Deadly Friend (1986)
Writer: Screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin
Director: Wes Craven
Starring: Matthew Laborteaux as Paul
Kristy Swanson as Samantha
Michael Sharrett as Tom
Anne Twomey as Jeannie
Anne Ramsey as Elvira
Richard Marcus as Harry
Quick Cut: It's just another quiet day in a quiet town, until an artificially intelligent robot moves in next door, gets blown up, and has his CPU implanted into a girl.
Paul - Our, uh, hero. Such as he is. Paul is your typical genius before his time. He and Wesley Crusher would have been great friends, I think. He's BB's creator, super smart, and somehow not your typical nerd. There's no social awkwardness, otuside of the new kid in town syndrome, and he can actually kick some ass.
Sam - The girl next door, quite literally. She takes an instant shine to Paul, as he is a nice guy, and she is looking for a way out from under her abusive father.
Tom - Paul's new best friend in town, who gets short shrift in the personality department, really. He's pretty much defined by his klutziness. His only purpose is to serve as Paul's minion, and occasional voice of reason, for the most part
BB - Ahh, the robot. Paul's creation, and he seems to have more of a personality than Tom. He's protective of his friends, overly so, and probably smarter and more self aware than anyone suspects.
THE GUTS: Ahh, another Wes Craven movie. It has been awhile, has it not?
Deadly Friend starts off innocently enough, with a guy breaking into a truck to steal a purse, until he's attacked by the robotic arm of BB. Fortunately for our would-be thief, the owners of the truck come out, and BB lets the guy go before he can be executionaled. He scurries away as the robot closes the door the guy rudely left open.
The van pulls off, leaving the crook to wonder at what the Lovecraft just happened, and probably swearing to never tell a soul. And sadly for us, it leaves our body count stuck at zero.
The new family and their pet robot soon arrive at their new home. They quickly are introduced to Tom, who takes a spill on his bike in front of BB and his creator. We get a brief infodump on how Paul created BB and somehow perfected AI before anyone else. Right. Okay, fine, he's a modern day Doogie Howser, and attending college already, but still!
The slapstick continues as BB needs to recharge, and single clawedly shoves a piano out of the way to reach an outlet. Oh dear, did I grab a comedy by accident?
Now, you too can have your very own robot companion! He'll accompany you to your new college lab! He'll carry an umbrella for you in the rain! He'll do yardwork while muttering incomprehensible tunes in his own language! Yes, that's right, it's BB! From CravenCorp!
BB is the first to meet the girl next door, Samantha. Paul quickly joins the pair of them before his robot can show her its floppy drive. Paul notices there are bruises on Sam's arm, but she quickly covers it up, and they change the subject. The creator of those marks pokes his head out, and Sam zooms on home so he can probably make more of them.
Later, Paul and BB join Tom on his paper route, and they get introduced to the paranoid next door neighbour, Elvira. Or as you might know her, Mama Fratelli. She freaks out at the sight of BB, and tries to shoo them away.
As they continue on, the local bullies turn up and harass the trio. But BB don't play that, and grabs their leader by his own set of BBs. It works, and the bullies run off. But don't worry, they'll be back with a bucket of water!! Seriously, half the robot's circuitry is exposed to open air.
Sam tries to visit later on, but is dragged back home by her dad. He then proceeds to terrorise her while she sleeps. Just as I'm shouting at Buffy to stake the asshat, she grabs a vase, breaks it in half, and plunges it into his chest! And this was her screentest, wasn't it?
Blood shoots everywhere out of the vase, and just as this is getting awesome, aside from dad's overacting, Sam wakes up from the nightmare. What a tease, movie.
The three kids we're expected to give a crap about are playing basketball the next day, and give the ball to BB. He's nice enough to toss it over the fence into crazy Elvira's yard. Paul tries to climb over and get it, but Momma throws the basketball from the porch into her house, before he can even get a leg over.
BB stares at the house, and we get a shot of BB-vision where everything goes red. Or possibly Predator-vision. Heck, he almost clicks like one...
ANYways, Halloween must be around the corner, or else Paul and his mom just like carving pumpkins. As Mrs. Conway scoops out the pumpkin brains, Sam shows up with a bloody nose. Naturally she tries to make an excuse, but Paul's mom sees through it and tries to convince her to do something. Something that is nothing.
Later, the gang heads out in costume, and decides to prank Elvira, by having BB open the combination lock on the fence. Which must be a pain for any normal person, including Elvira, who wants to get in or out. Ever hear of a 'key', lady? That's such a pain in the ass...
