only human figure in the film whose formative years pre-date the 1960s.[6] And he is an important figure, despite the fact that he at first appears to be nothing more than a stereotype of the crusty and somewhat eccentric grandfather figure. Based on age alone, one is tempted, in fact, to see Grandpa as a representative of the 1930s, when proletarian culture in the U.S. was at its zenith, despite (or, actually, because of) the fact that capitalism was at its nadir. There are, however, no real indications in the film that Grandpa is to be read in this way. His Ford Fairlane convertible is a 1957 model; Koufax, meanwhile, debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955, then moved with the Dodgers to L.A. in 1958. He had his greatest years from 1963–1966, a four-year stretch that remains arguably the greatest of any pitcher in baseball history. As far as I have been able to determine, the first Koufax bobblehead was issued in 1967, commemorating his career after his retirement at the end of the 1966 season.

It is difficult, then, based on cultural indicators in the film, to place Grandpa as representative of any culture earlier than the 1950s, though the 1950 are often viewed nostalgically as a time before things started to go wrong in American cultural history. In this case, though, it seems more useful to think of him, not as a representative of a time before the 1960s so much as a figure of an alternative to commodity culture even during its heyday, especially as The Lost Boys does not seem to be informed by any legitimately coherent model of history. Grandpa’s vintage 1957 automobile, then, does not make him a figure of the 1950s so much as it reminds us that he hasn’t bought a new car in thirty years. Most of the trappings of contemporary consumer culture are missing from his rural home as well—which is why the home creeps out Sam when he first arrives. Indeed, Grandpa makes it clear that he likes to avoid going into town as much as possible, while much of his lifestyle actually seems like an authentic version of the 1960s hippie lifestyle, which he has stuck to, as opposed to selling out like most the hippies from the 1960s, including his daughter.

This reading might suggest that The Lost Boys is informed by clear oppositions in which the alternative culture represented by Grandpa is held up as a preferred Other to the debased and commodified culture of the 1960s and beyond. Frank’s analysis, however, points to a fundamental contradiction at the heart of The Lost Boys itself, a contradiction that complicates this neat structure. Within the plot of the film, the eccentric ways of Grandpa or even the horror comics of the Frog Brothers seem to stand as representatives of alternative cultures that eventually triumph over the flashier rock-n-roll culture of the vampires, perhaps because (or so the film seems to want us to believe) these alternative cultures are somehow more organic to the life worlds of individuals as opposed to the corporate nature of the more commercial popular culture of the 1980s.[7] Ironically, though, The Lost Boys itself is itself less like the horror comics represented by the Frogs and more like the rock-n-roll, MTV-oriented consumer subculture of the vampires.

Part of what is at stake here is central to the vampire genre itself—and, by extension, to much of horror as a whole. In order to function effectively as an entertainment, the vampires in the stories must themselves become objects of some sort of audience attention, whether they be alluring and seductive or fascinatingly repulsive. As Christopher Craft notes of vampire stories (especially the foundational Dracula), such stories must present us with a monster who can entertain us long enough to let the narrative run its course, before it is finally defeated in the end. However, as Latham notes (citing Craft’s argument), in The Lost Boys “the monster is consumer youth culture generally, and thus its expulsion is more a matter of bad faith than in other vampire texts, since its genuine extirpation would require that the film destroy itself” (64).

Latham goes on to note that some of the contradictions within The Lost Boys can be attributed to the contradictory nature of consumerism itself. Just as Max is unsure that he can completely control his youthful vampire minions, so too are the corporate forces that encourage a spirit of youthful rebelliousness in danger of triggering a genuine youth rebellion. Latham, though with qualifications, sees the Santa Carla boardwalk as a potential image of carnivalesque rebellion, much in the mode of the carnivaleque energies in the work of the French writer François Rabelais, which Bakhtin sees as a challenge to the stern authority of the Catholic Church in medieval Europe. Then again, we should remember that, however raucous, the medieval carnival was actually sponsored and endorsed by the Church as a way of allowing its constituents to blow off steam, thus using up potentially subversive energies and actually solidifying the power of the Church. As Terry Eagleton pessimistically puts it, “Carnival, after all, is a licensed affair in every sense, a permissible rupture of hegemony, a contained popular blow-off as disturbing and relatively ineffectual as a revolutionary work of art” (148, his emphasis).

In the case of The Lost Boys (or of consumer pop culture in general), the situation is complicated by the fact that, by the 1980s, carnivalesque imagery—and rebellion itself (especially of a personal kind that does not involve a genuine political revolution, with actual coherent ideological backing)—had been thoroughly commodified. One thinks here of specimens such as the 1983 song “Rebel Yell,” by British faux punker Billy Idol, who might have served as a fashion model for the young vampires of The Lost Boys, especially David. But this song, while parading rebelliousness, has no actual political content. It simply attempts to declare that rebelliousness is cool. Indeed, since the 1950s, rebelliousness had become a marketable image of coolness in general, and rebellion in American film—with actors such as Marlon Brando in The Wild Ones (1953) and James Dean in Rebel without a Cause (1955) serving in icons—had become a principal form of coolness. By the 1980s, of course, this tendency was old enough to be mocked in films such as Tim Burton’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985), but it nevertheless still had considerable traction.

