The Lost Boys Novelisation by Craig Shaw Gardner – A Guide

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Movie novelisations. I’ve noticed they’re still around, but in the old days they seemed to be around a lot more. Anytime a big fat blockbuster was released, there was always an exhortation to ‘read the paperback’ at the bottom of the poster. Or if you were a geek like me and watched all of a film, then at the end of the credits maybe. Now, we’re not talking about movies based on books. We’re talking books based on movies. I haven’t read many, mainly because the ones I have weren’t very good, or they just felt like flat readings of their infinitely more vivid cinematic inspirations. Still, they made for good speed-reading in my local WHSmith if, say the film version was certified above my level. That’s how I knew Wesley Snipes got frozen and then had his head kicked off at the end of Demolition Man before I’d even seen the film. And this was in the days before internet spoilers. Saying that, absolutely everyone who watched the first five minutes of that film, with its ‘I swear…I’d lose my head if it wasn’t attached’/’I’ll keep that in mind’ dialogue exchange sussed out the bad guy’s death right there and then.

Anyway, novelisations felt like, for the most part, cute re-tellings of the film rather than a serious literary counterpart. Saying that, when I realised that The Lost Boys had a novelisation, I was really keen to read it. Now, The Lost Boys holds a very special grip on me – scared witless when I first watched it (and that was only half of it – I ran upstairs when the fangs came out), and only braving myself for a complete viewing years later, it sunk its teeth into me eventually, becoming my most-watched film ever, by a clear margin. It’s probably the only film I could literally quote by memory. As someone who claims (and believes) that Blade Runner is the best film ever made, this does feel somewhat embarrassing.

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Anyway, having devoured it, I wanted more. I had already bought Warner Bros.’ delightful 1995 VHS reissue of the film, presented in lovely widescreen and with the trailer and some trivia loaded collectors cards included, and it also became my first ever DVD purchase, though disappointingly, the disc was lacking in stuff like commentaries, deleted scenes and such. We’d all have to wait a few years later for the 2-disc edition to get stuff like that. The deleted scenes in particular were a treat as it papered over some of the cracks in the film’s occasionally scatty plotting, and they truly whetted my appetite towards the real curiosity that was the novelisation. I knew about the book, and that it made for a far fuller story than the film, but was also aware that it was a real git to find, having been out of print for some time. Given its elusiveness, finding the book wasn’t even an option, so I forgot about it. And then recently, I remembered about it all over again – cue one fortunate purchase on eBay, and the book was mine, and in pretty condition, I must add.

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I was fascinated to know how one of my favourites would be translated into words. I am pleased to report that the novel is a real treat and an absolute must-read for fans. Working from the original, full-length script, the novel has a lot more plot than the released film. In fact, it’s clear from the book that there was even more Lost Boys plot material than had been released, or possibly even filmed, if we go along with the likely theory that the deleted scenes on the DVD represent the bottom of the Lost Boys footage barrel. I mean, if you re-edited those deleted scenes into the theatrical release, you still wouldn’t have the complete story that the novelisation gives us. Now whether or not the novelisation is based on a complete script that I haven’t read or whether it fleshes out stuff because it can is unknown to me. Regardless, for someone who’s seen the film as much as I have, the novelisation makes for a surprisingly richer experience at times, though of course, the novel’s merits as a book in its own right are difficult to separate from its relation to the film itself. The book would not have existed were it not for the film, and it’s very unlikely that anyone who reads the book won’t have seen the film beforehand. It’d be interesting to see how someone who hadn’t seen the film would react to the book. To be honest, they’d probably treat it as airport fodder, whereas fans of the film, its real target audience, are going to have a lot of fun with this book.

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Now even though the film is one of my favourites, I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t have flaws. Despite the clear amount of flair and imagination put into the story and the visuals, there’s something rather superficial about the complete result. We never really get under the characters’ skins – motives and relationships are sketchy at best and the final act, as entertaining as it is in its own right, is nothing more than a spectacle, and frankly, a disappointment after the engrossing build-up of the first hour. The other three Lost Boys are total blanks as characters. The would-be femme fatale character of Star is underwritten and under-developed (in fact, the relationship between Michael and David is far more intriguing, although this is again underdeveloped). What the book does is attempt to flesh all of this stuff out and give it more oomph, and for the most part, it succeeds. The more action-oriented final third is probably the least impressive part of the novel, just like it was the least impressive part of the film. The main problem was that all the drama, seductiveness and terror were blown away in an extravaganza of spectacle and loud action which, although very entertaining in its own right, felt like a bit of a disappointment after the tremendous build-up. It just felt a little too crowd-pleasing, with everything wrapped-up conveniently in time for the end credits.

