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Deadly Friend:

It's just not Halloween without Mr. Craven

WARNING!

This article contains video footage featuring possibly one of the most gruesome deaths seen in any Wes Craven film.  This means that this article is not only potentially not safe for work but also forces me to remind you that this website is rated 15.  If the death wasn't one of the most badass things I've ever seen, I wouldn't have made it mandatory for reading this article.  So if you're too young you should totally stop reading and NOT, for any reason, scroll down and see what all the older, cool kids get to see. 

Oh, Wes Craven.  It must have been a good ride in the mid-80's for you.  Nightmare on Elm Street was rocking it something fierce and, from the look of things, you had a lot of freedom to create what you wanted.  Following Nightmare on Elm Street, we get a lot of the more, shall we say, "secret" films of Wes Craven.  They're not bad and they weren't necessarily unpopular...but none of them made it in the books as classics.  In fact, unless you're into horror fanboyism, you might not have heard of Night Visions, Shocker, The Serpent and the Rainbow, or The People Under the Stairs.  (If you haven't seen the last one, you need to fix that now.  And call me Daddy.)  Even I, a horror-obsessed freakjob, had never heard of his 1986 film "Deadly Friend."  This is sort of like the Pope suddenly realizing there's a chapter in the bible he's never read.  While I might not really be the pope of horror, I couldn't resist hunting down a copy.  Even better, they just released the uncut DVD of Deadly Friend which made my job all the easier.  "Uncut" is an important word here (well, it's important that a lot of things remain uncut, but that's a given) because Wes Craven had to reedit this film a dozen or so times before he could get an R rating.  If the uncut version of this came out back in the 80's, it would have been rated X.  Of course, remember that NC-17 was what they "renamed" the X rating in the early 1990's for public appeal reasons.  Showgirls was supposed to be a drama (about sex and stripping) but if it had an X rating they would have just called it a porno.  Back on task, I think you'll find that the uncut version of this movie is total Candyland compared to what we see on the screen these days.  Well, it's Candyland with a chocolate swamp of blood.  At least for that one scene.

The film opens with a hillbilly thief breaking into the family van.  As he's going through someone's purse, he notices something in the backseat.

And what was in the backseat notices him as well.  A big robotic claw comes out and starts to choke like only a murderer or a asphyxiation fetishist can.  Whatever it is sees the family returning to the van and thus releases the felon, pushing him out and locking the door behind him.  The film's title blasts across the screen and we're ready for the horror to wash over us.

And we're going to be waiting for a long ass time.  Deadly Friend is more Sci-Fi than horror, with a little teen drama thrown in.  The movie is definitely a horror, but only because there are five scenes that make it as such.  And two of those scenes are freaking dream sequences.  If I had to make a wager, I'd bet that the first version of Deadly Friend just wasn't "horror" enough so they tacked on the opening scene and those dream sequences I mentioned.  Because without them this movie is just this vague...thing.  That stars a robot.  Oh, didn't I mention that?

This is BB, the artificially intelligent robot and his creator Paul.  Paul's a super-genius teaching college courses and doing crazy experiments with robotics and the human brain.  BB is his prized creation and friend.  BB is voiced by the same guy who did Roger Rabbit...but don't expect too much.  BB pretty much only says its own name and a bunch of gibberish that I think is meant to be cute.  This movie came out at the same time as the comedy/fantasy "Short Circuit" so apparently 1986 was a good year for movies featuring robots.  But there's more to Deadly Friend than just a banana yellow robot.

Deadly Friend is a movie about the strangest threesome ever.

By the end of the movie, one of these characters will be deep inside another, while another one loves one and yet is "in romantic love" with another.  But the other one is inside that one so it gets all sorts of confused.  Just like you are right now.  It'll make sense in the end, I promise.  Paul and BB make friends with the girl next door.  Really easily, now that I think about it.  They play basketball, bond, kiss a little, and pretty much wait for something horrible to happen to them. 

The first terrible thing is Elvira.  Elvira is the scary shotgun-wielding lady who lives across the street.  When the kid's basketball lands on her property, she throws it inside her house and tells the kids to go screw themselves.  Remember that.  Elvira taking away the kid's basketball is sort of important.  Of course, the big thing that Elvira does is kill BB with that shotgun of hers.  So after about twenty minutes of happy robot companionship, BB explodes, putting Paul into a spiral of depression.  The hell is this film about if not a killer robot?  It is about a killer robot, right?

The answer:  Sort of.

Samantha, the girl next door, has an abusive father.  He's always drunk, he beats her, and it's implied he sexually molests her.  It's just as charming as it sounds.  Samantha refuses to report her terrible father because, after all, he is her dad. 

