8/05/2018

Crushing on My "DEADLY FRIEND"

August 30, 2018 marked the third anniversary of the passing of one of horror's true masters: Wes Craven. Craven made many an influential and important horror movie, The Last House on the Left, The Hill Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Scream, too name but a few. Admit ably he is also guilty of some truly awful films, like The Hills Have Eyes 2, Scream 3, My Soul to Take, etc. One movie that tends to get lumped into the latter category, but I honestly think it shouldn't (but understand why it does) is Deadly Friend. It's an odd, oft-silly and dumb movie, that has moments of greatness beneath the crap.
Our story begins, when a thief tries to break into an SUV and gets chocked by a robot arm. When, said robot hears the family come to their vehicle, he lets the scumbag go. We are soon introduced, to single mom Jeannie (Anne Twomey) and her genius son, Paul (Matthew Laborteaux), who created said robot. The robot's name is BB and is cute, fat little guy, sort of a cross between R2-D2 and Robbie the Robot. They are moving to a new house and neighborhood, where it doesn't take long for Paul to make a new bestie in newspaper delivery boy, Tom (Michael Sharret). Tom is a nice guy, and as such he is picked on a bunch of asshole bullies. But, their leader, Carl (Andrew Roperto) learns his lesson, when BB proceeds to crush his nuts! Ouch! I really needed a BB in high school!
BB, and I, both wonder why we have yet to be able to have robot besties!

Of course, he also meets his beautiful, girl next door neighbor, Samantha (the gorgeous Kristy Swanson). Sam is a sweet girl, on top of her stunning looks, so our hero immediately crushes on her. While, they start a friendship immediately, all is not well, as her dad, Harry (Richard Marcus), is an abusive drunk. And, he does not like his little girl hanging around with guys.

We also meet, Paul's professor Dr. Johanson (Russ Marin), who allows Paul to have access to a nice lab. The final character we are introduced to is mean, old bitch Elvira Parker (Anne Ramsey, she of Throw Momma from the Train and others fame, she's was always great as a man old twat role, wasn't she?), who doesn't like kids or robots that are friends with kids (or probably robots, or anyone, in general). As our three likable trio and robo-buddy begin to become better friends, they hang out more often. Well, one Halloween, they decide end up going through the mean bitch's gate and, BB gets full of lead courtesy of her rifle.
Goddamn it! My Halloweens, as a teen, were never this much fun!

And, proving that holiday just plain suck for these kids, Thanksgiving ends up being worse. When, drunken daddy asshole realizes that Sam is spending it with the boy next door and his mom, he has a hissy fit. Sadly, it's a rather violent one and he accidentally injures her severly as she comes down the stairs. She ends up in coma, and soon has the plug pulled on her. But, fear not, lovers of romance, cause Paul has a way of bringing her back to life! Coaxing his reluctant buddy Tom, they steal her corpse and take her to the aforementioned lab.

What is his plan you ask? Well, glad you did, cause it involves putting BB's robot brain on her brain! Soon, she is reanimated, but, of course, goes off killing those who hurt her and BB in the past. Paul quickly discovers, but like any guy with a crush on a zombie, decides to cover for her. Even, when bestie Tom doesn't think that any of this is cool, or you know, normal.
Sam wonders if there could ever be a Rear Window remake with protagonist being a cute, zombie girl.

Coming off of the success of the fantastic A Nightmare on Elm Street, Craven was a hot comidty for horror,  even if post-AONES, the godawful The Hills Have Eyes 2 had been released. He got hired by Warner Bros to direct Deadly Friend, which was scripted by  Bruce Joel Rubin based on the novel Friend by Diana Henstell.

Craven saw this as a chance to something similar to what John Carpenter had done with the sci-fi/ romance Starman and show to the world that he was more than just splatter-horror guy. He wasn't interested in making Sam the villain, but rather show that the true monsters were those around her. And, some of this this is still present here, as the people she kills are genuinely unlikeable and even evil turds (especially her dad who becomes a crispy critter). In fact, he wanted to make a PG rated movie. 

