Posts Tagged ‘Kiefer Sutherland’

Nostalgia’s a funny old thing, and it can get you in different ways and come at you from unexpected directions. I was a couple of years too young to see Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys on its initial release in 1987, but I was certainly aware of it and keen to actually watch it (1987 being the year in which I discovered Hammer and started actually watching proper horror films). Those were the days in which you actually had to wait for films to turn up on TV, and it wasn’t until the very end of 1990 (if memory serves, anyway) that The Lost Boys turned up on terrestrial UK TV. Back in those days the long gap between release and small-screen premiere sometimes meant the later was almost an event in its own right, and I do vaguely recall there being something of a boom in interest in The Lost Boys in early 1991: songs off the soundtrack being re-released, and so on. It was a strange and vivid time, for all sorts of reasons, both personal and historical, and watching The Lost Boys again brings them all back to me: I have no great associations connected with the actual theatrical release of this film, but I can get very nostalgic about its first couple of TV showings. As I say, it’s a funny old thing.

Happily, the film itself bears up well all these years later. After some preliminary scene-setting stuff in the small Californian town of Santa Carla (people being dragged into the sky by unseen monsters, etc), it settles down to being about the travails of the Emerson family, who are just in the process of moving to the town from Arizona: mum Lucy (Dianne West) has got divorced, and is moving in with her eccentric old father (Barnard Hughes), bringing with her her less than impressed sons Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim).

While Lucy gets a job working at the local video store – oh, it’s so 1980s! – and finds herself courteously wooed by her employer, Max (Ed Herrman), it seems that romance is on the cards for Michael, too, when he meets a mysterious young woman named star (Jami Gertz) – although she seems to be in the orbit of a slightly menacing gang of youths led by a chap named David (Kiefer Sutherland). No chance of any such amatory entanglement for Sam, however, although he does make friends down at the local comic book store (the fact that this movie was made by Warner Brothers, owner of DC Comics, means this the only 1980s comic book store in which there doesn’t seem to be a single issue of X-Men on display). His new chums the Frog brothers (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander) keep giving him horror comics, indicating they could somehow prove useful.

And indeed they do, as Michael’s various escapades with David and the gang have unexpected consequences: a sudden lust for human blood, a tendency to show up in mirrors as a translucent phantom, a distaste for sunlight, and so on. Sam is not impressed: ‘My own brother, a goddamn vampire…! You wait till Mom finds out…!’ However, Lucy is happily oblivious to all of this as she is courted by the mild-mannered Max, and it looks like the only help the boys can call upon is that of the less than impressive Frog brothers…

Historically, The Lost Boys is quite an interesting movie – it wasn’t quite the first vampire movie to be made by a major studio in the 1980s, as there was a whole batch of these around this time – the original Fright Night, Near Dark, The Hunger, and so on. Of all of these, The Lost Boys is probably most influenced by Fright Night in the way it manages to blend comedy with horror, but its innovation is to suggest that vampires can be young and cool and ride motorbikes – Fright Night is to some extent spoofing the conventions of the traditional vampire film, but The Lost Boys is doing something new, and its influence on later films and TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer is obvious.

That said, I would add that I think this is probably a better film than most of those others in the teen vampire-comedy-horror subgenre – Near Dark is, I would suggest, the best actual vampire horror movie made in America in the 1980s, while it’s a long time since I’ve actually seen The Hunger; too long to comment on it with confidence. The Lost Boys is funny when it’s trying to be funny, and – well, it’s not actually that scary, but does a good job of actually looking like it’s trying to be scary in the appropriate places.

Plus it’s much cleverer and more subtle than you would expect from what initially looks like an unusually slick and atmospheric teen comic horror. You expect the gag here to be that the parental figures stay secure in their world of misguided conservatism, leaving the teenagers to save the town from the vampires – but the great twist of the movie is the way that it subverts this. It is a surprisingly good twist, but then I may just be saying that because it took me by surprise the first time I watched the movie: knowing my vampire lore, I noticed the major clue that the writers drop into the script, but didn’t clock it as being significant. It seems to me that it turns the whole movie into a comment on the self-obsessed self-importance of teenagers, with much of the significant plot work being done by much older characters whom they tend to ignore or dismiss; it also sets up one of the funniest last lines of any movie that I can recall.

