Not many movies have gone through the production hell that Wes Craven’s “Deadly Friend” faced. Ordered by Warner Bros. to add in extra gore and a brand new “shocking” ending, the finished film is a favorite of some fans while others cry out to see the original vision that Craven had in mind. While the final film may be a bit hit-or-miss, one thing is certain that everyone is sure to love. The death scene of nosy neighbor Elvira as she gets pummeled in the head with a basketball as her lifeless torso hits the ground spewing blood everywhere. It’s a hilariously gratuitous gore scene in the middle of a fairly serious horror drama. This movie is all sorts of weird and this death scene is just about the tip of the strangeness. I can’t say this death really fits in with the rest of the movie but at least it’s fun.
In the mid 80’s Wes Craven was on top of the world. After just completing the groundbreaking “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, the horror director pretty much had his pick of horror projects to choose from. The project that he would choose next would be in some ways a drastic departure from his usual slasher self. The movie would feature a talking robot, a girl suffering from abuse from a father, and a bright young boy years ahead of his time. The project was called “Deadly Friend” and it would be soon come to be known as one of the worst movies in Craven’s career. But, is the film really THAT bad? Does it deserve a larger audience than it would ultimately receive?
The plot is relatively complex for what seems like, at least on the outside, an ordinary run-of-the-mill slasher. A 15 year old scientific whiz kid named Paul Conway, just moved to a new town with his mother. He also has a yellow robot named Beebee which is his friend and protector. Paul befriends the girl next door named Samantha, and she lives with her abusive father who knocks her down some stairs one night and severely injures her. She was on life support in the local hospital, but after a certain amount of time, they pulled the plug on her and she was dead. Paul disguises himself as a hospital worker and takes Samantha’s body from the hospital over to the local university. As an attempt to save her life, he implants Beebee’s robot microchips into her brain, but discovers not too long after that she is out of control.
“Deadly Friend” certainly has its share of problems but it is just so sweet and kind in its heart. Paul is a good kid that tries to do a good deed when everything else has failed. He is the only one to actually take action in this story to try to make something positive happen. The film’s moral seems to be that evil will not disappear just because we turn our head from it. It is a sad story with many touching moments. As a seasoned slasher fan, I will even admit that the ending has been known to shed a tear or two from me. It’s funny that coming from Craven, that the horror is the only thing that really doesn’t work in the movie. Stories from behind the scenes say that there was a lot of studio interference in this film and it is not hard to tell where it lies. The gore scenes just don’t work, they seemed borrowed from another film entirely. Nonetheless, the performances are strong and this is a story worth telling. It’s no masterpiece but I think those who hated on this film when it first came out should give it another look. Samantha, as well as the film, deserves it.