(Welcome to DTV Descent, a series where we explore the weird and wild world of direct-to-video sequels to theatrically released movies. In this edition we bite down hard on two sequels to one of the most popular vampire movies of the ’80s.)
Not every movie that deserves a sequel actually gets one, and those that actually get a follow-up don’t always deserve it. Hollywood’s a mysterious place, a place where box-office dictates content more often than talent and creativity, and one of the unfortunate results of that formula is that sometimes a sequel can be greenlit strictly in the hopes of a quick cash-grab. In the most egregious of those cases, the follow-up doesn’t even make it to theaters and is instead aimed squarely at the direct-to-video (DTV) market. The original filmmakers are rarely involved, the level of onscreen talent is typically several rungs down the ladder of fame, and the films themselves are usually forgotten immediately…if they’re even noticed at all.
Well, that ends now.
It’s time to take a bite out of the two DTV sequels to 1987’s The Lost Boys.
The Lost Boys may have struck some as a bit of a trifle back in 1987 – I’m looking at you Roger Ebert – but its staying power over the past three decades has more than proven its worth as a horror/comedy classic. Director Joel Schumacher‘s star was on the rise, and with St. Elmo’s Fire (1985) behind him and Flatliners (1990) ahead, his ability to corral hot, young casts into memorably cool features was quickly proving to be his niche. His tale of vampires partying on the coast of California stars Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland, Jami Gertz, Alex Winter, Corey Feldman, and Corey Haim in their prime alongside older talents like Dianne Wiest, Barnard Hughes, and Edward Herrmann, all bringing the fire. It’s a fun and funny ride that sees two brothers arriving in Santa Carla with their newly divorced mother only to have their attempt at settling in scuttled by vicious yet stylishly-dressed vampires.
The film takes a playful approach to vampiric lore without ever crossing the line into broad comedy, and while there are plenty of laughs thanks to a sharp script and great comic delivery the darker beats land equally well. Its more dangerous side comes to life through acts of violence, moments of suspense and terror, and a killer saxophone solo (itself part of a still-fantastic soundtrack), and the whole thing ends on the film’s biggest laugh. It’s a terrifically-entertaining piece of pop entertainment, and Ebert can suck it.
The DTV Plot
Schumacher tried throughout the ’90s to get a sequel in motion, but while he eventually moved on to the highs of Phone Booth (2002) and the lows of whatever he’s been doing for the past fifteen years, one person never stopped dreaming his own little dream.
Lost Boys: The Tribe (2008) keeps things simple by essentially recycling the original’s narrative as a pair of teenage siblings, Chris (Tad Hilgenbrink) and Nicole Emerson (Autumn Reeser), arrive in the small California town of Luna Bay (Vancouver, Canada) to stay with their aunt. They very quickly cross paths with the sleepy town’s “sexy” and dangerous vampire crowd, but while Chris plays it slightly cautious by immediately jumping into the shower with a naked local, Nicole is immediately drawn into a relationship with the group’s leader, Shane (Angus – wait for it – Sutherland). She’s half-turned after drinking some vampire blood, and soon she’s acting out and chomping at the bit to bite some chump’s bits. Chris turns to the only person in town with experience fighting bloodsuckers – a surfboard shaper named Edgar Frog (Feldman) – and the battle for Nicole’s soul begins.
2010’s Lost Boys: The Thirst takes a slightly different tact story-wise by putting Senor Frog (Feldman) front and center as the lead in his own adventure. It opens with a flashback set in Washington, DC, where the Frog brothers, Edgar and Alan (Jamison Newlander), defeat a local coven planning to turn a senator into one of their own, but when Alan is forced to drink vamp blood, he escapes into the night. Five years later and Edgar is barely scraping by in the small California town of San Cazador (South Africa) when he gets an offer he can’t refuse. A famous author of vampire fiction hires him to rescue her kidnapped brother from an evil DJ (redundant, I know) who’s actually a vampire planning to infect thousands at a nearby rave, and only the reunited Frog brothers can stop him.
Look, I said it was a different direction for the story…I never said it was a better one.
Like almost all DTV sequels, these follow-ups failed to retain any of The Lost Boys‘ biggest names on either side of the camera. Instead of landing another Schumacher, The Tribe is directed by P.J. Pesce, and if you think he’s unqualified to direct a DTV sequel, his filmography would beg to differ — From Dusk til Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter, Sniper 3, and Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassin’s Ball are all his babies. The first film’s writer, Jeffrey Boam (The Dead Zone, Innerspace, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), was also downgraded with Hans Rodionoff (The Skulls II, National Lampoon’s Bagboy) handling script duties on both sequels. I’d say there’s a real trend here, but The Thirst director’s (Dario Piana) only other credit is a DTV non-sequel.
Acting talent is where it gets slightly more interesting, though, as in addition to Feldman and Newlander one other cast member returns. Kind of. Haim actually pops up briefly for an end-credits cameo in The Tribe. (It’s mildly insulting in an “opening of Alien 3” kind of way, but we’ll get to that below.) He passed on returning for The Thirst and then died while the film was in production. The Tribe also earns points (or a laugh) for casting Kiefer Sutherland’s half-brother Angus as the leader of the fashionable young vampires. He may have gotten their father’s height, but it seems to have come with an absence of acting talent.
That’s it for notables in either film’s cast, but I’d like to give a quick shout out the majority of the supporting players in The Thirst for trying so audibly hard to mask their Afrikaans accents.
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