Why Buffy Lost It

How the Buffyverse owes more to The Lost Boys than you might think…

Don’t go blaming Joss Whedon for the current glut of shows filled with conflicted teen vampires, dewy-eyed fangbangers and hip, trash-culture dialogue. For one thing, LJ Smith’s The Vampire Diaries novels (1991 onwards) predate Buffy, while the TV series Forever Knight (1992) was almost a dry run for Angel (1999).
So there was already a trend emerging before Whedon shoved a stake in the unlikely hands of a valley girl. And if any film can be credited with kickstarting the vampire metamorphosis from velvet-cloaked Hammer hams and Anne Rice-style Byron wannabes into pin-up friendly, fanged James Deans, it was 1987’s The Lost Boys.

Directed by Joel Schumacher, The Lost Boys was a massive seismic shift in the way vampires were portrayed. Although its bloodsuckers are still undeniably the villains, the allure of the vampiric life is implicit in the way the vampires come across in the film. And hey, if you looked as great as the youthful Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric or Jami Gertz, why would you not want to live forever?

Still not convinced? Then here’s evidence that Buffy owes its existence to The Lost Boys.

The original version of this feature can be found in the latest SFX Vampire Special, on sale now… (but not for much longer).

1 The Lost Boys featured the first teen idol vampire pin-up

Okay, in one significant way David is not a direct influence on Angel, Spike, Stefan Salvatore, Edward Cullen, et al, in that he revelled in his evil, vampire instincts, and wouldn’t have dreamed of chowing down on rats or raiding hospital blood banks. But David – played with an understated relish by Kiefer Sutherland – is the first cool, hip rebel without a cause-style vampire in film and TV history. He rides a motorbike, wears leather, has stubble and smoulders. He is the vampire as pop idol. He made being a vampire seem cool. He even shed a tear at one point, betraying – perhaps – a sensitive soul. He may be the bad guy, but he’s also a poster boy for turning to the dark side. He’s certainly a more interesting character than the wet Michael (Jason Patric).

2 The music of the night

From the moment Echo And The Bunnymen’s jaunty version of The Doors’ “People Are Strange” strums into action over the opening credits, The Lost Boys marries pop music to the vampire mythos in a way that has shaped vampire soundtracks ever since. Okay, the bands that the Scooby gang would watch in The Bronze had slightly more alt cred than the strutting, poodle-rocker that Michael and his brother Sam watch on the Santa Carla boardwalk, but the underlying rationale is the same – this new style of vampire tale exists in the same cultural world as its viewers.

3 The geek hero

Whedon is (justifiably) lauded for celebrating the geek: Willow, Andrew, Xander, among others. But the original geek vampire hunters were The Lost Boys’ Frog Brothers – Edgar and Alan Frog (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander). We first meet them in a comic store, advising Santa Carla newcomer Sam (Corey Haim) to read a vampire comic, telling him to regard it as a “survival manual”. And they’ve clearly seen Rambo a few too many times. By the end of the film, Sam (himself an unashamed comics fan who sorts the store’s Superman comics into the right order) has become an honorary Frog Bro’ too.

4 teen soap

A large element of Buffy was teen soap, featuring an impossibly good-looking cast (even most of the geeks) dealing with relationship problems. The Lost Boys got there first. Sam’s brother Michael (Jason Patric) only becomes involved with the vampires because he fancies a girl (Star, played by Jami Getz). The Lost Boys is as much a love story as a horror story.

5 dialogue to die for

One of Buffy’s greatest strengths was Whedon’s achingly witty dialogue. Admittedly The Lost Boys’ script never matches his ability to create such an avalanche of snappy one-liners, but it does have its fair share of memorable lines. More importantly, you can certainly detect the seeds of the kind of gleefully quirky dialogue that Whedon would later refine in lines like “My own brother, a goddamn, shit-sucking vampire. You wait till mom finds out, buddy!” and “One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach, all the damn vampires.”