LOST BOY: Remembering Corey Haim

This morning I woke up to the devastating news that 1980s teen heartthrob Corey Haim had passed away at the young age of 38. As a kid of the 80′s, I grew up watching The Lost Boys, Dream a Little Dream and License to Drive over and over again, especially when I played hooky from school (these movies were always playing on my local cable station). After we write up the earlier news item, Bloody Disgusting’s Jonathan Dornellas e-mailed me with the same sentiment asking to write a special goodbye. Here it is.
There’s a scene in the short-lived train wreck of a reality show called “The Two Coreys” in which Corey Feldman gently asks his hyper friend Corey Haim to sit down. He has something important to tell him. Important news.

“Warner Brothers is making a sequel to the Lost Boys,” Feldman relates, but there’s no joy in his eyes.

You can see Haim’s world stop. “Are we in it?” he asks, but he can read Feldman’s eyes. The drugs never dulled Haim’s keen ability to read others — to see the truth behind the smiles.

“They only want me for a cameo,” Feldman tells him delicately. “I told them there was no way I would do it without you.”

And then Corey Haim begins to weep. They don’t want him to be in the sequel and they only want Feldman for a cameo. This is beyond devastating. The original 1987 film is very special to Haim; it represents a time in his life when everything seemed possible, when everything was fresh and pure and new, and making the film was one of the best experiences of his life. He bloomed while making that movie, he finally came out of his shell, and for a while there it felt like he was literally *flying* through life. The process of falling from such a height would take nearly twenty years.

“The fall will probably kill you,” Butch Cassidy laughingly tells Sundance (who has just confessed that he can’t swim) in the classic Newman/Redford western. And then they proceed to jump together from the cliff into the water below.

Of course, no one in his or her right mind would ever compare Newman and Redford’s relationship to the two Coreys. For a number of obvious reasons. For one, the two Coreys were children when they met. Two, their acting talent didn’t come close to matching Newman or Redford. Actually that last point warrants an asterisk beside it.

Corey Haim had talent once. He never went to acting school. He was born with it — his talent was as natural as the pattern of dust on a butterfly’s wings. It was, in fact, a genuine thing of beauty.

“I fucked up one too many times,” Haim sobs, hands trembling as he wipes a tear away. “I burned too many bridges.”

Feldman does his best to console his friend.

“We made our mistakes,” the Goonies actor says, and hugs Haim. “But we grew up. Now we gotta make it right.”

Did they grow up? They both eventually landed roles (Haim’s as a cameo) in the unfortunate direct-to-DVD release (called “Lost Boys: The Tribe”), and for Haim the experience wasn’t even bittersweet. It was just bitter.

Haim deteriorated rapidly after his participation in the sequel. In a YouTube interview with NukeTheFridge.com (March 17, 2009) conducted less than a year later, the change in his physical appearance is striking. He looks and sounds like someone’s alcoholic uncle — as a matter of fact, he seems to have turned into the character Gary Busey played in “Silver Bullet”. Listen to his voice. It’s really sad.

People under 30 may not realize how big of a deal Corey Haim was for a few years there in the late 80s. His first ever movie was an unfairly forgotten little gem called “Firstborn” in which he plays Chris Collet’s little brother. In that movie, their single mom (Terri Garr) starts dating a mysterious guy named Sam.

Played by Robocop himself, Peter Weller, Sam is actually one of the greatest villains of 80s cinema history — right up there with Wing Hauser’s Ramrod (from 1982′s “Vice Squad”). Seriously, folks, this is a performance that deserves to be rediscovered. Charming at first, Sam gradually shows his true colors. He’s a sociopath and drug dealer and he harbors dangerously unrealistic dreams. He gets Terri Garr addicted to cocaine. The scene in which Collet hears loud music late one night and comes downstairs to witness his mom doing drugs is heartbreaking (she makes eye contact with him before she snorts it up her nose). The two boys finally get their mom to come to her senses, and a harrowing final confrontation with Sam ensues.

And what red-blooded American boy didn’t think 1985′s “Silver Bullet” was the coolest movie in the world? The movie made you think being crippled wouldn’t be so bad as long as you got to race around in one of those jet-powered wheelchairs customized by your drunk uncle Gary Busey, who also supplied you with fireworks capable of putting out a werewolf’s eye. If you removed just a little of the gore and language, it’s essentially a movie for kids, belonging in the same category as 1987′s “The Gate”. The film was based on a short book by Stephen King.

But the movie that Haim will always be remembered for is the 1986 classic “Lucas”. While the film doesn’t get mentioned quite as often as the John Hughes (God rest his soul) flicks from the same era, I firmly believe that will change with the passage of time. Because I’m here to tell you that “Lucas” is the absolute best movie about what it’s like to be a teenager ever to come out of the 80s.

Lucas is the incredibly bright, yet geeky runt we all knew in high school. Whether we want to admit it or not, we’ve all had times in our life when we’ve felt like Lucas. When life just seemed too big for us to stand a chance against.

Lucas is skinny, he wears a Gilligan hat, and of course he’s got four eyes. At school he’s in advanced learning classes and he gets picked on a lot. When he’s not at school he likes exploring the neighborhood woods, catching frogs and butterflies, and observing the various cycles of life. He doesn’t collect the creatures or insects, because “to collect them you have to kill them.” Just getting the chance to admire their beauty up close for a few moments is good enough.

