In my post of Jerry Maguire, I said that Cameron Crowe was one of three of my favorite directors and the only one who was not a horror director. The second director I can now mention to you is Wes Craven, a modern horror genius! Wes Craven created Freddy Kruger and brought the Scream Franchise to us as well but he has many horror films you may or may not have heard of...some good and bad. The movie I am going to talk about today is what most horror fans consider bad so if it is bad then call it one of my guilty pleasures...Deadly Friend.
She can't live without you...
Again, another film based of a novel that is not widely known. The novel Friend by Diana Henstell differs greatly from the script fashioned and the movie went through a lot of executive meddling to get an 80s style "R" rating but I think the movie is okay good horror fun in an understated sci-fi way with more drama, less effects and a kind of touching story.
What's The Plot?
Teen Paul Conway is a science genius, a college student even though he should only be a sophomore in high school. He and his mother Jeannie move to a new town so Paul can attend classes in neurology at the local university and along with the Conways for the trip is B.B. an artificial intelligence robot built by Paul. This makes them stand out in many good and many bad ways about the neighborhood as it brings about human friends to Paul and makes a few enemies. Local paperboy Tom is fascinated by Paul's genius built robot B.B. and Paul becomes fascinated by good girl next door, Samantha Pringle. Sam however lives with her widower, abusive, alcoholic father and the neighbor across the street, Elvira Parker, is a gun totting old hag who lets no one on her property.
Paul, Samantha, Tom and B.B. are an inseparable group of friends until on Halloween night, Tom urges Paul to use B.B.'s intelligence to bust the lock on Elvira's gate so that Sam can go up and ring her doorbell which no kid in the neighborhood has ever done. The prank goes horribly wrong when it sets off an alarm which brings Old Lady Parker outside to her porch where she shoots B.B. and destroys Paul's autonomic friend. Things only get worse when Thanksgiving arrives and Sam joins the Conways for dinner without her father's knowledge. She returns home and is attacked by her father who ends up pushing her down the stairs, giving her brain damage that leaves Sam close to dead.
Paul's feelings for Samantha bring him down a road of no return to his sanity and he plans to take the only remnant from B.B. to bring Samantha back to life: the robot's A.I. brain chip. With a reluctant Tom's help, the two young men steal Sam's body from the hospital and Paul implants the chip activated by remote control in Sam's dead brain. The chip activated, Sam now becomes part human and part science as she walks around with a blank stare, robotic gait and the pale flesh of a dead girl. Now a combination of B.B. and Sam, their personalities mesh into one cohesive thought: to avenge those who have harmed them. Paul may be a genius but is he smart enough to keep his friend a secret from the world and stop her deadly revenge?
I could give away more plot than described but again I think Deadly Friend needs to be viewed. Now as I've said a lot of people think this film is below Wes Craven's genius but I love it! There is one great horror movie kill involving a basketball that I think every horror fan should view and even though I am kind of turned off by the ending, Deadly Friend is one of those movies I enjoy viewing over and over again. Like April Fools' Day, I caught this movie in one of those early morning time slots when they play obscure movie titles and fell in love with its simple horror story. Being an 80s child, I am use to the cheesy factor and have become immune to it to discover the gem of a film within.
Some people are just better off dead...
Matthew Laborteaux is great for Paul as he is cute and for a genius character, he is still naive. He has a lot of raw teenage emotion to instill in Paul even though Matthew was twenty when he made this movie and it shows that screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin kept a few aspects of the younger Paul from the original source material. Anne Ramsay was the go to actress to play a crotchety, ugly woman in the 80s and she is perfect as Elvira Parker with her grating voice and twisted up face and you can tell by the smirk her character gives that maybe she enjoyed playing mean old lady characters. Charles Fleischer needs a mention for being the voice of B.B. and giving the character life three years before he brought Roger Rabbit to adults and children everywhere and you wouldn't believe actually how horrifying that voice can be after you see this movie! Then of course, there is Kristy Swanson.
I'll admit that I love Kristy Swanson and a younger me wanted to be her after I saw her in Buffy The Vampire Slayer. She's most popularly remembered as playing Cathy in Flowers In The Attic but she has roles in a lot of films that people hate such as the cinema Buffy film, the sequel to Mannequin and of course, Deadly Friend. I mention these films because I love them of course and own them proudly with no guilt and no shame to admit I am a Kristy fangirl! I mean she made me love Buffy The Vampire Slayer and made me become a fan of V.C. Andrews because of these roles so I can't say anything bad about her. Okay back from the Kristy worship wagon to her role as Samantha Pringle, which I enjoy immensely. She may just take up the film doing a bad robot/zombie impersonation but earlier in the film you can't help but enjoy her cute girl next door. You want Paul to save her and have a happy ending for her after living with her father's abuse but of course, horror movies don't happen that way.
Direction wise, I don't think Wes Craven did a bad job with this film I'm thinking it was all that executive meddling that makes this a piece of 80s cinema most horror fans want to forget. There isn't a lot of gore compared to the horror of today but there is enough to make you a tad bit queasy but the underlying plot has drama and there is some comedy if unintentional. Taste is a matter of opinion and only when you can view Deadly Friend for yourself will you have your own opinion.
Next Blog: The werewolves are back with an 80s classic...The Howling