So thanks for sticking with me throughout that lengthy intro, for now I’m actually going to get into the novelisation itself. I’m going to assume that anyone reading this will have a good understanding of The Lost Boys, so you can forgive the presence of any references here and there that won’t make any sense to anyone who’s not seen the film. Oh, one more thing, I’ll be making the odd reference here and there to Jeffrey Boam’s revised draft of James Jeremias and Janice Fischer’s original script which is available online to read, scenes in which do make an appearance in this book.

We begin the novel just like the film, with the confrontation between the vampires, the rival gang and the security guard on the boardwalk carousel, and already we’re getting a little more out of the novel than the film. First of all, the film never referred to David and the guys as ‘Lost Boys’ – I guess it’s just easier for Gardner to do this, and besides, the name obviously suits them. Same goes for the rival gang, here referred to as the Surf Nazis (who were only referred to as such in the end credits), who will get a lot more plot time in the novel than in the film. The doomed security guard is kindly blessed with a name (Big Ed), and we even get to read what his take on the whole rowdy kids situation is. This is what I like about this adaptation, in that lots of incidental characters get their little moments. In the film, Big Ed is simply nothing more than VICTIM #1, but the book takes the time to give him a little exposition. We also find out what happens to his body – in the film he’s simply swept up off screen (the bit where he rips the door off his car in his panic throes is not in the book) and out of sight, but the novel has us discover that his bloodless body gets dumped on the beach. This would have made for a more gruesome opening for the film – would it have worked? What I like about the film is that it keeps things hidden for a long time, and opening with the sight of an exsanguinated corpse might have been a case of too much, too early. Still, it makes for a more frightening opening in the book. Also, this opening is told to us by a mystery narrator who differs from the main storyteller – the identity of this narrator is revealed at the end, mind you…

Over the next couple of chapters we get the driving into Santa Carla sequence, with Lucy, Michael and Sam squabbling about radio station selections and then checking out the local boardwalk. Michael is most displeased about having to leave his old home in Phoenix. He misses his friends, had a sort-of girlfriend named Laurie, was doing okay in school and loves his motorbike. His life is over, as he himself puts it. As hinted at in the film by Sam’s pin-ups of Molly Ringwald and Rob Lowe (although the latter pin-up certainly hinted at something else if you catch my drift – wink-wink, nudge-nudge), the younger Emerson brother loves his Brat Pack films. We get the familiar references to the town smelling like death and the ‘Murder Capital of the World’ flipside to the town’s welcoming billboard, but we also get a greater awareness of how lousy the family’s financial situation is, and yet despite that, Lucy still tells Sam to give to the two homeless kids five bucks to eat and call home. We also get more detail regarding Lucy’s recent divorce – the very reason they’ve all had to pack up and head to Grandpa’s house in Santa Carla. It turns out her ex-husband was an utter bastard and the divorce was ugly and stressful. Lucy’s need for her children to have a male role model and her uncertainty over relationships given her marriage makes her decision to try and make something work with Max all the more interesting, whereas in the film it was all pretty incidental. Obviously the film has Echo and the FUCKING Bunnymen on the soundtrack at this point, and to be honest, the buzz of the funfair montage makes the film version of this sequence more exciting than the sombre tone of the book. Each version works in their own right.

We arrive at Grandpa’s, and we get a greater sense of how far away they are from the hustle and bustle of the beach. We also discover how little Michael and Sam know him, as they’ve not seen him in years. Like the film, we first see him ‘playing dead’ outside the house. Lucy and Grandpa also play out the same scene from the film where they talk about the divorce, but in greater detail.

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Also, we get the first of many scenes which were filmed but never included in the final cut. Michael and Sam squabble over bedrooms and we get a twist on the trademark ‘I’ll flip you for it’ wager which results in Michael literally flipping Sam upside down, which leads to the bit in the film where Sam is being chased through the house and towards the taxidermy room. Michael doesn’t refer to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre upon seeing this (though Sam makes his reference on cue earlier on), and Grandpa goes on to lay down the house rules. The presence of the marijuana plant, which may have passed over the heads of younger viewers of the film, is made more blatant here. The tetchy relationship between Michael and Sam is definitely given more detail here – you get the sense that they really piss each other off most of the time. After this, we get another scene which was cut out of the final film, where Michael and Lucy wash up in the kitchen and talk about Michael getting a job and not going back to school. Sam breaks the tension by cranking up some sixties music and dancing with his mum. Michael’s not so keen, and backs away.

