Back here in the Bronx years ago, Channel 11 was once a channel that wasn’t controlled by Warner Brothers. It was your typical network channel that hadn’t caught on to the whole ratings hoopla just yet.
On the weekdays from Monday through Friday, they’d show movies from 8-10, and after 11pm it was strictly syndicated television shows. On the weekends it was movies all day long and bad shows like T&T, and the A Team playing during the late afternoon.
One of the many movies I first saw on this channel that incidentally enough helped nurture my love for movies, was “Deadly Friend.”
“Deadly Friend,” for all unaware, is one of the least notable Wes Craven horror pictures merging a science fiction killer robot concept with a revenge plot that told the story of a young genius who moves to a new town to work on a project at the local college.
You see this young man has a thorough understanding of the brain, and is destined for great things, which is made apparent by his robotic sidekick BB. This robot is clunky, but intelligent, and babbles like an Ewok often.
The problem with BB is that it’s becoming much too independent of its owner, and is even resembling brainwaves, as young Frankenstein Paul reveals in obvious foreshadowing. After his neighborhood crush Sam dies at the hands of her abusive father, he replaces her brain with the now wrecked BB, and the downhill slope begins.
“Deadly Friend” was out of print for a long time, and with the trend of DVD titles being double, triple, and quadruple dipped, now we’re seeing obscure titles being released, enter “Deadly Friend” which gets a DVD treatment in the “Twisted Terror Collection.”
Buying the DVD, I was excited because I hadn’t seen the film for at least ten years, and I was in for a surprise.
“Deadly Friend” hasn’t aged well. In fact, it’s quite crappy.
Do I regret buying it? No, not particularly because the film is still a lot of fun, but I have to say that I’d welcome an update.
If only for the immense amount of inadvertent camp. Throughout the course of the film I kept asking myself “Did they really think that would be a good thing to include in the movie?”
One of the clunkier aspects of the film is Bruce Joel Rubins rather apparent foreshadowing in which we learn BB is starting to think for himself and indicates a possible rebellion from its creator Paul, and then there’s BB a robot that’s supposed to be a cute little plot device but is really just annoying.
It grumbles like an Ewok, it bears no personality, and its demise, while sad when I was thirteen, is now something I welcomed. Thank you, Anne Ramsey.
The movie becomes progressively worse once the script expects us to believe that this chip, when implanted in Sam’s brain, will make her not only come to life, but also display independent thought.
Sam’s memories, are mixed with BB’s memories, and the chip starts sealing old wounds for the both of them.
If that’s not bad enough Kristy Swanson is forced to act like a robot and basically display emotions and never quite pulls it off. She always has her hands in the form of a robotic paw, and screams “BB!” quite often which inspired an eye roll and a heavy groan on many occasions.
Meanwhile, we never quite learn why the police aren’t investigating the disappearance of her body. Ah, small towns.
The climax is also the corker, as after all the obvious murders are committed, Sam and Paul have a showdown that’s very reminiscent of “American Werewolf in London” where Sam runs at Paul keeping her Vulcan death grip hands and running in painful slow motion as a former cop friend of hers is begging her to stop, threatening to shoot her.
I was never quite sure what Craven had intended for this film, thus “Deadly Friend” suffers a serious identity crisis. It wants to be a Frankenstein tale, a killer robot movie, a revenge movie, and a fractured romance all at once, so Rubens can never decide if its BB or Samantha controlling the body’s actions, in the end.
Was BB evil? Or did the chip just go haywire? Was Samantha Evil? Was she even struggling to decide it on her own? Whose actions was it to murder those people, Sam’s or BB’s? Why did undead Sam gain super strength when BB’s only real strength was to hold the obligatory bully’s nuts in a death grip? I was never sure.
All of these clunky events lead to our cheesy antagonist conveniently arriving when the s**t hits the fan to finish out Sam/BB’s revenge list, and the police arriving too little too late as Sam struggles to think on her own and Paul anxiously trying to snap her out of her murder spree.
This, as mentioned leads to a brutally cheesy stand off, and an utterly confusing ending where Paul attempts to break out Sam’s body yet again, only for the body to come back to life and turn into… an evil robot under Sam’s skin.
So… was it all just a dream sequence? Did BB take over Sam’s body? I’m still confused about that.
And that the closing credit’s theme song? My god, it was almost as bad as the “Monster Squad” song for sure.
I still like “Deadly Friend.” As a horror/sci-fi/romance/drama it’s still entertaining. Kristy Swanson is that ideal neighborhood crush and still inspires googly eyes by yours truly, her death is still sad, and the revenge bits are still gory fun. I can watch the mean Elvira have her head blown up with a speeding basketball over and over.
Yes, a speeding basketball.
Like most of Wes Craven’s films, “Deadly Friend” has not aged well and may get progressively cheesier as the years pass. It has sentimental value so I intend on keeping it close by, but this movie just isn’t as good as I remembered. Some movies are like that.
I wonder if “The Gate” is still as fun as I remember.