When she comes home late one day her father angrily pushes her down the stairs.  And there you go.  She's dead. This isn't good for Paul.  No good at all.  Now both his friends are dead and he's got two crazy violent neighbors to deal with on his own.  But not for long.  His solution:

Paul steals Samantha's brain dead corpse from the hospital and implants BB's electronic "brain"/microchip into her skull.  So now he's got his best friend's robotic brain inside his dead girlfriend's skull.  I told you this was a weird threesome.  Samantha-BB also comes with a remote control, something that far too many of us would secretly wish for Christmas.  Samantha eventually reanimates and starts walking around.  BB's in control (because Samantha is Dead) but Paul keeps calling BB-Samantha Sam, even though it's BB that's hearing him.  Total mindscrew relationship.  BB-Samantha (who I'm going to just call BB from here on out) gets out of control and goes on a murderous revenge rampage.  And thus, our monster is revealed.

If you've ever wanted to see Kristy Swanson stagger around doing "the Robot" than this is the movie for you.  Yep, Samantha is played by a young Kristy, better known for her role as the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  She stiffly walks just like every elementary kid does when he wants to pretend to be a robot and she keeps her hands in the "I've got robot claws" position, just like those same little kids.  It's...ridiculous.  Completely laughable.  I get that she's a zombie with a killer robot brain in here (great plot, Wes) but the fact that she's doing domo arigato Mister Roboto every time she moves makes me crack up.    The first thing she does once she's got free will is go off and murder her abusive father.  After breaking his neck (and proving that she has super-human strength) she cooks his body in the furnace.  Paul sees the smoke and hides the body for her, obviously still hoping to cash in on a Kristy Swanson he can program to do whatever he wants.  It doesn't take much longer for crazy Elvira to get a visit from BB.

Elvira is played by Anne Ramsey...who most of my generation knows as "that crazy old lady from The Goonies" or "that crazy old lady from Throw Momma from the Train."  Here, she's "that crazy old lady from Deadly Friend who gets the best on screen death ever." 

Oh BB...you've gone into Elvira's house and gotten back that basketball she took from you earlier in the film.  What?  You're going to throw it at her? 

You Need Flash to view the Doom

Holy.  Crap.  I could watch that all day.  What you're not seeing is the other fifteen seconds of her headless body floundering around her living room, spraying blood in every direction.  But I figured the above moment was enough.  Wes Craven, you do Basketball Murder with supreme excellence.  I've seen a lot of great deaths but for sheer surprise and WHAT THE HELL gore, that takes the cake.

BB-Kristy goes on a bit of a further rampage, murdering a local punk who pretty much exists so that she can kill at least 3 people in this movie.  In the final confrontation, she's surrounded by police officers and her human memories begin to come back.  She runs (still with robot claw hands) towards Paul, which gets her very, very shot by the police.  We fade out to the epilogue.

Hey Paul!  Way to sneak into the morgue to re-steal your dead girlfriend's body and your robot friend's brain!  Looks like we're in for a happy ending after all.

You have to love the classic "the monster's not really dead" maneuver.  BB's hands wrap around Paul's throat while her face slowly melts away.  Her arms extend to reveal wires and robotic circuitry beneath her skin.

"Come with me Paul" is what BB 2.0 (Kristy Swanson in a cheap Halloween mask) as she rises from the dead and snaps Paul's neck.  The End.  I guess BB's super-circuitry let it transform the dead body into a super-robot warform or....something.  I don't know.  All I know is that Paul gets murdered by his creation.  And the film ends.

It might be good now to point out that Deadly Friend is based directly off the book "Friend" by Diane Henstell.  The book has quite a few differences from the book, most importantly the end.  In the book, Samantha's body decomposes more and more as the story progresses.  So she's living on borrowed time from the first moment of reanimation.  In the end she tries to take Paul over the side of a bridge...he fights back and knocks her over.  As he looks down he realizes that BB-Samantha wasn't trying to kill him per say...rather she/it didn't want to die ("go into the darkness") alone.  BB wanted same to die with her because she was afraid of death.  The book ends with Paul's final thought as he jumps off the side of the bridge:  "So this is what love comes to."  Brutal.

I think it's pretty obvious why this isn't considered one of Wes Craven's greatest films.  It does contain what might be his greatest death scene, if that's any consolation.  Thank you Mr. Craven for bringing computer-controlled abused teenage girl cyborg zombies who murder old ladies with basketballs to the big screen. 

-Jared

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Copyright 2007 Jared von Hindman or maybe just Jared Hindman.  It depends.  Any images used that are not Jared's are used via Fair Use review purposes and belong to their respective owners....who are nice people that don't want to sue me.

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