By Richard Winters
My Rating: 7 out of 10
4-Word Review: Vampire gang terrorizes teens.
This review is the first of a series in which each Monday for the month of May we’ll take a look at a vampire movie from the ‘80s with this one being probably the best and most well-known. The story centers on two brothers named Michael and Sam (Jason Patric, Corey Haim) who along with their divorced mother (Dianne Weist) move to California to live with her hippie father (Barnard Hughes) in his ranch-style home. It is here that Michael comes into contact with a boy biker gang lead by David (Kiefer Sutherland). Michael is infatuated with the attractive female member of the gang named Star (Jami Gertz) and thus is receptive to becoming a part of the group and even drinking a strange liquid as part of the initiation. Unfortunately the drink turns him into a vampire like them and it is up to Sam and his two self-styled vampire hunter teen friends (Corey Feldman, Jamison Newlander) to kill them off.
For the most part this film is a lot of fun and has held up well. I enjoyed the way it captures the Santa Cruz boardwalk atmosphere and the eclectic mix of the teen culture that makes up southern California. I also found some of the dated elements to be kind of fun especially when Sam states he can’t be without his MTV even though teens and college kids of today, at least the ones I’ve spoken to, do not feel that MTV is the trendsetter that it was back then, or even hip at all.
Haim gives another engaging performance and deserved to be top billed. He outshines his Corey counterpart by a mile and in fact Feldman comes off as quite boring and has only one funny line, which doesn’t come until the very end.
Sutherland is effective as the baddie, but the guys that make up the rest of his gang are quite transparent and do nothing but laugh on cue and wear outfits that make them look like they are leftover members of some bad-boy ‘80s rock band.
Patric is bland as well and the way Keifer and his gang can so easily manipulate him into doing just about anything they ask during their first encounter with him makes his character seem too passive. I also thought it was ridiculous the way he goes back to the gang’s hideout and makes love to Star while the rest of the boys aren’t there. Don’t get me wrong having sex with a beautiful woman certainly tops every red-blooded male’s list, but here it gets shown in a cheesy, clichéd music video type way and I also thought he would be too emotionally freaked out to have any type of sex as this occurs just after he had found out he had turned into a vampire and even levitated in the air.
There are similar problems with the behavior of the Weist character. One of them is when she goes to her boyfriend’s house and has dinner with him while his dog sits at her feet even though this was the same animal who had tried to viciously attack her earlier, which would’ve been enough to scare anyone else from ever wanting to get close to that dog ever again. Her job as a clerk at a video store is another joke as most people who worked at those places, back during the dark ages when they actually existed, did it as a part-time gig as the pay was low and wouldn’t be enough to support one person let alone a mother and her two sons. There is another scene, albeit brief, in which Sam, who is a teenager, asks her if he can sleep with her in her bed as he is afraid to be alone and she agrees, which most viewers will consider to be quite inappropriate.
Yet despite these issues and even a few others it’s still a good movie with some exciting and imaginative special effects. Director Joel Schumacher creates a creepy atmosphere and infuses a good deal of humor although it could’ve worked even better had it been played-up as a straight horror film.
I do though have to also quibble about the Edward Herrmann character as the boys initially think he is secretly the vampire ringleader, but then when he is invited over to their house for dinner he does not react adversely to the garlic or water that gets thrown at him. In the end though it turns out that he really was a vampire and the only reason those things didn’t have an effect on him, at least according to his explanation, is because when the owner invites him into their home those things then have no effect. Yet it was the Patric character who had invited Herrmann inside even though it was actually Hughes who owned the place, so the logic of his explanation doesn’t work.
Also, earlier in the film we see Herrmann’s dog growl at Kiefer and his gang when they walk into Herrmann’s video store. This is before we learn that Herrmann is a fellow vampire and secretly familiar with the boys, so if that was the case then his dog most likely would’ve been familiar with them too and therefore wouldn’t have growled, but instead would’ve been friendly and even receptive to them when they entered.
End of Spoiler Alert!
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Released: July 31, 1987
Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes
Director: Joel Schumacher
Studio: Warner Brothers
Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube