Tagline: Some people are just better off dead.
Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Bruce Joel Rubin
Starring: Matthew Labyorteaux, Kristy Swanson, Michael Sharrett, Anne Ramsey, Anne Twomey, Richard Marcus, Russ Marin, Lee Paul, Andrew Roperto, Charles Fleischer, Robin Nuyen, Frank Cavestani, Merritt Olsen, William H. Faeth
18 | 91 min | Horror/Sci-fi
Deadly Friend is a confused mess of a movie.
It is part horror, part science fiction, part drama, part comedy, and doesn’t quite deliver on any one of those levels. Part of this was due to studio interference. Much of the plot was altered following a screen test in which the audience complained of a lack of gore, expecting something else entirely from a man who only a year earlier had unleashed Freddy Krueger onto the horror landscape. Asides from seminal works such as A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream, Wes Craven has made some terrible movies. Some are just plain terrible, whereas some, like this, are just terrible good fun.
At its centre Deadly Friend is a love story between a robotics whizkid named Paul (Labyorteaux) and his shy, beautiful neighbour Samantha (Swanson). The only thing standing in the way of their blossoming romance is the girl’s abusive father, an insane overacter who spends his time swilling beer and making groundless, wild-eyed threats. Paul and his mother are new to the neighbourhood and unaware of their neighbour’s psychotic tendencies, but it soon becomes clear that Paul’s Action Man libido is not welcome at his doorstep, and quite frankly I’m not surprised.
Paul is a peculiar card to say the least, a pasty-faced mommy’s boy with the doe-eyed glare of a serial killer. Not only that but his best friend is a robot named BB, an often autonomous contraption which seeks vengeance whenever its master is wronged. Sam continues to find solace in her new friends, but while out having fun BB accidentally launches a basketball into the garden of a paranoid old woman named Elvira (Ramsey) who thinks nothing of waving a double barrel shotgun in the faces of the neighbourhood kids. Later BB cracks the combination lock on Elvira’s gate in order to retrieve the basketball but is blasted into oblivion, causing Paul to break down crying like a man who has lost his only child.
As if losing BB wasn’t enough to send Paul spiralling into depression, Sam then returns home to her stark raving dad, who with a swift back-hander sends her crashing down the stairs into a coma. Luckily for Sam, Paul is an impossible genius who practices brain surgery, and he plans to save his main squeeze by breaking into the local hospital and tinkering with her noggin before the doctors pull the plug on her. But Paul arrives too late, instead deciding to implant BB’s microchip into her head, and with the push of a remote control Sam is reborn.
Paul hides Sam’s reanimated corpse in the one place nobody will ever think to look – his mum’s tool shed – but inheriting BB’s vengeful streak Sam becomes restless and sets out on a murderous rampage, making short work of those who had previously wronged her. After assisting his love with the kind of cold nonchalance that would give Ted Bundy nightmares, Paul moves Sam to his mother’s bedroom, and all is roses until she finds an old photograph of herself and a snooping Elvira spots the deceased alive and well.
In spite of her newly realised homicidal tendencies, the delightfully robotic Sam retains a soft spot for her saviour, and after police find Elvira’s headless body Paul continues to aid his love instead of simply switching her off and bringing an end to the madness. With his former friend’s killing spree bordering on the serial, suburbanite Tom is wracked with guilt however, and soon threatens to reveal their morbid secret.
With the police on her tail, Sam’s human side begins to reveal itself at the worst possible time, and all is set for the kind of tragic conclusion you would expect. What you probably won’t expect is the subsequent false ending, which does its utmost to destroy every last morsel of characterisation that preceded it, sapping what little common sense the film had to offer for a shock pay-off which is more confusing than scary, and which lends the picture the kind of cult status most pap can only dream off.
Perhaps one of the best kills in horror movie history. Who hasn’t dreamed of seeing the bearded woman from The Goonies have her ugly bonce explode like a watermelon? Hey, you guys!
Most Absurd Moment
An inexplicable false ending which was purportedly the brainchild of Mark Tapin, the president of Warner Brothers, and another ‘Nightmare’ inspired dream sequence. Not satisfied with the multiple murders of Sam’s reanimated corpse, Paul returns to the morgue in order to bring his love back to life for a second time, only for her flesh to tear open and reveal a modified version of BB living underneath. Even for the technological zenith that was the 1980’s, that’s one hell of a powerful microchip!
Most Absurd Dialogue
Seeing her teenage neighbour with another father related injury, Jeannie Conway feels it is time somebody finally broached the subject.
Jeannie Conway: Listen, sweetheart, this may be butting in where I don’t belong, but don’t you think someone should say something?’
Sam: For what, a nosebleed? Come on, I’ve had them since I was a kid. Ice will take care of it. I just forgot to fill the tray.
Jeannie Conway: Oh, Sam, I don’t like this.
Sam: I hate them.
Jeannie Conway: C’mon, you know what I mean. It’s criminal. He could go to jail.
Sam: He’s my father. Sometimes I want to roll a truck over his face but he’s still my father.
For a musical summary of this movie’s wonderfully offbeat tone, pay close attention to the original score which plays over the end credits – an eerie, robotic rap emceed by BB itself. There was recently a petition for Warner Brothers to release the Director’s Cut of what began as a serious Sci-Fi drama. Now that would be an experience to behold!