The Lost Boys is in my opinion one of the finest vampire films ever made. It’s also very queer, despite the main relationships being heterosexual.
Before I go into that in detail I can’t ignore the obvious nods to the AIDs epidemic. Vampirisim in the film is a blood-borne contagion, killing many, and spreading heavily among young runaways in the late 80’s. The resurgence of the vampire film in the 80’s and 90’s was definitely linked to AIDs – as always, horror films cover the fears and anxieties a community has.
That AIDs link is part of the queercoding of the film, but not the entirety of it.
The opening scenes, The Lost Boys focuses on usually young, counter-culture runaways deliberately dressed and styled to indicate that either by choice or circumstance they have found themselves at odds with everyday America. In the 80’s a large amount of young runaways were sadly young LGBTQIA+ people thrown out by their parents (it’s still a distressingly high proportion today). Like now, those runaways were vulnerable to people taking advantage of them, their disappearances barely investigated or cared about. One of the most striking scenes in The Lost Boys is that board full of missing people’s posters, most of them young and dressed in ways that people were primed to consider outsider-status or gay.
In The Lost Boys, Michael, is the oldest son in a family marked by divorce, is suddenly taken to a new town and group. He feels out of place, and is tempted into the vampire family by Star, a beautiful young woman who has limited characterization and exists to be the damsel Michael wants to rescue. But it’s the relationship with the assumed head vampire, David, that drives the narrative. David harasses him, tests him, and otherwise treats him much as male vampires do their female victims in earlier films and stories. Their relationship has a depth and a tension that Michael doesn’t have with Star.
David surrounds himself with beautiful young men, wearing skimpy ragged clothes, and lives with them in a kind of rotted grandeur. He is presented as the lead vampire throughout the film (though he isn’t), and he is fascinated with Michael right from the start. When Michael breaks away and gets Star out his reaction is betrayal and hurt. He persuades Michael to hang off a railway bridge as the train comes, and stares at him as he drops into the mist and clouds below.
As Michael becomes more like them, he dons a single earring. Any person who was at school in the 80’s and 90’s will be well aware that wearing a single earring was considered gay – and in fact was a look in gay clubs at the time. Debates over which was the ‘gay ear’ ran hot among teenage boys even into the early 2000’s.
An interesting part of this is the reasoning for the actual villain. He’s an embarrassing and non-threatening middle aged man who runs a comic book store and arcade, a perfect place to find victims and new family members. And that’s exactly what he wants – a family. “Boys need their mother,” he says to Michael’s mother towards the end of the film. A common and utterly wrong assumption throughout recent history is that gay people become gay due to a lack of appropriate role models in their parents. He is heteronormativity in action, trying to build his family even as it kills hundreds..
The Lost Boys is one of the queerest vampire films out there that doesn’t have any explicitly gay characters, and that is a high bar to clear.
Editor’s Note: The Lost Boys reboot has been announced and has been cast with Noah Jupe (A Quiet Place) and Jaeden Martell (It).