Was The Lost Boys ever lost?

If most of its stars' careers have stalled, the classic film's legend has at least lived on.

Corey Haim and Jason Patric's careers were never the same after The Lost Boys.
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As the obituaries mount up for Corey Haim, the star of the cult film The Lost Boys who died on Wednesday aged 38, there's something rather puzzling about how he is being cast. Almost every newspaper and website has him down as a teen heartthrob of the late 1980s. True, as Sam Emerson, he was a fresh faced, good-looking kid. But he was just a kid. Being 13 myself at that time, I can confidently report that the older brother Michael (Jason Patric) was the pin-up teenage girls really wanted on their walls.

Haim's character was a hero for the male section of The Lost Boys' sizeable audience. The film plays like a grown-up Scooby Doo: the gang of vampiric bikers who terrorise the troubled Californian seaside town of Santa Carla would have probably got away with their murderous schemes if it wasn't for those meddling kids. By gathering up seemingly every clove of garlic and drop of holy water in the town, Sam and his friends Edgar (Corey Feldman) and Alan Frog (Jamison Newlander) help save Michael from himself and the bloodthirsty vampire leader David (a terrifyingly young-looking Keifer Sutherland).

It's all great fun and has aged pretty well. The Lost Boys was a cult hit because it didn't take itself too seriously, which means that 23 years on, it's still an enjoyable story rather than a generic, throwaway vampire movie simply intent on scaring its audience. In that sense, it was the precursor to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight: the plot and subtext - of teenagers trying to fit in and find out who they are - is more important than scenes of fake blood spurting frantically out of jugular veins. Indeed, Buffy wears its influences on its sleeve: Spike, with his shock of peroxide hair, was essentially Kiefer Sutherland's character given a 1990s update.

The constant cultural references also gave The Lost Boys a cool cachet. In fact, Joel Schumacher's film defined the period rather more, in hindsight, than it probably intended. Michael and Sam talk knowingly about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Twice. In this world, comic books are crucial and MTV is something no self-respecting boy can be without. Michael has a poster of the 1980s indie-rock heroes Echo And The Bunnymen on his wall and they contribute a song to the soundtrack. Schumacher would go on to make his name as the blockbusting director of the 1990s Batman films, but here, he spends the first third of the film building the strange world of Santa Carla so intricately that Michael being enticed into drinking David's vampire blood seems somehow believable.

But, as so often with teenage actors, these breakthrough performances were, on the whole, the high-water mark of careers rather than a precursor of greater things to come. Haim's career nosedived into straight-to-video movies. He had weight and drug problems. So low did he go that the Irish indie band The Thrills wrote a hit single in 2004 entitled Whatever Happened To Corey Haim? Corey Feldman knew the answer: he had continued to work with his Lost Boys co-star - the nadir of this collaboration coming when the pair hit upon an idea for a reality television show called The Two Coreys.

Jason Patric's career, too, has been characterised by bit-part roles and gossip-mag infamy: he was the man Julia Roberts ran away with to Europe three days before she was due to marry Kiefer Sutherland. And talking of Sutherland, he is perhaps the only actor here to have made good on his early promise, his role as Jack Bauer in 24 making him a huge star. Even so, his reputation for Hollywood carousing has at times threatened to derail his career.

If most of its stars' careers have stalled, The Lost Boys legend has at least lived on. So it wasn't much of a surprise when a sequel surfaced in 2008. The problem was, Lost Boys: The Tribe was terrible, a straight-to-DVD affair that dismally mimicked the original's storyline but cheapened the legacy through puerile titillation. The producers couldn't attract Kiefer Sutherland, so they somewhat desperately cast Angus Sutherland - Kiefer's brother - as head vampire instead. Corey Feldman and Corey Haim did make appearances (the latter in the credits, strangely) but it was desperate stuff.

Incredibly, though, it made Warner Premiere so much money, a follow-up - Lost Boys: the Thirst - is now in production. Again, it won't be coming to any cinema near you, and again it appears to combine the continuing cult status of the original (Feldman and Newlander star) with tacky sensationalism (a South African supermodel plays the love interest). It would be pointless to hold out much hope for it. So perhaps it is best to remember The Lost Boys - and Corey Haim - for the original. And if, somehow, the glories of The Lost Boys have passed you by, find a copy and enjoy this classic teen film. As Kiefer Sutherland says to Jason Patric: "Initiation's over, Michael. Time to join the club."