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Entries in Lost Boys: The Thirst [2010] (1)

Saturday
Jan222011

Lost Boys: The Thirst (2010) Home Video Review

Haim and Cheese, Sandwiched

I just watched Chateau Grrr’s highlight reel of last week’s Corey Feldman appearance at Naperville’s Hollywood Palms, and apparently it was a really good time.  I was so trapped in my own head that many people’s contagious enthusiasm bounced right off my force field of crankiness.  I’m not letting Feldman off the hook for his late arrival, ridiculous autograph policy and refusal of a five-minute interview (I found out the story behind that yesterday, but I’m sure as hell not going to publish it).  But I suppose for people who still see him as Teddy Duchamp or Edgar Frog, the meet-and-greet was pretty amazing.

Speaking of coasting, let’s talk about Lost Boys: The Thirst.  When I pulled this up yesterday morning, I was looking for some lean, trashy relief from the heady seriousness of My Dinner with Andre.  Clocking in at 81 minutes and nipping at the heels of the first Lost Boys sequel, 2008’s abysmal The Tribe, I figured I’d be in and out in no time, laughing and scooping delicious fingerfuls of cheese off my screen.

The weird thing is that the movie—though buried under seemingly insurmountable problems—is kind of good; or at least better than it ought to be.  The first thirty-three minutes have the makings of Beer and Movie Night legend, but at a certain point, The Thirst becomes watchable for reasons the filmmakers actually intended.

Much like me, The Thirst pretends that the events of The Tribe never happened; so effectively, we’re watching The Lost Boys 2.  It opens in Washington, DC, which the sharp-as-a-tack subtitles inform us is “That Other Den of Bloodsuckers” (right off the bat, we’re faced with heavy political themes).  The Frog Brothers, Edgar and Alan (Feldman and Jamison Newlander) storm the office of an old senator/vampire and rescue a congressman named Blake (Matthew Dylan Roberts) from imminent doom.  During a tussle with some bodyguards, Alan is bitten on the neck and instantly becomes a vampire.  He flees into the night, unable to kill his own brother.

Cut to the world’s longest opening credits sequence: a montage of raspberry-jam blood splatters against white screens, comic book panels, and a killer rave party—all of which serve to pad out the run-time and remind us why techno is dead (technically, undead).  At the fifth or ninth duplicated overhead shot of the DJ scratching a record, I began working out the math of the 81 minutes, figuring this was taking up at least three, and the closing credits would probably kill five; it felt as if screenwriters Evan Charnov and Hans Rodionoff didn’t have quite enough material for a full feature—but that couldn’t be true, could it?  I mean, this was Lost Boys 3!

Anyway, five years after the DC episode, we catch up with Edgar, living alone in a trailer home that he’s decked out with crosses, stakes and a protective dirt circle.  A man from the bank shows up to serve him notice of his impending eviction, and Edgar mumbles “Fuckin’ vampires”—which threw me, ‘cause I wondered how such a short movie could handle both political and financial-crisis allegories; it seemed too gargantuan a feat to even contemplate!

Moving on…

Edgar is approached by a tall, dark stranger named Gwen Lieber (Tanit Phoenix), who looks and sounds like a direct-to-video Emily Blunt.  She asks Edgar to retrieve her brother Peter (Felix Mosse), who’s been kidnapped by the new Head Vampire, world-renowned professional partier DJ X (Seb Castang).  She suspects that X plans to sacrifice Peter during the Blood Moon so that he can gain an even higher level of demonic power, and unleash the army of vampires that he’s created via a new designer drug called The Thirst (which isn’t so much a drug as small vials of vampire blood).  To keep the story relevant and cool, the writers have made Gwen the best-selling author of a series of Twilight-esque teen-vampire novels—which, of course, Edgar hates.

Edgar turns her down, and heads to his local comics shop to sell some old valuables in order to pay back the bank.  He doesn’t get much, but he does run into the store’s co-owner, Zoe (Casey B. Dolan), a sprightly girl who has a huge, inexplicable crush on the scraggly camper hermit with the sandpaper voice and marijuana t-shirt.  She offers to take another look at the comics and see if she can come up with a better offer than her partner.  Zoe takes all the books except for Batman #14, which Edgar keeps for sentimental value.

