CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS
(SPECIAL MONDAY EDITION!)
NEAR DARK vs. THE LOST BOYS (Both – 1987)
PART 1 OF 3
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Paul McMahon, and Mark Onspaugh
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Welcome to a special weekend edition of FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS.
L.L. SOARES: With nothing exciting opening at the movies this weekend, we decided to skip our traditional Monday Cinema Knife Fight column and instead kick off the week with a FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS piece.
MA: This will run in multiple parts, with the subsequent parts appearing on Friday nights, the usual night for FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS. Part 2 will be posted this Friday.
LS: But this first part appears on a Monday. Is that confusing enough for you?
MA: Tonight it’s the battle of the 1980s vampire movies, or I should say the 1987 vampire movies since these flicks were released the same year, NEAR DARK vs. THE LOST BOYS. Joining us tonight in our quest to see which film tops the other, are CKF staff writers Paul McMahon and Mark Onspaugh. Thanks guys for joining us.
PAUL MCMAHON: Happy to be here. It’ll be nice to participate in a column where I won’t be distracted for a change.
(LS starts juggling hand grenades)
MARK ONSPAUGH: What was that about your not being distracted? Good luck with that! I’m happy to be here as well, as always.
MA: All right, then let’s get started. Tonight’s bout has five questions, or rounds, in Friday Night Knife Fight lingo. Whichever film wins the most rounds wins the bout, and if the final question is unanimous, then that’ll be scored as a knock-out and that film will win the bout regardless of how it scored during the previous rounds.
PM: That doesn’t sound fair.
MA: It makes it like a boxing match.
LS: We’re Cinema Knife Fighters! We’re not fair!
MA: No, but we are honest.
LS: Shut up, you!
MO: Going at it, already?
LS: Not soon enough for me!
MA: Okay, let’s move forward with our first question. Since these two movies are about vampires, that’s where we’ll begin.
Question #1: Do you prefer the vampires in NEAR DARK or THE LOST BOYS?
Mark, since you’re a veteran of these columns, let’s start with you.
This is a tricky one. THE LOST BOYS has some very cool makeup effects, while NEAR DARK has almost none. It has some blood, some burning and some wounds, but that’s it.
MA: I like the make-up effects on the vampires in THE LOST BOYS too, especially on Kiefer Sutherland.
LS: I think NEAR DARK works without effects. But the ones in THE LOST BOYS are pretty good for the time. Both movies seem pretty dated now.
MO: But the NEAR DARK vamps are more than just punk kids, or calculating adults—.
MA: By calculating adult, are you referring to the Edward Hermmann character, Max?
MO: Yeah, that guy.
MA: He’s pretty lame.
LS: But he went on to become the grandfather on THE GILMORE GIRLS!
MO: I was about to say that the vampires in NEAR DARK—there is a twisted cruelty to them that, to me, runs deeper than the juvenile delinquent vamps in THE LOST BOYS.
LS: Now you’re talkin!
MO: In a perfect world, my preference would be vamps like NEAR DARK with makeup effects (including those taloned bat-feet!) from THE LOST BOYS, but I get that NEAR DARK director Kathryn Bigelow wanted to say anyone could be a vampire, that they wouldn’t fly around or show big fangs. So much is attitude with a vampire—I’m going to go with the bad-ass and bleak vamps of NEAR DARK.
LS: I don’t think there’s even a smidgen of doubt about that one.
(MO tosses grenade over his shoulder, and there is a big explosion off-camera)
MA: FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS is always explosive!
MO: Getting back to Cannom, he also worked on VAN HELSING (2004), THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (2006), and ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012).
LS: So you’re telling us that he’s a really talented guy, but his choice of movies to work on can be pretty awful?
MO: I’m saying his makeup effects are really cool.
MA: Hey, I liked ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER, both the movie and its effects!
MA (to LS): Since you’re pretty much already made your opinion known, LL, why don’t you go next?
LS: Well, y’know, I sat down last week and watched both of these movies again. I hadn’t seen either of them in a while. The last time I saw NEAR DARK was like five years ago, and I haven’t seen THE LOST BOYS since the 80s. So it was interesting to go back and look at these movies with fresh eyes.
The thing about THE LOST BOYS is that it wasn’t as freakin’ godawful as I’d remembered. Sure, I’ve got some major problems with it that I’ll discuss later, but the basic vampire storyline, Jason Patric and the vampires trying to recruit him, really isn’t so bad. The vampires are kind of cool-looking, especially Keifer Sutherland with his black duster (which he made cool LONG before THE MATRIX), when they’re in vampire mode. But when they’re not, they look like a really lame hair band. There are two guys in the group who look almost identical and I couldn’t really distinguish them. And then there’s Alex Winter, from BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE as Marko, a younger vampire. And Jamie Gertz is hot and I practically liked any scene was she was in. So despite the hair metal look, these vampires weren’t completely horrible.
But the ones in NEAR DARK are just so much more believable. Sure, they’re supernatural creatures, too, but they’re more gritty, less flashy (except for Bill Paxton) and I just thought they were superior in every way. I gotta go with Mark on this one, attitude counts for a LOT, and the NEAR DARK vamps are bad asses compared to the more wimpy LOST BOYS. THE LOST BOYS might have more flash, and the big-ass fangs, but they just seem childish in comparison.
I also thought it was interesting how you became a vampire in each movie. In THE LOST BOYS you have to drink the blood of a vampire—as Michael does when he thinks that the bottle of David’s blood is wine. It’s an interesting scene when the wine is introduced, after David shows Michael how he can make him see things that aren’t real. So it’s an elaborate process that takes time. Michael has to drink from that bottle several times, but it affects him right away. He starts avoiding sunlight and wearing sunglasses inside.