Nina Auerbach, in fact, sees The Lost Boys as a deeply conservative film that ultimately endorses the 1980s ethos of Reaganism. For her, Lucy falls prey to the charms of Max due to her “careless sexuality,” suggesting the pitfalls of single motherhood and the need for strong father figures to head families (168). In addition, for Auerbach the vampires are depicted essentially as drug addicts, becoming “casualties of the Republicans’ war against drugs: they are so burned out that the antidrug message of official culture seems to have stifled all transformations or transforming perceptions” (167). We should also remember that Grandpa, however, countercultural he might appear, is the only true father among the film’s characters, so that his victory over Max can be taken as a conservative restoration of the patriarchal order.

However, if The Lost Boys is, in fact, a conservative film, this conservatism might be inadvertent, a sign more of the times than of the film’s intent. Granted, the film’s critique of 1980s consumer culture essentially collapses beneath its own weight, but then The Lost Boys never asks to be taken seriously as a political statement. If the film itself verges on being all style and no substance, that is simply because that’s the sort of film it is, not because it fails to achieve its goals. Almost all of the action of the film takes place in a context that is knowingly constructed from the long legacy of vampire stories, though this legacy is never taken quite seriously, giving the entire film a certain ironic tone. In many ways, The Lost Boys is not so much a legitimate vampire story as it is a postmodern pastiche of a vampire story, a work that is constructed by liberally borrowing elements of earlier stories but stripping them out of their original context and injecting them with a strong dose of “coolness.” The film is an example, in short, of the very form of pastiche that Jameson identifies as a principal compositional strategy of postmodernist art, which is for him a kind of “blank” parody that consciously adopts the styles of various predecessors without any intention of commenting on those predecessors or revising our assessment of them (Postmodernism 17).

Identifying The Lost Boys as a paradigmatic work of postmodernist art helps to explain why it cannot effectively escape the consumerist culture it seems to want to criticize. For Jameson, one of the key consequences of postmodernism is the reduction of essentially everything, including works of culture to the status of commodities. So, ultimately, no postmodernist work can escape the ideological field of capitalism or find a place outside that field from which to launch an effective critique. The Lost Boys at least acknowledges that there is a problem, even if it is unable to provide viable solutions—partly because it such a glossy, commercial work, so clearly a commodity in itself. On the other hand, see below, in the discussions of It Follows and Sorry to Bother You, for discussions of the ways in which those films potentially point toward a way out of the postmodern morass.


Auerbach, Nina. Our Vampires, Ourselves. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Daraiseh, Isra, and M. Keith Booker. “Unreal City: Nostalgia, Authenticity, and Posthumanity in ‘San Junipero.’” Black Mirror. Eds. Terence McSweeney and Stuart Joy. London: Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming.

Frank, Thomas. The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1997.

Latham, Rob. Consuming Youth: Vampires, Cyborgs, and the Culture of Consumption. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.

Nixon, Nicola. “When Hollywood Sucks, or, Hungry Girls, Lost Boys, and Vampirism in the Age of Reagan.” Blood Read: The Vampire as Metaphor in Contemporary Culture. Eds. Joan Gordon and Veronica Hollinger. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997. 115–28.


[1] For more on “San Junipero,” see Daraiseh and Booker.

[2] Initially, The Lost Boys was intended to be pitched to an even younger audience, somewhat along the lines of The Goonies (1985), directed by Richard Donner, who had originally been tabbed to direct The Lost Boys. When Donner (who still produced The Lost Boys) moved on to other projects, Schumacher took over and decided to pitch the film to a slightly older audience and to go for more sex appeal.

[3] Hughes’ movies were, of course, the definitive teen films of the 1980s. The Lost Boys includes a number of links to the films of Hughes, in addition to the casting of Gertz. For example, Sam (presented in the film as the ideal young-teen consumer) tries to personalize his room in Grandpa’s house with movie posters, including one of Molly Ringwald, probably the central actor in the Hughes canon. Interestingly enough, the credits at the end of the Lost Boys identify this poster as a still from The Breakfast Club (1985), perhaps the most important Hughes teen film. However, I believe this still is actually from Sixteen Candles. Sam’s posters also include one from the film Reform School Girls, a 1986 spoof of the women-in-prison genre. A final poster features a shot of Rob Lowe, who had starred in Schumacher’s own teen film St. Elmo’s Fire in 1985. Lowe did not appear in a Hughes film, but he was a central member (along with Ringwald and others from the Hughes films) of the “Brat Pack,” a group of young actors who dominated teen movies in the 1980s.

[4] This performance by the buff and oiled Cappello has become part of the film’s cult appeal. But the flashy performance is pure spectacle, all style and no substance, representing precisely the kind of superficial, consumer-oriented pop culture of which The Lost Boys seems to want to be critical. Meanwhile, the crowd at the concert follows Cappello in mesmerized rapture, somewhat like the crowds at Hitler’s notorious Nuremburg rallies.

[5] The Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was the most important album of 1967, becoming, among other things, the first rock album to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. It was also a huge commercial success that triggered a highly successful merchandising campaign in which eager consumers gobbled up album-related items such as the jacket Laddie is wearing, which is featured on the album’s iconic cover. It is not clear, therefore, that this album really functions as a bulwark against consumerism.

[6] The film does not indicate the actual ages of the vampire characters, who might be quite old. But Max is clearly coded as representative of the pop culture of the 1960s, with the younger vampires representing the contemporary culture of the 1980s.

[7] On the other hand, Sam is also an aficionado of comic books, though his knowledge and tastes run more toward the much more mainstream (and commercial) Superman comics as opposed to the more marginal horror comics preferred by the Frogs. And he seems far too fashion-conscious to be a true rebel. Thus, when the Frog brothers first see him, they label him a “fashion victim” and suggest that he might want to check out the frozen yogurt bar (which would have been a trendy—but trendy in a very mainstream way—back in 1987).