Deadly Friend (1986)

October 22, 2009 - 10:11pm | Johnny D
  Tags: 80's, Anne Ramsey, Anne Twomey, based on book, deadly friend, Kristy Swanson, Matthew Laborteaux, Michael Sharrett, Richard Marcus, robots, Russ Marin, Wes Craven

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Wes Craven
Matthew Laborteaux, Kristy Swanson, Michael Sharrett, Anne Twomey, Anne Ramsey, Richard Marcus, Russ Marin

As with every well known director in the horror genre, Wes Craven has made movies ranging from absolutely phenomenal, to cruddy guilty pleasures, and unfortunately to steaming piles of crap pissed on twice. After the enormous success of A Nightmare on Elm Street, he chose to go where the money was and make a big studio effort for Warner Brothers entitled Deadly Friend. The final product is a mixed result. It's one of those movies like the original Prom Night, where I've seen it a substantial amount of times, find it to be the definition of mediocre, but still find the need to watch it again. I think it's because I like the concept and hope that the movie will get better with repeated viewing...which is still hasn't

The film tells the story of a young genius goober named Paul who, after building a free thinking robot that he calls BB, moves to a new neighborhood and meets the girl next door (played by the original Buffy herself, Kristy Swanson). Her name is Samantha and she totally wants to be violated by the goober, but he's too busy playing with his robot to even notice. Now, the goober's new neighborhood is also populated by Samantha's abusive alcoholic father and crazy Mama Frateli from The Goonies who threatens people who approach her fenced in property with a shotgun. On Halloween night, BB unlocks Mama Frateli's fence and our main characters sneak in. Mama Frateli doesn't take too kindly to this so in return she blows the fucking shit of out BB with her shotgun.

The goober looks on in a tantrum of tears that one might see if a five year old girl's cat had its head ripped off in front of her. Consumed with grief, the goober keeps the robot's electronic brain as a keepsake. Now with the annoying BB out of the way, Paul finally notices that the girl next door is interested in him. But, dammit, this Paul fellow must be cursed or something because now she gets killed by her abusive alcoholic father. So what's a lonely genius goober to do? Break into the hospital to steal Samantha's body and implant BB's brain into it...duh. From this point on the movie takes on a teen Frankenstein persona as Samantha is brought back to life, but has developed a new killer personality...pun intended.

I love the premise of the film, but the problem lies in the tone. It plays out too teen friendly with a copout mainstream ending...that doesn't effing make any sense, btw. The first half of the movie drags with unbelievably bad pacing. The whole story line of the love between a boy and his robot is uninteresting and kinda perversely sick, depending on how you look at it. It's clear from the get go that there were just too many hands in the cookie jar on this movie. If I was a betting man, I would peg it on studio interference. There are a couple moments of extreme gore that were placed in it to clearly appease the gorehounds.

That's nice and all, but it just seemed wildly out of place in this film. I could suspend disbelief as much as the next horror fan, but there is no way in hell I can be led to believe that a basketball made a person's head explode into a million pieces. Again, it was a nice effect, but did not fit in. We're lead to believe that the lead goober places the robot brain into the girl next door to bring her back to life, but I couldn't help shake the feeling that his underlying motive was to bring his beloved robot back to a human female form where it would be acceptable for them to expose their love affair to the public.

Ms. Swanson saves the film with her portrayal of Samantha and the movie shows it’s potential around the mid-point when she's brought back from the dead. There's something about her on screen charisma that made me feel bad about her tragic character, even though she was subjected to some pretty laughable situations. One such situation was how she moved like the robot after its brain was implanted in her. Her arms were stretched out with clawed hands and you would be hard pressed not to giggle near the end where she's running at the camera in some sweet slow motion.

The movie is based on a novel, which from what I hear is a bajillion times better as it's a chilling horror tail and tragic coming of age story about first love. I'd love to get my hands on a copy of it to see what this movie could and probably should have been like. It's hard to figure out who's to blame for this movie not reaching its potential. All the right elements seemed to be there, yet we get mediocrity. This is one (and probably the only one) 80s horror movie that I think would benefit from a remake as there are a few shining moments if you chip away through the fecal matter.

In the end, Deadly Friend just didn't live up to the potential of being the modern day Frankenstein classic is set out to be. All the right pieces of the puzzle exist, they just weren't placed correctly. This definitely falls under the Wes Craven category of "cruddy guilty pleasure". It's not a good movie, but has redeeming qualities, including Kristy Swanson's performance, that make it watchable and keep bringing me back for another viewing.

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Johnny D




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