(In French, On Cable TV, June 2019) I’ve been rediscovering a few surprisingly good Stephen King movie adaptations lately, but Silver Bullet won’t be one of them. At best, it’s a middle-of-the-road adaptation, compensating for a familiar premise with a few quirky details, occasional good moments and a fun performance by a crowd-favourite actor. Another take on the well-worn werewolf mythos, Silver Bullet tells us about a pair of teenagers and their quirky uncle taking on a deadly threat stalking their small town. As the bodies pile up, we’re quite obviously stuck in a 1980s horror film aimed at teenagers—the blood flows, the scares can be silly, and the overall atmosphere is more comforting than any kind of horrifying. Werewolf or not, the structure of the film—with its escalating death count and final confrontation—won’t surprise anyone who’s seen any other horror movie before. Still, a few things do save Silver Bullet from all-out mediocrity. The somewhat sympathetic portrait of a teenage protagonist in a wheelchair (played by Corey Haim) may have been intended as exploitative but ends up interesting in its own way. Having Gary Busey step in as an eccentric, alcoholic uncle isn’t played for laughs as much as you’d think (even the film acknowledge that the guy has issues) but remains distinctive due to Busey himself. Finally, there is some good directing here and there, whether it’s a foggy sequence, or the clever revelation of the human identity of the werewolf—although it’s unclear whether these touches come from credited director Dan Attias or the film’s first director Don Coscarelli. In other words, expect a standard werewolf movie and you just might be mildly satisfied.
(In French, On TV, June 2019) There’s an entire cluster of 1980s movies that, if you weren’t around to see them upon release, now feel like strange artifacts of another era. You can watch them for a cast of actors who later went on to do other things, but they usually feel so familiar in the story yet so detached from now that they’re artifacts. At least that’s how I feel about Lucas, a wholly unremarkable high school drama that had the good luck of featuring actors (Corey Haim, Winona Ryder, Charlie Sheen, Jeremy Piven) who became better known afterwards. The plot has something to do with a nerd picking up football to impress a girl, but as a coming-of-age comedy, it’s about as sweet as it needs to be with our hero learning about unreciprocated crushes and earning the respect of teammates through one of the big prototypical slow claps of the 1980s. Lucas is probably more meaningful to those who dabbled in high-school football, saw it at the right age, or were around for it in the 1980s. For everyone else, well, it seems as if there’s been endless variations of the same thing since then.
(On DVD, October 2017) Even at a time when we think we’ve seen it all with vampire movies, there’s a curious energy at play in The Lost Boys, which improbably blends comic tropes with a theme taken from Peter Pan in order to deliver a rather good horror-comedy. The idea of an idyllic Californian-coast town being home to a small group of vampires and becoming “the murder capital of the world” is amusing enough. But then there’s the protagonist falling in with bad influences, his brother getting acquainted with wannabe vampire killers who do end up being right, the mom hooking up with a suspiciously menacing shop owner … there are a lot of spinning plates here, and they all seem to belong to a slightly different genre. Surprisingly, it works—although there’s some freedom in clarifying that the film is not meant to be scrutinized too closely. Under Joel Schumacher’s direction, The Lost Boys is fast-paced, stylistically moody, generally enjoyable and, at times, an intriguing time capsule of mid-eighties conventions. The opening act is great, the middle act is good, but the third act does get a bit conventional, although still enjoyable in its own way. Jamie Gertz plays a convincing love interest, while Corey Haim and Jason Patric each have their own movie as brothers. Still, the highlight is a very young-looking Keifer Sutherland as the leader of the vampire pack. The themes are slight, but at least there’s something there that goes beyond the usual conventions of vampire movies until then. For the rest, The Lost Boys is a movie that has, through sheer daring and genre-blending, aged very well. It’s still worth a look, long after the vampire boom has come, gone and come back again.