One of the many movies I first saw when I was a kid that didn’t really cater to the Disney movie standards enforced on me by my parents, that incidentally enough helped nurture my love for movies, was Wes Craven’s 1986 horror romance “Deadly Friend.” For those completely unaware, “Deadly Friend” one of the least notable Wes Craven horror pictures even if it’s his most creative after “Nightmare on Elm Street.” Merging a science fiction killer robot concept with a revenge plot, director Craven tells 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. BB is the product of the ET generation and is considered a technical marvel. The problem with BB, though, 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 (Kristy Swanson about as gorgeous as ever) dies at the hands of her abusive father, he replaces her brain with the now wrecked BB, and the downhill slope begins. 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 goofier aspects of the film is writer Bruce Joel Rubin’s 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 premise progressively worsens 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 after the mysterious death where her father is the number one suspect. Ah, small towns. The climax also fails, as after all the obvious murders are committed, Sam and Paul have a showdown that’s very reminiscent of “American Werewolf in London.” 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 writer 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 woefully boring events lead to our cheesy antagonist conveniently arriving when the shit 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 while Paul anxiously attempts to snap her out of her murder spree.
I won’t even mention the utterly confusing ending that remains ambiguous to this day. Was it all just a dream sequence? Did BB take over Sam’s body? I’m still confused about that aspect. As an odd genre hybrid “Deadly Friend” is still watchable in spite of failing to really be a Craven classic. Kristy Swanson is that ideal boyhood crush and still inspires googly eyes by yours truly, her death is still sad, and the revenge bits are still gory fun. Like most of Wes Craven’s films, though, “Deadly Friend” has not aged well and has become progressively cheesier as the years pass.