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In the deleted scene on the DVD, the music is not from Lucy’s generation but the same ‘Lost in the Shadows’ theme song from later on in the film. Given that the song is not very danceable and only enjoyable on a strictly camp level, this scene comes off a bit embarrassing and you can see why it was cut.

Now we get the scene which was utterly hilarious in the film, as oiled saxy boy Tim Capello belts out the immortal ‘I Still Believe’ on the Santa Carla boardwalk, clearly miming to a pre-recorded track despite the insistence of the ‘Live’ marquee directly above him. As the book was written without the contemporary songs on the soundtrack in mind, the gig is simply described as a non-specific rock concert, and to be honest, you do get a more exciting feeling of the rush of the music. The film sequence works thanks to the sheer corny buzz of the direction, but the book has the edge in regards to conveying the rush of an ‘anything can happen’ night. This scene is of course where we first meet Star, who in the film was an notably underdeveloped character. Okay, so no one in the film was a masterclass example of three dimensional personality, but in the case of Star, I felt she was particularly neglected. It also didn’t really help that Jami Gertz, as likable as her performance was, didn’t really convey the seductiveness and darkness that I hoped a vampire (half or otherwise) would exude. The book definitely makes you understand more why Michael would instantly become seduced by her.

Meanwhile, we cut to Lucy’s stroll on the boardwalk, where she sees the missing poster for Big Ed, but before that we get a bit not in the film with a street preacher/hippie burnout who goes on about Santa Carla needing to be saved. There’s some observations about the end of the sixties dream too, and then we visit Max’s video store. Now, as much as I love Edward Herrmann as Max, his wildly dated attire definitely worked against him, what with those trendy glasses and big coat, whereas in the novel we don’t have to see any of that and as such he makes for a more convincing smoothie. In the film he comes across as a bit of a nerd. I love nerds, but I don’t know about them making for great head vampires, you know?

Sam’s first trip to the comic book shop is a good one – Sam’s clearly an old-school comic nut, but he (in other words, Gardner) makes a boo-boo regarding horror movies – the Dracula film playing on the TV must be The Satanic Rites of Dracula, not Scars of Dracula given the description of the Count’s death scene. In the film, the TV’s showing some Black Lagoon-type creature feature – you think it might have made more sense to have a vampire film on the telly, wouldn’t it have? The Surf Nazis steal the comic book here just like in the film and Michael also gets rebuffed after finally catching up with Star, who rides off with the Lost Boys, but not before giving him a cute smile as they start up.

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Now, this is where the book starts to forget its own path. As you all know, in the film we cut to head Surf Nazi Greg and his girlfriend Shelly being murdered and then Sam and Grandpa having their ‘trip into town’ the next morning. In the book however, we skip both of these scenes and go straight to the next day and enter new plot territory.

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Michael arrives on the beach and is picked with a few others amongst a crowd to partake in beach litter control, which explains how he gets the money to buy his leather jacket that night. The job’s exhausting and the only glimmer is when Michael thinks he sees Star on the boardwalk, but given this is during the day, we know that’s not possible. Sam goes out swimming and is picked on by a Surf Nazi who yells out ‘My beach, my wave!’ What an arsehole. Lucy has a slow day at work, but is in a good mood at the end of the day when Michael offers to give her a bit of his daily pay. She refuses but is bowled over by the gesture. Elements of these scenes were included as deleted scenes on the DVD, although Sam’s attack is toned down considerably to him simply being splashed by all the surfers running past him into the blue.

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Now we move on to the second night in Santa Carla, and like the film, Michael purchases his new jacket and is about to get his ear pierced when Star tells him it’s a rip off. Star doesn’t seem too bothered in the novel when Michael says ‘your folks too, huh?’ after being told her name. In the film she gets quite pissed off before Michael reassures her he was only talking about the fact that both of their parents are ex-hippies. Also, there was also something really corny about the way Star blurts out ‘Michael’s great, I like Michael’ in the film, whereas in the book it doesn’t come off that way at all.