But, that's not what Warner wanted. They wanted the Freddy guy, so the studio asked to add more gore to the script. To be fair, one splatter scene is super memorable, that being the now infamous exploding head by way of basketball. It's such an iconic scene that even horror fans who hate this flick, tend to love this one scene. There is also some immolation, implaing, and sparying blood thrown for good measure. 
Sam, undisputed dodge-ball champ of the world! 

Proving that Warner really only wanted the "Freddy guy", they also asked for nightmare scenes to be added. These result in a bunch of cheap, fake scares, as nightmare scenes tend to be. Worst of all, they added a ridiculous and stupid as fuck ending:

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As our hero goes to visit his now dead, again, girlfriend, who got rekilled via gunshots by cops, at the morgue. I'm guessing that he's gonna attempt a second reanimation on her. But, and, Jesus Christ is this ever stupid, she wakes up, her skin rips off, revealing a more humanoids, Terminatoresque version of BB. She precedes to choke him, and as the camera pulls away, from behind the morgue door, we hear his screams and her saying, "BB!"

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Holy fuck, is that ever awful! It's is a mind numbingly stupid moment, that for all the ridiculous shit that occurred before, still makes no fucking sense. It makes me think that whoever at Warner came with this shit idea was all coked out. Well, it was the 80's after all!

Their wondrous ideas didn't work, though, and Deadly Friend tanked at the box office and was ravaged by critics, both mainstream and horror. That said, it is understandable why the film got lambasted. However, I think it works best for teens and younger folk, perhaps proving the point that they should have left Craven just do his thing without interference. I loved it when I first saw it, as a kid/ pre-teen, but as I got older I realized more and more, just how stupid some of this is.
Sam doing the "Thriller" dance! Well, I mean she is a zombie, after all!

The film is, after all, filled with silly moments throughout, like our heroine moving her hands and fingers like a robot and saying "BB!" a lot. It is hard to keep a straight face during these occurrences, but Craven out weighs this thanks to his solid directing. The pacing is good, and the movie is never boring. The characters are likable, and you care for them in their situation. And, besides, who among us hasn't had to cover up for our hot, zombie girlfriend with a robot brain?

All of the acting is solid, we hate the mean characters, especially Sam's dad, and we like the kids. However, all things considered, the true star is Swanson. Her natural beauty combine perfectly with the character's sweetness to make for a very believable and likable girl, I wish to God had lived next door to me. We get Paul's crush immediately; we feel and fear for her. Craven knew this as his camera loves her and captures her perfectly. Even when the movie feels utterly ridiculous, she and admit ably, the rest of the cast do their damn best to carry it all.
She, along with Craven's directing, are definitely the main reasons I enjoyed the movie, as a kid. I had a super crush on Swanson, and Craven was, as I was getting more and more into the genre, quickly becoming a hero of mine. At first I didn't know many who loved the movie, but years later I discovered that it has quite a following. Sadly, it is only available as a single DVD or part of a four film set with three other horror movies of varying degrees of quality. There is no Blu-ray of it. In 2014, a fan petition was made to release Craven's director's cut. Warner, though, have long said that that ain't happening. 
Deadly Friend is a wild, ridiculous, silly, yet fun, well acted sci-fi/ horror/ teen movie. It is an interesting piece in Wes Craven's filmography. Sure, the movie often gets a bad a rap but really shouldn't, or at least not THAT bad a rap. It's far from great but in no way deserves to be lumped in with festering crap like Cursed. A movie that proves that a film can indeed be dumb and be good, at the same time, it deserves another look. Maybe, one day we will get the director's cut (I wouldn't hold my breath though), but even if we don't I will always crush on my Deadly Friend and, of course, on Kristy Swanson, herself, the loveliest teen zombie with a robot brain babe, ever!

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