As I say, it is very 80s, which means gribbly special effects, interesting hairstyles, Corey Feldman and Corey Haim, and some good-looking actors in the principle boy and girl roles who never ended up making much of an impression anywhere else. You can sort of see why Kiefer Sutherland was the only young performer to go on to significant stardom, although this is not to say that the more senior actors are anything other than capable in their roles. My memory of this film from initially watching it is mainly of the soundtrack, which stands up unusually well – there are a few songs which I will hear and instantly think of this film, most obviously the cover of ‘People are Strange’ which plays over the titles. Schumacher covers it all with his usual style: I still don’t think his Batman films were any good, but this one definitely was. I don’t think this is a guilty pleasure or even a Good Bad movie, really: it’s just a lot of fun, which manages to be both slick and clever.

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From the Hootoo archive. Originally published November 16th 2006:

Hello again, everyone, and welcome to another dose of out-of-date film criticism from the land at the root of the sun. My local cinema in Chiba is called the Rose, and very pleasant it is, too. However, for reasons doubtless to do with floorspace, it’s been split into two separate branches about fifty metres apart. The one at the east end of the building is known, reasonably enough, as Rose East. The one at the other end is, to English ears at least, less felicitously named.

However, it does show some good movies, such as Clark Johnson’s The Sentinel, which I caught there recently. At first glance, this just appears to be yet another oblique exploration of the male midlife crisis with Michael Douglas hogging the screen, but it thankfully has a little more to commend it.

Douglas plays veteran Secret Service agent and bodyguard Pete Garrison, a man so dedicated to his job that he took a bullet for the President, even though it was Ronnie Reagan at the time. There is trouble afoot in Washington, as there is a plot to murder the current incumbent, involving terrorists from Safelyfictionalistan (whose boss still manages to be Cockney, bemusingly enough) and, worse of all, a traitor inside the Secret Service. Soon the place is being turned upside down in search of a man with something to hide!

Unfortunately for Pete, he does have something to hide, mainly that he’s illicitly knocking off the First Lady (Kim Basinger, ageing gracefully) — students of cultural history may like to note how ten years ago the movie President was a heroic, dynamic figure, always punching out terrorists or romancing women (politely) or hopping into a fighter jet to save the world from aliens. These days he’s just a nonentity who gets cuckolded by the hero. I wonder what can have changed? Well anyway, this gets in the way and Pete is fitted up as the mole. So off he goes on the run to clear his name, pursued by his former friend and protege Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland, ageing pretty gracefully himself) and a perky young rookie (Eva Longoria, showing barely a wrinkle).

As I said, The Sentinel is pretty good for what it is, which is an action movie where the hero is visibly over sixty. The subtext is rather like that of the recent Harrison Ford movie Firewall: middle-age spread, crow’s feet and younger guys gunning for your job are no barrier to your being a great guy, saving the day and getting the girl (although Douglas and Longoria quite properly don’t get it on — she is, after all, young enough to be, erm, his wife, now I come to think about it). This message seemed precisely tailored to the bunch of middle-aged salarymen who comprised virtually the entire audience at the showing I went to!

This is, though, a rather better movie than Firewall— it has a visibly bigger budget, the story is slightly less hackneyed and it’s not so slavishly beholden to techno-zeitgeistery (word inserted just to annoy the spellcheck, I admit) for its plot twists. That said, there are a few fairly major holes in the plot and there’s a toe-curling bit near the end where the traitor is nearly overwhelmed with remorse at how un-American he’s been.

Douglas does a decent job as the lead, but Sutherland is rather better as his relentless pursuer, giving a very impressive performance. Longoria is, it must be said, largely ornamental — but what an ornament! You can sense Johnson’s frustration that she spends virtually the entire movie in a suit. Basinger is okay in an underwritten part, but I have to say that crucial though it is, the whole knocking-off-the-First-Lady subplot struck me as being slightly too implausible.

The Sentinel isn’t perfect, but it’s engaging and convoluted enough to hold the attention, the performances are appealing and in places it genuinely thrills. As thrillers go, above average.

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