I do like how they've crafted clever ways to show off BB's abilities. Moving the piano, cracking the lock by literally just blazing through every combination in a brute force attack... Good groundwork, and it was worked reasonably well into the story. Aside from anyone wanting to try and undo a combination lock to leave their house, they make sense for things you might encounter.
Paul decides BB is acting weird and shuts him down, so Sam heads up to knock on the door. As she's about to freak out the crazy lady, her alarms go off. The kids hide, and Momma runs out with her shotgun. BB reactivates, eyes glowing red, and presents himself as an easy target to save his creator.
Some time later, Sam somehow manages to have dinner at the Conway's, but she makes the mistake of kissing Paul on the way home, where her drunken, abusive father can see. He confronts his daughter at the top of the stairs, and smacks her right back down. Sam's brain breaks her fall, and she is taken away to the hospital.
The doctors declare her brain dead, and tell Paul there was nothing they could do. Paul does not take the news of losing another friend well, and runs off.
He finds BB's brainchip, and conspires with Tom to save the damsel in braindistress. If they were normal teenagers, this would sound like the typical scheme to sneak out at night to go to a concert. Instead, replace that with going to the hospital, and doing brain surgery.
After Paul drugs his mom to pass out, they rush off before they unplug the girl. Tom waits to switch off the power to give Paul a diversion, but they're too late, as Sam's dad urges the doctors to turn off the machines early.
That doesn't stop Paul though, and he takes Sam's dead body anyways. Tom kinda spazzes out. It was already bad enough all the other laws they were breaking, but now add corpse stealing to that? At least they don't plan to grind it into cat food.
After some Frankenstein like surgery, they get Sam back together, mostly, and hope for the best. Paul pulls out BB's remote, to switch her on. Seriously.
Nothing seemingly happens at first, but Paul is convinced he saw a toe move. Thomas doubts this greatly, until Sam's whole leg twitches, almost kicking him in the head. Once they've gotten her rebooted, the pair take her back to Paul's place and store her in the shed like any other piece of equipment. And inside, it looks like Paul may have overly drugged his mom and killed her.
But no, she's alive. Oh, the hilarious madcap mixups...OF ALMOST KILLING YOUR MOM.
Once everyone's gone, Paul returns to the shed to try and reteach Sam pretty much everything, starting with sitting up. Umm. See, this is the problem, right here. He brought back a vegetable. Even if she does regain full mobility and such, how much of her will *really* be Sam? But, the heart wants what the heart wants, so they say.
That night, Paul hears some noises, and checks on his pet cucumber, but she's gone missing. Well, on the upside, she's a fast learner, whomever she is now.
He finds her standing by a window, just staring at her father. And Paul seems rather surprised that she can stand. I guess it's fast, but his BB brainchip is supposed to be pretty quick on the learning curve, and it just has to repair around the damage, with most of the stuff intact, right?
The next day, Sam has gone missing again, and Paul runs around trying to find her. So much for the off switch, pal. He might be having trouble tracking down Sam, but her dad has no problem, as he first finds a raging fire in his basement.
A person under the stairs appears, as Sam lunges out and pulls her dad down to the wooden steps. He doesn't even scream. It's quite a shocker to see her alive and well, as she approaches him menacingly. I like the little detail of Swanson holding her hands to best mimic BB's three-fingered claws.
He tries to attack her with a shovel, but she takes the weapon away with ease. Sam returns it to him, by flinging it across the room and embedding it in the wall of the tiny room. She backs her dad up against the furnace, snaps his wrist, and holds him in the air as his clothing and flesh cooks against the hot metal. Finally, she snaps his neck, and it is probably more a mercy than anything else.
And the movie has officially turned. Up to this point, it was brightly lit, middle American sort of fair. It almost could have been a sitcom. But slowly, the palette of the movie grew darker, as did the tone. As horror crept more and more into the plot, we stayed more in the darkness, more in the shadows, and even the brighter sets faded to more darkened lighting, while still remaining the same sets. That's some nice storytelling through visuals. With the death of Sam's dad, I don't think we see much daylight from here on.
Paul is still running around outside, and he finally notices all the smoke pouring out of Sam's house. He hurries over to see if her dad is just burning a tv dinner again, but instead finds his girlfriend standing over her dad's body. Who's head has been stuffed into the furance.
He tries to drag the body out, and ends up burying it amongst the coal in the cellar. And really, wouldn't it just be better to let the body and the house burn? He was a drunk, accidents happen. Accidents where he sets his head on fire, and then crawls under a pile of coal, however, do not.
