Before running around staking vampires with Donald Sutherland, Kristy Swanson was causing microchip mayhem in Wes Craven’s Deadly Friend. If I’m honest, I’ve never understood the appeal of Wes Craven, specifically the movies he’s most widely recognized for. I mean, there’s a bright spot here and there with some of the lesser known titles, but…I just don’t get it. I immediately found Freddy Krueger to be kind of annoying and off-putting. Nightmare On Elm Street never struck me as anything but silly, and although I’ve given Last House On The Left more than enough chances, I still don’t get what people find so praiseworthy about it. I’m a much bigger fan of stuff like Deadly Blessing, Shocker, The Serpent And The Rainbow, and obviously Deadly Friend.
Don’t get me wrong. This semi-romantic retelling of Frankenstein is not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but hot damn is it fun! Paul is a teenage genius going to Polytech on a scholarship where he’s involved in brain research. In an early scene, he demonstrates how he was electronically able to partly reanimate a cadaver while his mentor looks on in father-like concern.
We also meet BB, Paul’s AI-powered robot. BB is pretty cute with his round little head and Chopping Mall-like chassis. Gotta wonder if there’s a BB-8 idea or two that developed from this.
Paul makes (as in “becomes friends with,” not “creates” although…well you’ll see) two new friends, Tom the paperboy and Samantha the cute girl next door. And now, spoiler time. First, our three young friends, accompanied by BB, have a number of adolescent hijinks throughout the summer and fall. This includes a Halloween prank gone horribly wrong which results in BB’s heartbreaking destruction. Seriously, I misted up a little. Anyway. Time passes. Cue The Myth Of The Special Day–Sam joins Paul and his mother for Thanksgiving dinner. Paul walks Sam home, and they have their first kiss. That night, she suffers an accidental head injury at the hands of her abusive drunk of a father. Oopsie.
Little bit of backstory, earlier when Paul’s mom questions Sam about her dad’s abuse, Sam says “Sometimes I wanna roll a truck over his face, but he’s my father.” Them are some solid, respectable family values for ya right there.
Well, aforen you know it she ends up comatose in the hospital followed by the obligatory “nothing else we can do” spiel which Paul is having none of. When the decision is made to turn off her life support, he hatches a plan with Tom to save her–a plan that involves putting BB’s processor brain in Sam’s head (a mildly gruesome little scene). They end up having to snatch her from the hospital and hide her in the less-than-antiseptic environs of Paul’s garage. Oddly, there is no subplot whatsoever involving the search for the missing corpse of a head injury victim. Huh.
Of course Paul’s plan works. Kinda. Sam is basically being driven by BB’s brain after all. BB also seemed to be developing a little bit of a mean streak up to this point, and Sam continues down that path. I’m not gonna say carnage ensues because the body count is pretty minimal, but the people you hate early on definitely get there gory comeuppance. Oh, and I’ve got just one word for all you Fear No Evil fans out there–basketball.
It’s said that the movie was originally shot as a PG sci-fi love story that did not test well. To that end, it often looks like it could totally have been a Full Moon feature complete with its accompanying 80s synthesizer score. Apparently, though, people wanted it gorier since it was Wes Craven. Based on the end result, I’m confident that I would have hated the original. Either way, Kristy Swanson is a blast to watch. Her vacant stare and robotic movements work nicely done–apparently she worked with a mime. She even moves her arms and hands like mechanical pincers.
BODIES- 4 onscreen
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