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  Deadly Friend Re-Animate 'er
Year: 1986
Director: Wes Craven
Stars: Matthew Laborteaux, Kristy Swanson, Michael Sharrett, Anne Twomey, Anne Ramsey, Richard Marcus, Russ Marin, Lee Paul, Andrew Roperto, Charles Fleischer, Robin Nuyen, Frank Cavestani, Merritt Olsen
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: A thief is skulking around a car park at night and opts to break into a camper van. But when he does, he is surprised by what he sees in the back, something he thinks is cute until it grabs him by the throat. When the owners return shortly after, the thief breaks free and hides - he's learnt his lesson. The thing that had grabbed hold of him was a robot called BB which had been invented by teenage prodigy Paul Conway (Matthew Laborteaux) who is travelling in the van with his single mother (Anne Twomey) to a new town so he can join the university there. However, it's his new next door neighbour Sam (Kristy Swanson) who captures his attention...

It was a long way from The Red Hand Gang to Deadly Friend for Matthew Laborteaux, as this was a daft cross between teen romance and grown up horror movie. This was the film Wes Craven chose to do after the worldwide success of A Nightmare on Elm Street, and needless to say it didn't reach the heights of its predecessor. It must have sounded good on paper: an adaptation of Diana Henstell's novel Friend (by future Ghost scribe Bruce Joel Rubin), aimed at the same audience that had gone to see Nightmare in their droves, hell there were even a couple of dream sequences in there for good measure.

So what went wrong? Perhaps it was the suspension of disbelief that was the problem, or the uncertainty of tone as the film started out like a kid's movie, with BB looking and sounding (thanks to Charles Fleischer on voiceover duties) like the cute sidekick in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon and therefore dominating the first half hour. Sam has problems of her own in the shape of her abusive father (Richard Marcus) who doesn't want her socialising, but she goes against his wishes and strikes up a friendship with nice guy Paul and his new best mate Tom (Michael Sharrett).

As Paul continues his research at the university as if he were Kurt Russell in a live action seventies Disney movie, things look as if they are going well: could there be love in the air? But come Halloween, it all goes horribly wrong when BB is blown away with a shotgun by cranky neighbour Anne Ramsey (essaying the role as only she could) and later on, Sam is pushed down the stairs by her bad dad and ends up in a coma. The doctors do all they can, but it's grim news and Sam has to have her life support turned off though Paul has other ideas with the technology he's developed.

As if it wasn't daft enough by this point, Paul kidnaps the body of Sam from the hospital and implants a chip into her brain that makes her come back to life just like his robot. Yet there are changes: now Sam wants revenge and for some inexplicable reason is now incredibly strong. Now, a mime coach is credited with helping Swanson with her performance as the panda-eyed Robo-Sam, but she seems to be doing a cliché Frankenstein's Monster act with her arms outstretched that anyone, small children included, could do with the minimum of tutoring. Sam begins bumping off those who did her wrong, but rather than an addition to the slasher movie, this more closely resembles an eighties teen version of a mad scientist flick from the thirties. It's not boring, no film with decapitation by basketball (!) could be that, but Deadly Friend will have you rolling your eyes at its relentless lack of credibility. Music by Charles Bernstein.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Wes Craven  (1939 - )

Intelligent American director, producer and writer, at his most effective when, perhaps paradoxically, he was at his most thoughtful. Controversial shocker Last House on the Left set him on a path of horror movies, the best of which are The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Serpent and the Rainbow, The People Under the Stairs, New Nightmare and Scream (which revitalised the slasher genre).

Less impressive are Deadly Blessing, Swamp Thing, the ridiculous Hills Have Eyes Part II, Deadly Friend, Shocker, Vampire in Brooklyn, Cursed and the successful Scream sequels (the last of which was his final movie). Music of the Heart was a change of pace for Craven, but not a hit, though aeroplane thriller Red Eye was a successful attempt at something different; My Soul To Take, an attempt at more of the same, flopped. One of the pioneers of the American new wave of horror of the 1970s and 80s, he brought a true edge, wit and imagination to the genre.

 
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