In NEAR DARK, when Mae just bites Caleb, the transformation begins, which is kind of scary, how easily it happens. No tricks, no big elaborate plan. Just a little nibble, and Caleb is a goner.
However, it is interesting how, in both movies, you have to make your first “kill” to complete the process for real. And neither movie’s hero wants to take that step. That’s a big similarity in both movies.
And Jenny Wright is so much more interesting as Mae than Jamie Gertz is as Star. Gertz is very pretty, but also very “Hollywood.” In comparison, there’s something odd about Wright. She always seems to be holding back, always seems to be afraid to really emote about anything, and it works in her favor. She’s also pretty, but in a more unconventional way. And where Star is the bait to lure men in, Mae is more her own person.
MA: Paul, how about you? What are your thoughts on the vampires?
PM: I’m with L.L. NEAR DARK all the way.
There’s an evil about Jesse and his group that surpasses anything in THE LOST BOYS.
LS: THE LOST BOYS are still on training wheels!
PM: In THE LOST BOYS, Kiefer’s David had a glam band that followed his every command and offered no challenge at all to his leadership. (Max wasn’t any kind of leader to those boys, no matter what he says at the end of the film.)
MA: Max couldn’t lead a marching band, let alone a band of vampires!
LS: Aww, he’s not so bad. I’ve always liked Edward Hermann.
PM: Lance Henriksen’s Jesse Hooker was more menacing by far. Jesse’s crew had intense personalities that made them independent characters. Bill Paxton’s Severen was the most evil character in either film, and Joshua Miller stole his scenes as Homer– quite the feat for a child actor.
MA: I dunno. I couldn’t really get into Miller.
LS: I didn’t care for Homer that much either. I just never grew to like him; he was an annoying brat, which I guess was the point. His constantly trying to turn Caleb’s sister, Sarah, into one of them was the one interesting thing he does in the movie. But she always out-smarted the little runt, and even though he had super strength, she always managed to get away.
But don’t forget, THE LOST BOYS has its equivalent, too, with Laddie. Another little kid vampire. Laddie isn’t half as memorable as Homer, and I think he’s just there to make Gertz look maternal, and thus softer than the rest of the vampires. More sympathetic, because she’s always protecting the littlest vampire.
PM: The vampires in NEAR DARK kill every night, and during the bar scene they play a torturous game of cat and mouse with the patrons, enjoying the hell out of the fear they generate.
MA: I think that’s the movie’s best scene.
PM: Homer’s dance through the burning carnage is creepy as hell.
LS: The only time I thought Homer was creepy or clever at all was the scene where he pretends to have had an accident with his bicycle, and some guy stops to see if he’s hurt, and he bites him. But that dance was lame, like most of Homer’s scenes. What a little jerk!
PM: I thought the dance was creepy.
LS: Hell, if you want to compare little kid vampires, Kirsten Dunst as Claudia in INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE (1994), makes both Homer and Laddie look pretty insignificant.
PM: In THE LOST BOYS, David’s group only kills in one scene and it’s over pretty quickly for an R-rated film.
LS: THE LOST BOYS was R rated? I thought it was rated G! I bet it wouldn’t earn its rating if I asked my special R-rated computer.
Seriously, that one scene is pretty gory for the time, I guess. But yeah, it’s over very quickly.
PM: Michael doesn’t even get bitten to become a vampire, he is tricked into sipping David’s blood from a wine goblet.
LS: Lame! And what’s with that dumb name —“Michael?”
MA: Ha, ha! Here, have a grenade! (MA pulls pin on grenade and tosses it to LS):
LS: Gee, thanks! And it’s not even my birthday! (Tosses grenade at camera). 3D effects, Cinema Knife Fight style! (There’s an explosion off camera followed by some groans and screams. Rubber hands and feet fly out from behind the camera towards the panelists, who all duck.)
MO (laughing): This is the best 3D ever!
PM: The scene when Mae bites Caleb in NEAR DARK is charged with enough sexual tension to leave the viewer cold.
My vote goes to NEAR DARK. No contest.
MA: I’m not a fan of the vampires in either movie, really, but I think this is one area where THE LOST BOYS may have NEAR DARK beat.
LS: Oh no, Michael wimps out, as usual.
MA: Hear me out. The few times we see the vampires (at least when they look like vampires, since they “transform” when they hunt/feed/kill) in THE LOST BOYS, I like the way they look, especially the makeup on Kiefer Sutherland. I agree with what Mark said. I think the make-up effects in THE LOST BOYS are pretty cool.
LS: But vampires are more than just effects.
MA: Agreed. But, in terms of how they look, I prefer the vampires in THE LOST BOYS. But in terms of how they act, and how I feel about them in general, I prefer the vampires in NEAR DARK. They’re a more deadly, realistic bunch.
In THE LOST BOYS, the group of teen vampires led by Kiefer Sutherland do very little. When they feed and kill, it’s overdramatic, quick, and not scary. And the head vampire Max (Edward Herrmann) is a joke. So, in terms of how they act, I hate the vampires in THE LOST BOYS, with the exception of Kiefer Sutherland. He gives the best performance in the movie, and I have to admit, I like him better than any of the vampires in NEAR DARK. This, combined with the cool makeup, gives THE LOST BOYS the edge, albeit a very thin one.
However, I’m in the minority, as the three of you chose the vampires in NEAR DARK, and so Round 1 goes to NEAR DARK.
MA: And that’s all the time we have for now. Join us again this Friday night for Part 2 of FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS: NEAR DARK (1987) vs. THE LOST BOYS (1987).
Good night everybody!
© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Mark Onspaugh and Paul McMahon