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I don’t know, but Star just comes off as more mysterious and seductive in the book, whereas in the film there doesn’t seem to be much romantic, sexual or dangerous chemistry between Jason Patric and Jami Gertz at all. I know that during this book/film comparison it sounds like I’m being overly harsh on the film, but I do love it. It’s just that it could be improved on. The book does improve on the film. You get a real sense of Michael being head over heels attracted to Star, and he seems to be as high as a kite during those little moments when she smiles at him. When the Lost Boys appear on the scene, we actually get an exchange of names. In the film, Michael isn’t told any of the Lost Boys names, which always made his scream of ‘DAVID!!’ underneath the train bridge later on a little weird. Of course, Michael might have been told David’s name outside of the film’s plot – the film’s not in real time after all. The motorcycle chase that follows is extended in the book – there’s a bit when the Lost Boys ride over/through a bonfire, and Michael does the same, barely surviving. Good bit this, wish it was in the film. Speaking of bonfires, the Boam script had the opening aerial shot moved through a bonfire on its way towards the boardwalk. Too ambitious, I suppose. Besides, the reason we get no bonfire dare is because the film is in pop video mode, with the guy from Foreigner (!) warbling over loads of cool shots of the Lost Boys riding through the night. A bit where it all stops for a bonfire jump might not have worked. No wait, it really would have! They should have kept it in. After this we come to the other game of dare that was in the film – the race to the edge of Hudson’s Bluff. Michael punches David in both film and book, but in the book he doesn’t say ‘JUST YOU! Come on….just you’, which I really liked in the film, especially the way David breaks out a big fat grin straight after. He still grins in the book, mind you.

Whereas in the film this bit cuts to the Lost Boys and co already in the cave, in the book we see them actually enter the cave, and we listen in on Star’s worries about leading Michael in any deeper. We also get a hint of mystery when it suggested that David has ulterior motives for accepting Michael into the fold. In the film this is a lot sketchier, but in the book there’s more focus on the twisted interplay between these characters. As for the cave itself, we get greater detail of the setting, which, lest we forget, is a goddamned SUNKEN HOTEL! Such a cool idea. The Lost Boys’ cave remains one of the best looking locations in the film, and the book does a great job of conjuring even further atmosphere. One thing the film has an edge over the book is when David proclaims the hotel and all its contents to be ‘ours’ and Paul says, none more condescendingly, ‘so check it out…MIKEY!’ which gets a laugh from everybody inside and outside of the film. I like to think so anyway. In the book, all we get is a rather wispy ‘Man, you wouldn’t believe all the cool things we found down here!’ which was in the original script, I suppose, but it’s definitely the weaker comeback. Now in the film, David hands Michael a smoke, and I suppose we’re meant to think it’s a joint, given its reference as an ‘appetizer’, but in the novel, this is made crystal clear. Also, we get a better sense of Michael being stoned.

Like in the film, we cut away to Sam reading his comic in bed at home. Nicely, we get to read some of the comic too, and it turns out to be a pre-censorship title with lots of blood and gore, with a neat introduction from the vampire narrator, who introduces the story known as ‘Hounds of Hell’, which we see a proper shot of in the film. The book even goes into some detail of the comic’s plot, of how a friendly pooch called Bowser (am I the only one now picturing a fire-breathing, princess-kidnapping arch-nemesis?) becomes too curious for his own good, leading to his doom. Nice touch. The movie couldn’t have really gone into this much detail, I suppose. Grandpa scares Sam and Lucy as he does in the film, but whereas in that he comes out with a ghoulish laugh, in the book he merely repeats the words ‘closet monster’, which isn’t as good. Grandpa also explains his ‘Indian Walk’, which is how he sneaks up on people without them noticing.

We cut back to the cave, and in the film this is one of the best scenes – Michael drinks David’s BLOOD. It’s a magnificent sequence, beautifully shot, eerie and delightfully dominated by Kiefer Sutherland. Michael has his brain messed with as he eats Chinese take away that looks like maggots and worms, and the book really emphasises the grossness of this moment, to the point where, in the bit when Michael objects to David’s eating of the worms, Michael actually sees this happening whereas in the film they’ve already turned back into noodles. Get this:

‘Large blue worms wriggled between his lips and flopped against his tongue’.

