The October Diaries: Deadly Friend


Illustration by Max Brown
Blurbs by Shannon Neale, Sean, and Christof

October 5th, 2014:
Deadly Friend 

Director: Wes Craven
Year: 1986
Vehicle: DVD
From IMDB: Paul is a new kid in town with a robot named “BB”. He befriends Samantha and the three of them have a lot of good times together. That is, until Samantha’s abusive father throws her down some stairs and kills her. In an effort to save her life, Paul implants BB’s computer brain into Samantha’s human brain.

Shannon Neale’s Take:

How lucky I feel to have been in the room for Deadly Friend! It had so many surprises, first of which was delightfully BB. Bulky, yellow-jacket inspired robot with domesticated-animal-intuition built by teen-scholar Paul. BB, who can’t say much more than “BB” and shit like “phhhffft”, can crack combo locks (very naughty) and crotch lift bullies into submission (BFFBB).

Deadly Friend scored serious points with me for a wicked slow motion shot of a basketball making its way from dim dining room to dreary living room, across victorian rugs and hardwood floor. My god. It was beautiful. That’s all I want out of any movie. 10/10.

Beyond the basketball, mostly what shone so bright to me were two things:

1. The DVD menu and end credits theme. Exquisite. For Halloween parties:

2. What desperation inspires in someone when they don’t want to let go of life, even when they really (REALLY) ought to. Pull the plug, or suffer the sorrow that comes when man-and-machine are melded into one being?

By the end of Deadly Friend, one remembers Brundlefly Telepod (The Fly had a release date only a few weeks ahead of Deadly Friend). Something about that cross-breeding/wire-bending makes me empathetic and sick. That concept feels so of this world! Have mercy!

Deadly Friend

Sean’s Take:

I could spend most of this post writing about the strange production history of this 1986 effort by Wes Craven (he started out with the intent to make a PG rated movie, but ended up featuring exploding heads in order to satiate the bloodlust of the studio and his own fans), I could spend even more time talking about how conflicted I am that, while the studio forced him to make these concessions to gore, and I don’t like filmmakers being shoved around by studio idiots, I’m kind of grateful they did. But what I really want to talk about is the friendship on view in Deadly Friend.

The group of four friends at the heart of Deadly Friend are probably just like you and your gang of friends. There’s the brain, the paperboy, the undead girl and the robot.

“Is this going to be a killer robot movie?” Me, two minutes into Deadly Friend, after being introduced to a robot in a movie I didn’t expect to see a robot in. I’d quickly find out this wasn’t a killer robot movie at all, it was a horror movie about a killer group of friends.

The villains ended up being the figures of authority who are out to spoil our quartet’s good time, the assholes who make life harder than it has to be. There’s the old lady who won’t return the gang’s basketball after it goes over her fence (playing the shotgun-wielding crank is Anne Ramsey — A.K.A. “Mama Fratelli”).

Then there’s the abusive father who psychotically controls his daughter’s life. He is often found verbally accosting his daughter when he finds her out engaging in even the most innocuous of fun. These are type of foes who harass our group of friends. At one point, a computer-human hybrid enacts vengeance against these villains and this is where we see how far this group of friends will go for one another.

Here’s where I want to single out the work from Michael Sharrett, who plays Tom. Tom is introduced as the paperboy but he quickly becomes the voice of reason. His perfectly played reactions to ludicrous moments helped alleviate any welling skepticism I might have had. Whenever shit was about to go off the rails even further he was there to scoff before I had the chance to. He faints twice in this movie and in both moments his actions seemed perfectly logical. And yet through it all his character, out of obligation to his friendships, goes along with some pretty fucked up shit. He’s a good guy in a movie full of good people trying not to let the assholes ruin their days.

When you’re left lamenting lost friendships by the end of a horror movie, you know you’ve made a new deadly friend.

Deadly Friend 2

Chrisjof’s Take:

Move over, Sorority House Massacre; there might be a new sheriff in town. I know it’s only day five, but Wes Craven’s Deadly Friend might be my new favorite of the month. It’s surprising to me that I hadn’t seen this movie before, since I was a little obsessed with Wes Craven as a child.

(If you don’t care about my history with Wes Craven movies, skip ahead to my thoughts on Deadly Friend.)

In elementary school, I crayon-drew a standing decapitated corpse with Christmas lights strung around it, Freddy’s glove stood on the neck wound, and the anonymous person’s head was impaled on the knives of the glove. Above it, I wrote: “Wes Craven’s Christmas Tree” and I mailed it to Wes Craven, never to receive a reply, which is likely because he was worried he might be encouraging a future psychopath. (No comment.)