The movie also values this rare four-color gem because it acts as a catalyst for numerous flashbacks to the original Lost Boys, showing Edgar, Alan, and Sam (Corey Haim) meeting in the Santa Carla comics shop and discussing funny-books and vampires.  Director Dario Piana gets a lot of mileage out of these scenes, and if anything about The Thirst up to this point had struck me as being part of an actual movie, I might have viewed them as more than, at best, a poorly staged homage to the late Haim; at worst, more shameless dog-paddling to get past the hour mark.  The biggest flaw in using this footage is it reminds us that in the first Lost Boys, Edgar Frog didn’t have the grumbly, hung-over Dark Knight voice that Feldman’s run into the ground in the sequels; he just had a low voice that was half-Rambo, half puberty.

Penniless and desperate, Edgar phones Gwen to accept the job.  She informs him that she’s already hired someone else, but that they can work together.  The new guy is a reality-show juice-head named Lars (Stephen Van Niekerk) who, with his trusty, portly cameraman Claus (Joe Vaz), has decided to turn the quest to save Peter into a new TV special.  Lars doesn’t believe in vampires, but he’ll do anything to stay famous.  Edgar agrees to work with Lars and enlists the additional help of Zoe—whom he’d saved from a vampire attack at the comic book store the night before—and a host of weapons designed by retired-congressman-turned-survivalist Blake.

Edgar and Zoe’s visit to Blake’s compound marks The Thirst’s turning point.  It took me a little while to figure out where the quality shift came from, but I nailed it by the end of the movie:  Edgar Frog is not interesting enough of a character to carry a whole film; he works best as the eccentric fifth wheel in an ensemble of badasses.  For the first half-hour, with Edgar in the lead, I was more susceptible to the film’s more patently silly elements, like:

  • The obvious wire-fu acrobatics of the “flying” vampires
  • Edgar getting thrown into a pile of Lost Boys comic books during a fight
  • Edgar’s curious pronunciation of the phrase “bodice-rippers”
  • Jamison Newlander’s forced, awkward acting, which can’t be overlooked by any amount of nostalgia
  • The fact that The Thirst features more fake boobs than a Tea Party rally
  • Seb Castang’s inconsistent accent, which makes DJ X sound like a Romanian Chuck bass doing a bad impression of Heath Ledger’s Joker

But when Edgar is absorbed into the misfit collective of vampire hunters, the movie becomes fun and less goofy-bad.  It never finds that balance between mystery, horror, and comedy that made Joel Schumacher’s original a classic, but it at least got the adventure part down; as the gang makes their way down into DJ X’s cavernous lair, I felt like I was watching the cast of Gilligan’s Island remake The Goonies.

I won’t spoil the last twenty minutes, except to say that there are surprises (a nice New Hope/Han Solo moment that I may have just ruined by writing “New Hope/Han Solo moment”) and non-surprises (DJ X isn’t really the Head Vampire! Oh, no!).  Believe it or not, I think you should give this movie a chance and find out for yourself why the line, “This is the entrance to the slaughterhouse, and it’s time for Mr. Frog’s wild ride!” actually works in context.

Keep in mind that even though the last act is pretty awesome (in comparison to the first two acts), there are still a lot of problems—mostly having to do with actors struggling through their accents and utterly failing to convince anyone that they’re from California.  It’s so distracting that I couldn’t quite hold on to the story, and instead began nitpicking again (a big part of the climax involves a rickety fence holding back a sea of dance-club vampires; I don’t know what that fence was made of, but Michael Bloomberg needs to get that shit down to the Ground Zero construction site ASAP).

The Thirst takes a frustrating two-steps-forward/twenty-steps-back approach to storytelling, and I wished that a major studio had gotten hold of the screenplay, handed it over to a team of talented writers, and pushed this as a major release, with a budget and stars.  There’s a lot that works here, and I even hesitated to write that last line about stars because part of the film’s charm is the dynamic between these crazy Bulgarian posers (or wherever the hell they’re from).

Regardless, this is the last Lost Boys movie—at least as we’ve come to know them.  There’s a nice twist ending that works as an idea, but its execution is butchered by bad writing and what I assume was Corey Feldman’s insistence on paying tribute to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.  Yikes.  The movie is an amazing swan song of the cool and the preposterous, and after meeting the film’s star last week it all makes perfect sense.

Note:  I just noticed that the actor who played “Aide 1” is named George Bailey, which made me think of the world’s best as-yet-filmed mash-up, Lost Boys: It’s a Wonderful Afterlife.  Sorry.