United States – 1986
Director – Wes Craven
Warner Home Video, 1987, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour, 31 minutes
Deadly Friend is a fun movie, one of those time wasters that I don’t regret having seen even though I can’t really think of a reason to watch it again. It came just after that period in the 80’s when exploitation/horror was huge, and successful movies that had small budget ideas were given the full treatment. It seems like the innovators in cinema at the time, the underground, indie directors and writers had suddenly been “discovered” by Hollywood and didn’t know what to do with all the money that suddenly fell in their lap.
Deadly Friend is a reminder that a lot of the hype was hyperbolic and most indie film artists are just like the rest of us; partly mediocre with a chance of brilliance. Wes Craven is a case in point, he has never been a great director. But he has occasionally made some damn good films, but all the stuff in between is pretty lame. His luck is in his timing. Last House On The Left and Nightmare on Elm Street were really good, but part of their appeal was in their moment. Since then the guy has pretty much coasted (as most of 'em do) on a couple of opportune hits.
Deadly Friend is fundamentally overwrought and nonsensical, pushed just over the edge into hyperbole. Everything looks a little artificial, from the soundstage sets to the character tropes to the very plot which revels in its abandonment of logic. It comes across like an episode of Small Wonder gone bad, (or good depending whether you like exploding heads or not, and I personally do.)
The robot/zombie Sam performs the saving grace of Deadly Friend in a clip uploaded by AdolAss.
But basically it’s a cheap riff on Frankenstein with the ohh-ahh effect of Radio-Shack electronics thrown into a robot that seems to be mocking people with Down’s Syndrome. And then there’s the hot neighbor girl Samantha (Kristie Swanson) who the protagonist must use his inexplicable skill to resurrect into a robot/zombie reminiscent of the previous year's Re-Animator. Sounds like a thousand movies I’ve seen before, all from the same period in history. But damned if I can’t help but love ‘em for all their crude features, and I guess, well, I might have to watch Deadly Friend again.
This UK video sleeve from Itsonlyamovie.co.uk.