In middle school, I once watched all of the Freddy movies in one day, from A Nightmare on Elm Street to Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, tacking on Jason Goes To Hell for good measure, since — SPOILER ALERT — Freddy’s gloved hand makes an appearance at the very end. (This was before Freddy vs. Jason.) And listen: I may have been young, but I still knew that only three of the seven legit Freddy films were truly worth re-watching [1, 3, and 7 — the proper trilogy]. And not only did I wake up early for this self-programmed marathon, but I was wearing a Krueger-esque sweater (red and grey, but whatta-ya-gonna-do?) and a Halloween Freddy Krueger glove with plastic “knives” on the ends. For the beginning of A Nightmare on Elm Street, I wore my rubber Freddy mask, watching through the eye-holes, but it turned into a little face sauna, my breath aiding and abetting the heat until sweat and condensation were one, and I eagerly took the damn thing off. What I remember frustrating me most at the time, but pleases me in retrospect, was how hard it was for me to keep my eyes open. I wasn’t used to getting up that early, and I was struggling to stay awake, dipping in and out of dreams right along with the doomed characters.

In high school, freshman year or so, my wall was a shrine to the Scream trilogy (long before it was a quadrilogy). I had posters for each of the movies — even though I was lukewarm-to-cold on Scream 3 — as well as three different Scream ghost-face masks: one regular, one glow in the dark, and one that featured plastic casing around the mask that was connected to a hand-pump system to let you flood the white mask with fake-blood, making it drip and ooze red. Next to the hanging items was a rack for for my VHS collection, one shelf of which was a mini-shrine: some collectibles and ephemera, including two identical scream mask candles which book-ended my Scream VHS collection. The two sequels were there, of course, but the showcase was five different VHS copies of the first Scream movie: standard VHS, Promotional Screener VHS, Widescreen VHS (or WideScream, as I called it), Wes Craven & Kevin Williamson Audio Commentary VHS (yes, this existed), and the Courtney Cox cover VHS, which I noticed featured several extra seconds of gore in a few notable places. You might think I had a problem, but I showed restraint and didn’t buy the Drew Barrymore or Neve Campbell cover editions, even though I really wanted to. Honestly, I feel slight shame in not following through, but once I had my little fingers on the DVD, it was difficult to keep buying Scream VHS tapes.

With Craven having had his hand in creating two of the most iconic horror franchises ever, he had also won this chubby little horror nerd’s chubby little horror heart. And I would rave about him, telling all of my friends that Wes Craven was my favorite director. And in the early days of my fandom, when my friends were “too young” to watch R-Rated movies, they would reply, “What’s a director?” or “He sounds like a bird.”

Yet there are quite a few of his movies I had never watched, and I think this is because I had felt burned by The Serpent and The Rainbow, probably watching it in fifth grade and being bored and confused with it, so for years, I stuck with what I knew, missing out on gems like Swamp Thing and, yes, Deadly Friend. My horizons in cinema have since been significantly broadened, and I wouldn’t be able to honestly say he’s my favorite director, but I still greatly respect him — all the more now that I have seen Deadly Friend — a movie that came to me like a letter lost in the mail for years, a letter penned by an old, deadly friend.

What’s left to say about Deadly Friend? Apart from everything, I mean, since I’ve yet to discuss it. I loved it! It was a strange movie, with a correspondingly strange production history. It was initially shot as a family sci-fi romp before executives forced re-shoots and re-edits to construct a much different, R-Rated horror-sci-fi flick. In spite of these creative battles, the film is pretty cohesive and kind of excellent. And part of what makes it so watchable is due to this compromise.

What’s most charming to me is the family film vibe, hitting notes the way a Joe Dante film does, that then goes off the rails into pure 80’s horror mode, more along the lines of Stuart Gordon. If they had known it had to be flat-out horror from the start, the film would have had a completely different look and might not have even been set in the wholesome feeling small town universe, but because they had to have continuity of story and footage, matching the style of cinematography, we have this wonderful little neighborhood world with rich 80’s kid-movie colors. It has the aforementioned Dante vibe to it, which makes it feel safe, but then something like Anne “Throw Mama ‘Fratelli’ From the Train” Ramsey getting her head smash-sploded by a basketball go down and you realize all bets are off.

Throughout, you get lovable and unique moments from the core group of character, which includes a buddy-robot named BB, who grumbles and mumbles almost exclusively his name, sounding like a goblin cat-calling girl-robots “baby”. It’s worth watching alone for the best friend character, Tom, reacting to any and everything. He is the new king of on-screen fainting, in my book.

I won’t spoil the ending, but I will warn you that it is a fun and ill-advised example of the executives “having a good idea” as well as full autonomy.

Apart from the muddled obvious, this movie is also an ideal candidate for your Halloween screenings because it features a Halloween scene. This is a rare treat for horror fans, because so few horror movies that aren’t actually named Halloween have scenes that take place on All Hallow’s Eve. Since October is the only month where holiday-themed screenings don’t have to involve the holiday, it’s very special when it happens — we get to have our creepy cake and devour it too, leaving orange and black frosting smeared all over our faces.



One Comment on “The October Diaries: Deadly Friend”

  1. 1 Da said at 4:24 am on October 14th, 2014:

    Very, very good reviews, kudos my friends!

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