One days as he’s creeping through the woods with his butterfly net, a tennis ball falls through the bushes. A beautiful sixteen year old girl, new in town, is practicing her swing at a nearby tennis court. Lucas brings her the ball and they strike up an unlikely friendship. A beautiful little friendship, actually. But no more than that.

She’s two years older than him and they are from two different worlds. She’s rich. And although she doesn’t know it at first, Lucas lives in a dilapidated trailer with an uncaring alcoholic father. The girl, named Maggie (played by one of the Goonies, Kerri Green), eventually falls in love with a football player. Lucas is crushed.

In one final desperate attempt to impress Maggie, Lucas finds a way to join the football team. He very nearly makes the big play, but instead he very nearly gets killed. None of the other players set out to hurt him; he was just too damn little to be out there on the field in the first place.

Lucas slowly recovers in the hospital. Maggie visits him and gets him to promise her never to play football again. They talk about locusts — Lucas’s favorite type of insect. Every seventeen years they sprout their wings and fly. Lucas and Maggie wonder what their lives will be like in seventeen years. They wonder if they will still be friends in seventeen years.

The movie needs to be seen to be properly appreciated. Those of you reading this who have seen it know what I mean. It’s totally hilarious, very sad, and ultimately uplifting. I’m not ashamed to admit that the ending scene, when Lucas finally returns to school and is presented with a team jacket by the bully who used to pick on him, never fails to choke me up. One of the all time great feel good, eye-watering endings.

Whether Sly Stallone likes it or not, he’ll always be Rocky. And Corey Haim will always be Lucas.

After “Lucas” Haim appeared in 1987′s “The Lost Boys” where he met fellow child star Corey Feldman. Haim was not a nerd in “The Lost Boys”. This movie represented the birth of the Cool Corey. I clearly remember Haim speaking dismissively of his role in “Lucas” while he was filming “The Lost Boys”. He had no desire to be associated with geekiness of any kind.

I think the evidence is pretty clear that Feldman was a corrupting influence in Haim’s life. Is it fair to blame a kid for corrupting another kid? In some cases, yeah I think it is. Feldman was out of control in those days. The kid partied with Sam Kinison for Christ’s sake. Have you ever had your mom tell you to stay away from some particular kid because that kid was “a bad influence”? Well, I believe that applies here. Feldman was a bad influence.

The two Coreys became inseparable in the late 80s. Life became one big party. The movie they starred in together “License to Drive” was a hit in 1988, adding fuel to a fire that was already beginning to rage out of control. Their off-screen partying became legendary.

And then the slow fall back down to earth commenced. The drugs got out of hand. Every aspect of his life experienced a sharp decline throughout the 90s. Cool Corey went quickly from appearing in big budget, top quality movies to starring in low budget, direct-to-video trash. He would declare bankruptcy before the 90s ended, and even resorted to selling locks of his hair on Ebay. And Cool Corey would spend the rest of his life in and out of rehab.

Feldman somehow managed to corral his wilder side and eventually got married and had kids. Perhaps having kids is one of the things that saved Corey Feldman; becoming a parent certainly gives one a different outlook on life, and has a way of changing one’s priorities. Say what you will about him, but thus far anyway, Corey Feldman is a survivor.

The reality show “The Two Coreys” lasted about a year. It’s not really worth writing about.

Back in 1989, Cool Corey appeared in a bizarre documentary titled “Me, Myself, and I” which was essentially a pointless promotional video about himself. And his cool life. Floating in the sunshine, high as a kite. It’s there for you to view on YouTube if you’re interested. I remember watching it back then, and while I naturally (and stupidly) felt envious of Cool Corey, I also remember feeling kind of let down by him — by that warped version of him. This spaced out kid wasn’t like Lucas at all. I actually *liked* Lucas. Cool Corey I didn’t like at all.

Cool Corey killed Corey Haim. And that’s a tragedy. Because he was such an amazingly talented kid. The news of his death shouldn’t have surprised me, because everyone had seen it coming for the past several years. Lots of websites predicted it. Even Feldman stated several times how sick Haim was; on many occasions he expressed genuine fear his friend was close to destruction.

But the news still shook me when I heard early this morning. I immediately went online. I went to IMDB. I didn’t go to Corey’s page. I went to the page for the movie Lucas. No one had posted anything about his death on the message board for that film yet, so I posted the first thing that popped into my head: R.I.P. Lucas. And then I felt compelled to look for clips of that film on YouTube, but I couldn’t find much. I actually haven’t seen the film in years, but it’s one of those movies you never really forget.

Later as I drove down the highway I heard the news repeated on the radio. Then while I was sitting in traffic at a red light, something caught my eye in the woods beyond the shoulder of the road. I lowered both of my windows, turned off the radio, and for just a moment before the light turned green, the sounds of nature filled my car: bugs, frogs, birds. It rained last night but it was sunny now, and moisture sparkled on the foliage.

I smiled because for just the briefest of moments I could have sworn I saw a boy moving through the wet woods, a boy with four eyes and a Gilligan hat, carrying a butterfly net. Lucas will never die.