Today, Corey Haim is a lost boy. Sometime soon, hopefully, he'll be Lucas.
The Lost Boys was Haim's biggest box-office hit, the movie that made him a Tiger Beat star. But Lucas was Haim's moment—maybe the best 1980s teen movie not written by John Hughes. It was the film that, more than any other Haim credit, made you care about, and mourn, everything that followed.
And sadly, a lot followed.
There were the rehab stints, so many (dating back to 1989, just three years after the release of Lucas) that they outnumbered even his considerable list of cocredits with Corey Feldman.
There were the desperate bids for money and/or attention, best (or worst) exemplified by his attempts in 2001 to auction off one of his molars along with clumps of his hair.
There were the signs of squandered opportunity with every direct-to-video title from the early 1990s and beyond.
There was the question, asked by many, and put to music by The Thrills: "Whatever happened to Corey Haim?"
The answer you guessed was verified by The Two Coreys, the 2007-2008 reality series. As with some reality series, it was hard to know how much, or what, was real, but Haim's truth seemed evident enough: He was messed up. In it, a seemingly simple cameo shoot for The Lost Boys sequel, 2008's Lost Boys: The Tribe, becomes an ordeal ultimately consigned to the movie's end credits.
Today, it is The Lost Boys, the original 1987 film, that defines Haim—its title too apt, its vampiric forever-young theme too powerful for writers to resist when summing up a man who died at age 38.
But sometime, soon hopefully, it will be Lucas that defines Haim.
While he appeared in dozens of barely seen movies after (The Lost Boys and the "Two Coreys" titles, Dream a Little Dream and License to Drive, excluded), and a handful of notable ones before (the so-bad-it's-good Stephen King adaptation Silver Bullet and the Oscar-nominated Murphy's Romance, included), Haim was who he was meant to be on screen in Lucas, smiling a crooked smile, projecting a sweet sweetness.
He was 14.
The magic and curse of movies is that a few months or weeks of an actor's life are frozen in time. And so, on some screen somewhere, right now, Haim is Lucas, the gawky, geeky kid too fearless to care that he has no business playing football—or pursuing Kerri Green.
Maybe for Haim that was a curse. For audiences, it's the only magic that remains.
Revisit Corey Haim: The E! True Hollywood Story tonight at 6 ET/PT. And tune in to E! News tonight at 7 ET/PT for an exclusive "lost" Haim interview.
Remember the movies, and the man, in our Corey Haim retrospective gallery.