Ooooo, nice. The book makes a point of the boys eating with plastic cutlery, which makes a lot more sense than the metal stuff that somehow came delivered with the takeaway. Maybe it was the boys’ own cutlery? I don’t know, I just don’t see them owning cutlery. Anyway, that’s the film. The book has more fun playing on Michael’s paranoia, brought about by the weed no doubt, as well as his sense of a rivalry between him and David. There’s a cool bit before where Michael asks the others where their parents are, a question which gets laughed at. In turn, the boys explicitly ask Michael if he wants to be their brother. Michael and Star dance (not in the film) and this helps further emphasise the romance between the two. Also, Michael’s still a little stoned. That’s probably why the joint reference seemed to go over my head when I first watched it in the film– you don’t get the idea that Michael’s stoned, and that he could just be smoking a regular cigarette. I just get a sense of more going on in the book – I mean, literally that is the case, but in terms of atmosphere too. The blood that Michael drinks, which was watered down in the film to the point where it looked like Ribena, is thankfully described here as looking as dark as blood, oddly enough. Points deducted though for insisting that David serves Michael the blood in a paper cup? A paper cup? No mention of that unbelievably cool bottle that is used in the film, which really did look great. Now in the film, after this sequence, we cut straight to the train bridge sequence, but not in the book – that can wait for another chapter….

Instead we cut to the next morning, where Michael wakes up feeling groggy and around seven hours late for work. Earlier on Sam peeks into Michael’s room whilst he was asleep and it looks as though he’s having a nightmare… After walking in on and then slowly backing away from Grandpa’s taxidermy session, Sam’s also bemused by the preposterous amount of signposts out in the garden. Don’t worry, this seemingly innocuous bit of information will pay off later… he also goes in for a closer inspection of the marijuana plant before being caught out. This leads into the ‘trip into town’ with Grandpa, which in the film took place earlier.

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We cut back to Michael, who feels awful – his eyes hurt, he hasn’t got the strength to lift his weights. This is shown on the deleted scenes. Sam also notices that his feet are caked in salt, which turns out to be one of those weird vampire things that I’d never heard of before. Afterwards, Sam visits the Frog Brothers, who tell him about all of the vampires in Santa Carla. The book extends the scene by having the Surf Nazis arrive and try to steal some more comics – Edgar and Alan demand they pay for them as well as for the ones that they stole the other night – in the end they get pushed around and the SNs leave without paying for anything. I have to say, these extra scenes with the Surf Nazis definitely make their imminent death a lot more satisfying later on, whereas in the film I was pretty scared for them.

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It’s been a busy day at the video store and now it’s a beautiful night as Lucy’s pondering about whether or not Max is interested in her or not, but she’s snapped out of her reverie as she’s circled by the Lost Boys on their bikes after she leaves work. What starts off as an amusing prank ends up pretty threatening as they continue to circle and get closer until Max warns them off. This is on the DVD and is a great bit, again: shame it wasn’t in the final cut. Max also asks Lucy if she wants to have dinner with him…

Now it’s time for an interlude… this is the scene from earlier on in the film when Greg and Shelley get killed, and just like in the film, we don’t really get to see much. That’s fine, it keeps the suspense ticking over nicely. This told by the same narrator who introduced the novel to us. The next chapter takes place, I can only assume, directly after the events of the interlude – Star is piercing Michael’s ear, something that was promised in the film but seemed to happen off-screen. We find out that Star doesn’t know too much about what David and the others get up to at night, and that she’s not in contact with her family. This is also the moment when they kiss for the first time, something that didn’t happen in the film until later, directly before they first have sex. The physical attraction between the two is definitely more electrified in the book, even if their eventual sex scene is treated even more coyly in print than it was during the none-more music video montage of the movie version. The Lost Boys walk in on all the smooching and tell Michael they’re going to take him somewhere. They leave Star and Laddie behind, and the latter has vague memories of life back home. This is where we’re made aware that these two are not like the other vampires, and that Star thinks of David as something closer to a magician or trickster rather than a bloodsucker, but nevertheless she’s feeling strong emotions for Michael to the point that she’s hoping they might escape together. As for Laddie – he really wasn’t much of anything in the film, so it’s really great to see more of him in print.

Now we move on to the bit that’s a real highlight of the film – the train bridge sequence, which as you’ll know took place directly after the first night in the cave in the film. I like that we’ve waited an extra night for this sequence, as it’s let the tension stretch out a bit further, although it makes for a fantastic condensed run of moments in the film. The bridge sequence plays out more or less identical to the film, except for a great additional bit at the end when David catches Michael following his fall from the bridge. This would have been fantastic in the film. We then move to the next morning, when Michael is awoken by Sam, but not before grisly dreams of maggots in the earth. Sam also quotes some of the lines from DIRE Straits’ ubiquitous hit ‘Money for Nothing’ – thank god that wasn’t in the film version. Michael notices his fingernails are getting longer. Apart from Sam mentioning later on the phone that he’s noticed this, this isn’t really focused on in the film. Michael then takes a shower and the running water burns him. Why wasn’t this in the film? So much good stuff, so much cut out!