Meanwhile, over at the Fratelli's, Mama is watching some tv, and just so happens to look out the window and see Sam staring back. She calls the police, and it is no surprise that they just brush it off as crazy old Elvira again.
They call back to the earlier break-in, as Sam uses her new BB-given powers to mimic his cracking the lock trick. I could nitpick this on so many levels. But I'm going to say that the chip still had the actual code stored in memory, so she already knew it.
And then they call back the basketball, as it slowly bounces across the floor. It's very Stephen King-like, this moment of something utterly normal, except under these circumstances, the connotations behind it, what the ball means, and the slow motion, give it a sense of slight dread. King was a master at the terror of the mundane, and this isn't as good, but it is a very nice attempt.
Elvira locks the place back up after the break-in, and just as she thinks she is safe, Sam jumps the old woman, manuevering her against the wall. Elvira screams, as one of the best cinematic deaths occurs; Sam picks up the basketball, and flings it with such speed and force that it makes Elvira's head explode into a bloody spray.
The death is made all the better at just how long that headless body wanders around like a chicken, spurting blood, until it finally falls over. Oh, that is just glorious.
And the capper to it all is, we see things from Sam's point of view, and she now sees the world in pixelly BB-vision. Again, I'd nitpick that, but let's just say that the chip is now handling the visual processing, so is doing the best it can to get the signals from the eyes to the brain.
The darkness and awesome continues, as Paul wakes up to some noise, and we see something moving out of the corner of our eyes. We watch as something moves around under the covers of the bed. It almost gives off the impression of a girlfriend slinkily moving around udnerneath to seduce her boyfriend. But no! This being a Wes Craven movie, the answer is revealed to be far, far worse when Paul throws back the sheets.
The only downside being, that was all a nightmare.
Paul heads downstairs to get some milk, and is surprised by his robot girlfriend, and the noise wakes up Paul's mom. Now, most kids have to hide their girlfriend from their parents at one time or another. But I bet Paul is the only one who has ever had to do it because she's supposed to be dead and buried.
Once that's taken care of, Paul sneaks the living dead girl up to the attic. The attic that his room is the only access to. Good thing they established this almost empty storage space early on in the film, or I'd question it's convenience more.
Across the street, the cops finally show up to check on Elvira, and oops! They found a corpse. And they also find Sam's dad wit his face burnt off when they go to make sure that the missing dead girl isn't over there. This is why you never let a robot kill. Once it has a taste for blood...
Later, Sam breaks out of the attic, which wasn't terribly difficult, and looks around Paul's room. She finds a picture of the two of them with BB, and finally sees her reflection. She kinda freaks out, and I would too if I saw the makeup artist make me look that way.
Before Paul's mom can investigate the clattering upstairs, Paul comes home and distracts her. He checks on his science project, but is soon interrupted by a call from Tom wanting to know what the hell, man??
So, Tom comes over for a scene of extreme awkwardness. He's supposed to be freaking out that Sam is killing people, and that's fine. But Paul takes him up to the attic to show him Sam, and then Tom spazzes, and runs away. But there's no real reason. Sam wasn't being threatening. He already knew Sam was kinda alive. He helped stab a chip in her brain, after all. Is he just making like Kermit the Frog introducing the best guest host ever because she's standing? Wouldn't that be obvious from him thinking she's a killer?
I do not understand you humans and your emotions sometimes!
Tom wants to call the cops, and that at least makes sense. Paul continues to be blinded by love, and they get into a fight. Paul pops his friend in the nose just in time for his mom to come home and talk about all the classes he's been missing at the college. Things go from bad to worse, as Tom hurries off to bring in the authorities. But before that can happen, Sam flings herself out the window in the world's most insanely awesome tackle.
She beats Tom's already punched face into the ground, and when Mrs. Conway tries to stop the fight, oh this. This is brilliant. Sam uses Tom as a cudgel to beat Paul's mom out of the way. Now, that's creative. Especially for the time period.
Paul finally sees the light, and tries to stop Sam. He slaps her to try and bring her to her senses, but she just starts strangling Paul, next. See, this is why we have Asimov's Laws, people. Always program them into your killbots. Fortunately, she actually does have a moment of clarity, and runs away before killing Paul.
Sam runs away, muttering out one of the robot's signiature gutteral "BB!" that it made until it was shot to deactivational. As Paul gives chase, he is caught by the leader of the bullies from earlier. Yeah, remember him?
