I’m a fan of director and writer Wes Craven’s work; I have been ever since I watched the original ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’, since then, I’ve gone out of my way to watch some of his older films and newer ones, enjoying many, including ‘The Hills Have Eyes’, ‘Scream’ and ‘Red Eye’ to name a few. One I hadn’t been able to track for a while was the movie ‘Deadly Friend’; well anyway, I found a version the other day and couldn’t wait to watch it. After all, this was made in 1986, two years after the seminal, ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ which scared the hell out of me, and continues to be a brilliant film to watch. It had to be brilliant, right?
The plot of ‘Deadly Friend’ sounds quite odd, but here it is: Paul Conway (Mathew Laborteaux) is a teenage genius studying neurology and artificial intelligence, he moves with his mother, Jeannie (Anne Twomey) to a new town where he’s been accepted in a highly prestigious science college. He also brings with him, his highly functioning and intelligent robot named ‘BB.’
Paul meets new friend, Tom (Michael Sharrett), and falls in love with the girl next door, Samantha Pringle (Kristy Swanson.) Samantha and Paul hit it off straight away and become close friends, something her abusive father isn’t at all happy about. Samantha’s father catches her sneaking in from having dinner with her new next door neighbours and this time beats her so badly that she’s left practically brain dead.
Paul, unable to let go and thinking he can help her, convinces their mutual friend, Tom, to help him break her body out of the local hospital where he can take the A.I micro-chip out of ‘BB’, the robot, and insert it into Samantha’s brain, bringing her back to life; this results in a beautiful, Frankenstein like monster who decides to avenge herself against anyone who did anything to her or Paul when she was really alive.
The film starts really strongly, we have the three friends who are all nicely developed and can act; the horrible situation between Samantha and her abusive father in hard-hitting, and there are some creepy nightmare sequences. Plus, it had a great eighties vibe of innocence to it, and a great score by composer Charles Bernstein . Maybe if I’d have watched it when I was younger, I would have appreciated the second half of the film more, which I feel let it down.
In the second half, we have the very pretty Kristy Swanson walking around like Frankenstein’s monster, and murdering anyone who had done something to her, or her friends, which was wrong. The killing of her father was brilliant, but it could have stopped there. Some really silly scenes follow, including her throwing a basketball at a nasty neighbours head so fast that the head explodes on impact, which caused me to laugh at the same time as being grossed out by the great effects.
The movie is based on the novel entitled Friend by Diana Henstell, which was adapted for the screen by Bruce Joel Rubin. There’s a great sense that the film could have been a lot better if it hadn’t gone to such extremes to try and throw in horror scenes in the second half, and had stuck to sympathy for Samantha’s character, and her bound with Paul. After all, there really is nothing scary about a pretty Kristy Swanson roaming around like rigor mortis has set in, and killing people in ridiculous ways while talking like a robot. Just before the end, the film showed promise of what the second half could have entailed, if Samantha had kept her memories from the get go, instead of getting them back at the last minute.
Saying that, there are a lot of very memorable scenes and this film has a lot of fans. There was a sweetness and charm to it that eighties films seemed to capture, and this charm can’t be re-captured, no matter how hard Hollywood tries. This would be a fun fantasy film for young teens being introduced to horror to watch, as it also has a strong comedic elements to it.
The cast are all strong, and they can all act. There are a few great jumps and scare scenes, with Wes Craven making the most of his strong use of nightmare sequences again. The murder scenes are really gruesome for the most part, if some are slightly silly, but there are some good shocks and the over-all story-line holds a lot of promise. I imagine the book is very good and will be checking it out.
This movies definitely worth a watch, especially if you’re a fan of eighties horror, Wes Craven or Kristy Swanson. Keep tongue firmly in cheek thoughout though and don’t take it too seriously.
(Apparently there’s a re-make on the way in 2011 starring that girl who can’t act for toffee, Kristen Stewart, from Twilight as Samantha. I dread to think.)
(PINK = USA) (YELLOW = UK)