Later on that night, Grandpa leaves the house for his date with the Widow Johnson, and Michael is a dick, just like in the film. The book definitely makes Michael’s daytime surliness a lot more believable, whereas the film turns him into a twat a bit abruptly. Right on cue, the Lost Boys ride past outside, Sam takes his bath and Michael tries to drink some milk but doubles over in pain due to his hunger. What isn’t in the film is Michael noticing a dying mouse held in a trap on the kitchen floor, and get this, he goes to eat it…

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We cut to Max and Lucy’s date, which wasn’t really part of the film except for the bit where Lucy runs out of it. Here we find out that Lucy is not impressed with Max’s showy behaviour. She talks about her kids and how she doesn’t want them to leave the nest. Meanwhile, Michael’s hunger is not satiated after the mouse meal (which we don’t get to read about whilst it was happening), so he heads towards the bathroom…the rest of this scene plays out just like the film, so let’s move on past that, past Sam calling the Frogs, past Michael floating in his bedroom and to the bit when he’s outside – although here, he actually crashes through Sam’s bedroom window.  Also, Sam is definitely keener to help him than his more reluctant version in the film. Luckily, there’s no Flying Nun joke, which was probably the least funny gag in the film, thank god.

We now get another interlude, and this is where Max is attacked by the bat kite and the Lost Boys show up on their bikes. Again, this told by the other narrator, and we also get an insight into Max’s thoughts on being run out on during dinner. Afterwards, Michael tries to avoid being seen by Grandpa coming home from his date and heads back to the cave, which is where he and Star will have sex for the first time. Now if the film managed to not really show anything remotely rude during its PG-friendly love scene, the book is even more bashful, cutting immediately from Star leading him towards the ‘sleeping quarters’ to the next morning. True, there is a reference to them having ‘slept together’, but I must say the lack of any down ‘n’ dirty action was a disappointment. Still, at least we didn’t get the equivalent of the deleted scene on the DVD, where the mercifully brief love scene from the film is extended to interminable length, with almost the entirety of ‘Cry Little Sister’ on the soundtrack. One of the most visually striking moments in the film, where we assume the point of view of the Lost Boys arriving back at the cave at the break of dawn is only referred to via Michael hearing them enter. Come to think of it, we didn’t get the equivalent of the point of view shot as they head towards the boardwalk on the night of the concert either. Anyway, Michael wants to talk to Star, but she’s too tired. She says she’ll talk to him at the boardwalk. Now this makes Michael’s angry search for Star later on much more understandable. In the film he seems go crazy at David for mysterious reasons. However, the book omits the bit when Michael realises his bitten hand has healed, which was a cool bit.

Afterwards, Michael comes home and he and Lucy have their awkward chat, with the addition of a telling-off regarding his earring, as well as Michael noticing that Sam’s reading a vampire comic, one with a gruesome picture of a bloodsucker being staked on page two. We then get the bit at Max’s house where Hound of Hell Thorn tries to savage Lucy as she drops off her apology booze. We move on to the Frogs and Sam working out their game plan on how to catch the head vampire and amusingly, the Frogs admit that their vampire slaying statistics currently amount to nil. The Surf Nazis arrive asking about the whereabouts of Greg and Shelly – things get ugly and the Frogs attack with a handy slingshot. Turns out Edgar’s an amazing shot, managing to rip out one SN’s earring out with one expertly fired pellet.

It’s dinner time, and we get to read how Lucy’s feeling about how things are going with Max, and how she hated cooking after her divorce. Now, however, in her new house, she’s got the food bug back and she’s looking forward to cooking for everyone. Michael foolishly invites Max inside the house, but additionally, is silently impressed with Max’s wheels. The book is missing the brief moment when Michael extinguishes a candle with his fingertips. The dinner sequence, one of the funnier bits in the film, plays out more or less identically here, although we’re invited to share Sam’s inner mechanics as he tries to execute his plan flawlessly, which as we all know, doesn’t work out so well. Lucy’s attraction towards Max is definitely given more of an edge in the book – right up until the bit when he reveals he’s a creature of the night, the chemistry between him and Lucy is quite sweet, but in the book, there’s a bit more of an exciting element as Lucy becomes more intrigued by the new man in her life. Lucy also notices that Grandpa’s been observing them, whereas in the film his spying seems to have gone unnoticed.

