Now here is a Wes Craven movie that he probably wishes no one remembered. From 1986, it’s Deadly Friend. It’s a classic love story. You know the type. Computer genius boy invents A.I. robot. Boy meets girl. Girl dies. Boy sticks A.I. into her brain and creates an abomination that is an insult to God. Re-animated girl goes on a violent killing spree.
Yeah, it is that crazy! Deadly Friend is also a victim of major studio interference. Originally it was more of a thriller without the graphic horror elements. The old, reliable “test audience” wanted more gore. The big brains at the studio did what they do best and we got the much more violent and absurd theatrical cut.
The story follows a boy who is a genius. He’s invented a robot that is about as smart as your average Twitter blue checkmark bot. It isn’t very good at following the 3 laws of robotics though, and shows it has no qualms with causing humans pain.
The kid moves to a new town to attend the local Poly-Tech and meets his new neighbor, Kristy Swanson, whose Dad is abusive and obviously a pedo. A nascent romantic relationship buds in the garden of A.I. and we get to see her jealous father react.
During a Halloween prank gone wrong, an old woman who could pass as my Grandma blows the robot away, destroying its body. The brain is saved though. Thankfully… because it comes in handy later.
After coming home late one night, Swanson’s Dad smacks her and pushes her down a flight of steps which results in brain damage, then brain death. The boy genius is understandably upset at this. His very first girlfriend died before he could even get to 2nd base. He gets the bright idea to insert BB the robot’s computer brain into Swanson’s brain to repair and re-route the brain damage. He and his pal swipe her body from the hospital once her Dad has the plug pulled, and then he manifests his inner Dr Frankenstein.
The operation is a success! Kinda. Like the story of the Monkey’s Paw, be careful what you wish for. Swanson comes back weird. She has the aggression of the robot, the knowledge that she is now a man-made horror beyond comprehension, and her own desire for revenge.
She goes on a killing spree starting with her own Dad. She tortures him a bit then shoves his head into a furnace. Next up is the old woman who shot BB the robot. She cures her dandruff problem by throwing a basketball at her so hard it explodes her head like a watermelon hit with a shotgun. Impossible but it looks rad as hell. Chef’s kiss noise.
She gets crazier from there and things spiral out of control for a very insane and dark ending.
The re-shoots to change the movie from a dark, romantic sci-fi thriller to a make-shift horror film really made for a strange tone. It feels as patched together as Frankenstein’s monster. The gore effects look great though. And even Swanson has a pale, slowly rotting corpse-like complexion after her quasi-resurrection. The robot looks stupid as hell and its vocalizations are unintentionally hilarious.
Apparently, there has been an effort for years to get Craven’s original cut of the film released. I’d like to see that. But I won’t hold my breath. Deadly Friend is a mess, but its fun enough for the extremely graphic kill scenes. Watch it at least once in your life.
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