Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, December 22, 2016


Kristy Swanson and Matthew Labyorteaux
DEADLY FRIEND (1986). Director: Wes Craven.

A brilliant student named Paul (Matthew Labyorteaux) moves to a new town with his mother, Jeanne (Anne Twomey), and a talking robot he built called "BB." Paul makes two friends: a pretty next-door neighbor named Samantha (Kristy Swanson) and a good buddy named Tom (Michael Sharrett). When Sam is killed by her abusive father, Paul decides to bring her back to life by using circuits from BB implanted in her brain. Needless to say, the experiment doesn't go well, and Sam loses her sweet disposition ... Deadly Friend has an excellent, if absurd, premise, but it seems determined to schlock it down as much as possible, with foolish "gross out" scenes substituting for pseudo-scientific drama. It's especially a shame because the movie sets up interesting situations and is well-acted by the entire cast. Swanson and Labyorteaux (billed without the "y" in this film) make a good couple, Sharrett is adept and appealing, and Anne Ramsey, with a face like a baked potato, nearly walks off with the movie as the hateful old woman with a shotgun, Elvira Parker. At one point The Bad Seed -- a much, much better movie -- is playing on television, and another in-joke has a man who resembles Freddy Krueger popping up from Paul's mattress in a nightmare. Reportedly the film was messed with against Craven's objections, because it certainly looks as if the powers-that-be didn't trust that a movie with a weird plot like this could play without adding gratuitous gore and so on. It may also be that Craven was simply the wrong director for the film.

Verdict: Just misses being a really interesting outre thriller. **1/2.

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