A great new bit follows, as Star thinks over her relationship with the Lost Boys, with the other three even given personality traits! Let’s be honest, the other three weren’t really anything except window dressing in the film, and that’s only marginally less so here, but one of the biggest surprises in the book is here when we discover that Star considers Paul to be the only one of the four she can really talk to, and that they both understand what the potential alienation of their new life can feel like. We also find out that Paul is the newest recruit of the four- I always assumed it was Marko because he looked the youngest. Of course, when it comes to vampires, age and appearance can’t be taken for granted.

Now we move on to the core sequence of the film, the attack, but not before Michael tries to find Star. In the film, we cut straight to Michael approaching David, but the book makes more of a point of Michael’s desperation and uncertainty as to what’s going on. After that, we get the attack scene, which was definitely the most intense and scary part of the film and the one that scared me senseless as a child. We don’t get to read about that nasty bit where one Surf Nazi gets scalped and we see the brain underneath, but we do get a variation of David sinking his teeth into another’s head with an appropriately mean bit where he taunts ‘Hey dude! My beach, my wave!’ and bites the top of his skull off. Ouch! Sadly, we don’t get the immortal moment beforehand when David says ‘Initiation’s over Michael…time to join the club’ and the beautifully frightening bit when he comes out of the darkness and we see his vampire face for the first time – the equivalent reveal in the book isn’t nearly as scary. We also don’t get the bit straight after when all of the Lost Boys are cackling and taunting him. Nevertheless, we do get a sharper idea of how tempted Michael is to join the carnage, which he obviously resists.

Michael asks Sam for help, and Star in turn asks Michael for help – this scene plays out better in the book. The dynamic between Michael and Star is more convincing, and Michael’s conflicting feelings towards the girl who has unwittingly lured him into a vampire gang, but eventually he realises that they both need to work together to get out of this, whereas in the film he comes across as a lot more petulant and a bit of a dick. Yeah, I know he’s just realised his new best friends are killers, but don’t take it out on your girlfriend.

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So, Edgar and Allan arrive the next morning and one of the first things they ask is if Michael has killed. Michael gets to show off his lightning-quick ability to move, something which freaks everybody out. They also come to the possibility that David is the head vampire. As they arrive at the cave, we get a good idea of how much the daylight is weakening Michael, and how much it’s hurting his body. Meanwhile, the interior of the cave even seems to impress the Frogs, and the descriptions of the hotel are pretty atmospheric.

The entrance to the Lost Boys private sleeping chamber is revealed to be hidden behind a hole located above the old hotel elevator – the presence of flies gives that away. We also get a variation on a memorable line – flies and the undead now go together like ham and eggs, which sadly isn’t as kooky as the film’s ‘bullets and guns’, which I always liked. We also discover that the Frogs have brought bug spray particularly for this eventuality. There’s also a greater sense of just how badly the approach to the Lost Boys’ ‘coffin’ smells. Yuck. A great moment comes when Michael is sorely tempted to snuggle up next to Star and sleep, but resists. Marko is killed on cue (in the Boam script he lasts until the final confrontation, when he is felled by a handful of garlic shoved into his mouth), and his death is a lot more visceral here, with details of instant decomposition and dark thick slime. I always felt the blood in the film looked more like sticky glittery sauce rather than the dark stuff, and thankfully the book goes a little more for the jugular. The narrow escape from the cave is not as tense as it was in the film – David doesn’t grab hold of Sam’s leg, although he still gets burned by a ray of sunlight. We also don’t get David’s chilling ‘tonight…’ chuckle either, which is a shame. We still get the ‘burn rubber/warp speed’ gag, which was always a dumb bit, but the book doesn’t take the opportunity to include a moment from the Boam script where, in order to alleviate suspicion from the police, the kids are forced to put Michael in the driver’s seat as he’s the only one who looks like he could have a licence. Instead we go straight home, where Nanook’s anxiety over the presence of vampires lead to him being tied up outside. Remember that.  So begins the preparations for tonight – nothing to report here, it’s more or less the same as it was in the film, although Sam’s protestations to Lucy about the presence of vampires reads a lot better in print, thanks to his more graphic descriptions, not to mention the absence of the line ‘there’s evidence on my sweater’, which always came across as a rather stilted piece of dialogue. The thrill of the training montage scene from the film is diminished somewhat in the book – we’re told that all of this has happened, but it lacks the anticipation of the screen version.