I must say, it is refreshing for the otherwise nerdy kid to actually get a few licks in. The bully mocks BB's death, and Paul pounces. He actually tackles the guy to the ground, over his motorbike. And for a moment, Paul has enough of the upper hand to get in a few punches. Hooray for nerds! Even if they are psychotic grave robbers.
Still, strength, size, and experience win out eventually, and the bully does kick Paul's ass. At least until BB calls out, and Sam approaches. I'm not sure which freaks the punk out more. Hearing BB's voice, or seeing Sam alive. Let's just go with C) all of the above.
I like that the BB callbacks continue as she picks the guy up by the balls. She has him in a good grip as the cops arrive to make her stop. She hurls the kid into the windsheild of the cruiser, and runs off. The cops are a little too stunned to follow immediately.
Paul chases Sam, and the cops chase them both, until the kids somehow manage to outrun every cop car back to the Conway's storage shed. Paul tries to convince her to get help, and her graphics start to glitch, finally resolving to normal. I presume the Sam parts of the brain are finally starting to fire more than the BB parts.
Just as things are finally starting to get back to normal, the cops finally catch up with them, all their guns drawn. Sam continues to flicker between normality and BBality, and finally manages to speak with her own voice, instead of the robot's. But then she flashes back to BB, and moves to attack the sheriff, ending her life for a second time.
Sam gets taken to the morgue, to be dealt with later. Where Paul then shows up, because he has learned ABSOLUTELY NOTHING during the course of the entire movie.
Just as he's about to help his dead girlfriend back out of the hospital, the body springs to life and grabs Paul by the throat. And then, in what is one of my own, personally traumatic experiences from childhood, her FACE TEARS OFF REVEALING A NEW BB HEAD UNDERNEATH. WITH GIANT METAL FANGS.
Now, again, I could nitpick this actually being possible like all the other bits of roboticness she was taking on, but I'm just going to say...uh...um... Yeah, sorry. I can't No-Prize this one. This is straight up movie bullshit. But holy shit is it still absolutely terrifying.
I thought when I first remembered this movie, that scene would not be as bad, it would look cheesy, and yes. It does date a little. But all those old terrifying feelings of little Jason still come flooding back. And now I am all alone in a dark house in the early morning as I see it again.
On top of just her face, even her arms start peeling off, showing that she even has sophisticated robotic armatures underneath now. More BS, more horror.
And then BBSam snaps Paul's neck. And end of movie. Sigh. If the scare wasn't pretty good, I'd be more pissed at the movie ending like that. But then it gets undercut by very silly end credits music, which uses BB speak throughout.
Video - Pretty solid. Bright colours, good blacks, maybe a bit soft, but that's typical of 80s movies, especially ones sometimes going for a deliberate sitcom vibe.
Audio - Nothing spectacular, but nothing really amiss, either.
Body Count - Another movie that's light on the bodies, but what we get, eeee.
1 - The first death takes awhile to get to, when Sam is pushed down the stairs about 28 minutes in, making her brain dead. But they don't pull the plug for another 12 minutes when she actually dies. Either way, it doesn't last, so take it as you will.
2 - Once she's back, Sam kills her dad next.
3 - And then kills Elvira with a basketball to the face. TO THE FACE!
4 - I'm pretty sure the bully dies when his body crumples into the cop's windshield.
5 - And then Sam dies for a second time, but from lead poisoning. And again, it doesn't last long.
Best Corpse - How can I *not* go with Elvira's? That's the best death in this movie, and many others!
Blood Type - A: Oh sweet Christmas, this movie doesn't have a LOT of gore, but when it's there, it is good. Great, even. Papa Sam's charred head is gruesome and icky and scabby. The exploding head of Elvira is glorious, and the fact it lasts as long as it does is even better.
Sex Appeal - Nada, zilch, zero.
Movie Review - Okay, sure, this movie is cheesy. It's about a goofy robot that may well be a redressed Johnny 5 for real. The acting's not the best. But the story isn't half bad. The biggest failings are that some characters just aren't fleshed out much, and there really is no character arc. It's do stuff, do stuff do stuff, END. Paul learns nothing, Tom does nothing, BB and Sam are the only ones to progress, but then that all backslides with an evil killer robot head ending the movie. Three out of five lock combinations.
Entertainment Value - But it's fun. The deaths are glorious and creative and fun. BB is laughable in all the right ways. Kristy Swanson puts in a solid performance as Sam, and as the emotionless BB. You really believe she and the yellow robot are one and the same. Definitely good for some giggles. Four out of five bloody basketballs.