Deadly Friend ~ 1986, Wes Craven, USA
For most horror enthusiasts, the name Wes Craven is spoken with an air of reverence. After all, this is the man who gave us classics, like Nightmare on Elm Street, Last House on the Left, and The Hills Have Eyes, but it’s time for some inconvenient truth, friends; this man’s body of work is not all slam dunks. No, Wes Craven is also responsible for more than a few serious pieces of shit. And with that….
…Deadly Friend follows Paul, the new kid, having just moved into town with his parents, and his big, stupid robot, BB.
Yeah, the movie is mostly about a robot. I know the trailer did not prepare you for that… But it is. Anyway! Paul designed, programmed and built BB, because this was the 80’s, and in the 80’s any 11 year old with glasses and a tree fort was more than capable of building a laser, a spaceship, or a fully functioning android. Physically, BB looks like your typical Johnny 5/Wall*E type robot, but his temperament is much nastier. He also has a bizarre way of speaking which, to pretty much anyone living or dead, seems puzzlingly out of character for a damn robot. He mostly communicates in a series of raspy utterances and snickers, like how an evil baby caveman might have spoken. Actually, he sounds a lot like the Gremlins do, as well. Really, I have to assume that the people who made this movie didn’t actually understand what a robot was.
So, soon after arriving in town, Paul and BB make some friends, including a local girl named Samantha, whom Paul, of course, has the hots for. Samantha comes from an abusive home… “How abusive is it?” Well, it’s so abusive that her dad murders her. Paul is crushed, Samantha was his friend, and easily the most attractive girl to ever just accept that his best pal is a four ton boxy robot caveman baby of his own design. Knowing that only his keen teen intellect can reverse the brain death and decay Samantha’s lifeless corpse has suffered through being dead for hours upon hours, Paul, who doesn’t understand hubris, breaks into the morgue and implants BB’s robot circuit boards onto her brain. There should have never been any question as to if this was going to work, because of course it does, Samantha is back and the same as she ever was, save for the fact that she is now BB in Samantha’s body, and she now kills people. One of the people she kills is that cranky old monster from The Goonies, and it is, unquestionably, the one cool moment in the entire movie. Here it is, so you don’t have to sit through the rest of this dud.
If you feel hesitant to suspend your disbelief enough to accept what I’ve described above, then Deadly Friend is indeed nothing you want to tangle with, because it only get’s worse from there. The film ends with a new, more humanoid BB tearing out from inside Samantha’s empty corpse, because somehow the tiny slab of silicon and copper stuck onto her brain managed to reconstitute her entire body into some sort of terminator exoskeleton or something. It’s really hard to imagine that there was a time in man’s history when the concept of robotics was so badly misunderstood by anyone, and I feel confident stating that Deadly Friend is not proof of ignorance, it’s proof of stupidity.
So, Deadly Friend really, really sucks. The story is unforgivably stupid, and reliant on concepts that only a child would accept, but with subject matter far out of the range of what is appropriate for a child. The production is adequate, but who cares how well Deadly Friend is made, it’s DEADLY FRIEND! You can follow the recipe perfectly, but if the dish you’re crafting is dog feces soup, no one will compliment your cooking. The truth is, Deadly Friend is only worth seeing if you’re the kind of person who enjoys the DIY MST3K movie experience, as I do. If that’s what you want, here it is, it will suit you nicely. Even so, the move isn’t very likable, so I am forced to grade it harshly.
Also noteworthy; the theme song that plays over the credits. It’s just spooky tones, funky bass lines, and voices saying “BB!” Over and over. Did these people really think that the new, franchise spawning horror icon of American Cinema was going to be this lame droid? Clearly, the studio didn’t, because if you watched the trailer above, you’ll see that any reference to BB or robots is missing altogether. That’s the case with most of the press materials I’ve dug up in researching this film. Pretty funny. “Robot? What robot? Listen, just go see the movie.”