Lucy and Max’s third attempt at dinner is fleshed out a bit more, allowing room for a kiss between them, and thankfully making no mention of the oh-so trendy neon décor. Max’s earlier insistence that ‘boys need discipline’ is amusingly contradicted when he says that boys are ‘like weeds. They grow best when they’re ignored’. Lucy notes this total turn around, and Max openly admits ‘what do I know? I’m a bachelor’. Back at the house, Nanook’s presence outside makes more sense now that we know the reason he was tied up out there in the first place, and the tension of his rescue by Sam and Michael is pretty excellent, while the cliffhanger of the chapter’s last couple of sentences – ‘There was a clumping noise in the living room. Nanook turned and growled’ makes for a chilling breather before all hell breaks loose.

Dwayne bursts out of the fireplace and we get to share Michael’s continuing horror of the appearance of a vampire as they really look, while Star’s hope that they might defeat the Lost Boys and live a new life seems palpable and her determination to make it, even to the point of potentially fighting David, definitely gives Star a less passive role throughout this finale. Dwayne and Sam’s fight is slightly different. The bit when it looks as though Dwayne’s been killed but then stands up undead and well is altered so that Sam’s arrow flies past him and the ‘you missed, sucker!’ line is said whilst he’s still flying towards him. The ‘death by stereo’ culmination still remains, and while Dwayne’s explosive death will always be cool, the actual pay-off line has always set my teeth on edge. It’s a stupid line. Paul’s final attack on Star and the Frogs has much greater charge given how we now know how Star considered him to be the more approachable of the boys – ‘now he wasn’t even human’ is the brutal reality of the situation. Paul’s outrageous death by holy water bathtub is more horrific thanks to the inclusion of some unearthly screams, which is nice. Laddie’s transformation and protection by Star runs its course, and of course David and Michael’s showdown comes next, and it’s more visceral with David tearing into Michael’s back. The somewhat jokey ‘My turn!’ comeback during the aerial fight is missing – instead we have ‘he flies….and now he dies!’ which is just as good, I think. We also don’t get David’s ‘you are a killer’ run of taunts, but I do think the fight is better in the book – we get a strong sense that David’s attacks are really wounding Michael, whereas in the film they come over more like cat scratches.

The final conflict with Max plays out the same as the film, but Max definitely comes across as bigger and scarier – his roar is described as ‘like the screams of a thousand lost souls, or a thousand times a thousand, everyone the vampire had ever drained of blood crying out their death agonies’. Beautiful! Max’s death is still one of the most bonkers killings in horror cinemas – I mean, a car loaded with fence posts drives through a house and send the cargo flying through the head vampire, and the book has a tougher job making it sound as plausible as possible, yet it barely gets away with it. Also, in the film, the pay-off of Grandpa’s car horn finally getting the tune of ‘La Cucaracha’ right after two muck-ups felt triumphant, but since the book has made no reference to the horn getting the tune wrong before, the moment feels less special. Oh well. Anyway, that’s the end, we’re all relieved, and yet a little frustrated at why Grandpa never said anything about the vampires until now, cue credits/final page, right?

Wrong. We get an epilogue, not in the film, where we discover that Grandpa was the narrator of the prologue and interludes all along, and that Lucy got a new job, Michael went back to school, Star moved in with the Widow Johnson (!), Laddie went back to his parents and Sam has taken up taxidermy! More than that though, is the revelation that the Lost Boys’ cave, and more specifically their ‘coffin’, was merely the start of a whole series of secret tunnels which go all the way back into Santa Carla…..and that there are still strange noises emanating from there…. Now this ending is different to the extra ending in the Boam script where we find out that Maria the video store assistant, the two runaways from the beginning of the film, and various others, have congregated back in the cave, presumably with the intention of starting a new generation of Lost Ones, with a backdrop consisting of a near-century old painting of the boardwalk, depicting among others, none other than Max himself… that would have made for a real chiller of an ending for the film, but the alternative in the novelisation is pretty damn spooky, and a great wrap-up to a delightful treat for Lost Boys fans. If you consider yourself a pretty full-on fan of the movie, then try and obtain a copy of this sadly out-of-print gem. It really broadens the scope of the film, fills in some of those logical and plotting gaps and is a cracking read in its own right.

One thing that’s not resolved in any version though: what happened to Thorn?

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4 thoughts on “The Lost Boys Novelisation by Craig Shaw Gardner – A Guide

  1. Any chance you can post some images of the novel pages?

  2. Hi Alan, I will see what I can do! 🙂

  3. Love this! Thank you so much for posting it x

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