Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Deadly Friend


Oh, boy! The 80s movies are some of the most entertaining features I’ve ever witnessed on the big screen when they were released, playing the VHS and seeing it on my 19” color TV a few years later, continuing to this day when I’m lucky enough to find them on Blu-Ray to view them on my HDTV. Yes, the glorious era of the cinematic 1980s, the decade I feel were the best years for cinema; those were the days where people waited in lines around the block to be the first to see the latest sci-fi, action, or horror flick. Now…kids go (if they go) to the movies to pass time and irritate movie fans like myself with their incessant talking and use of their cell phones, texting or Tweeting or Facebook status updating…UGH!

As you can see…the 80s was a great time for me…the years where I truly became aware of movies. The loving discovery, for instance, of horror movies, to be exact, is what I remember most about it. Back then, more than likely, you’d find me at Meridian Quad in the San Jose/Cupertino area (I never knew what city that was), either attending the latest movie, or be across the Quad in the arcade (do they even have arcades anymore?).

Midway through the 80s, the movies never slowed down and horror movies were the “in” thing, constantly released in theaters as obvious Friday the 13th or Halloween rip-offs, but we all loved them back then. The biggest and freshest one to come out during that time added a new horror icon to join the ranks of Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees…a nightmarish man named: Freddy Kruger!

Man, the first time I watched A Nightmare on Elm Street, it freaked me out! I didn’t want to go to sleep that night because that movie absolutely scarred my psyche for a long, long time! The movie catapulted Wes Craven in the limelight as the master of horror for the 80s and made him a household name (if your household was into horror movies). With hits like that, especially one as original as ANOES, the director is always expected to have a great follow-up to top what he or she had done already.

So, after directing a television movie called Chiller (which I remember seeing back then but didn’t know Craven directed it), horror fans couldn’t wait for his next feature film, Deadly Friend.

Whoa…I recollect seeing this film in theaters back in 1986, vividly recalling walking in late and not understanding what was going on.

The story begins with Paul Conway (Matthew Labyorteaux) and his mom travelling to their new home along with Paul’s robot, “B.B.”—a yellow robot, almost a distant cousin of Number 5 from Short Circuit who makes garbled sounds and constantly says his name. They finally get to their new home and right away Paul befriends the local newspaper delivery boy, Tom (Michael Sharrett) and has eyes for the next door neighbor girl, Sam (Kristy Swanson). Shortly thereafter, they become good friends, but it’s obvious Sam’s dad is abusive towards her as she shows up with bruises or a bloody nose. During a prank gone wrong, B.B.’s head is blown away by the psycho neighbor, Elvira (Anne Ramsey) and Paul’s devastated. He saves B.B.’s microchip as he explains that it’s the robot’s extraordinary brain. Later in the movie, there’s obvious love chemistry between Paul and Sam. but that night, Sam’s abusive father goes too far and pushes her down the stairs, causing her brain damage and resorting to her dying. But, as we see earlier in the film, Paul is prodigy in the neurology field in college and decides to take Sam’s body to fuse B.B.’s microchip to her brain. The result is deadly.

Yeah, the plot involving an artificially intelligent robot is absurd, having Paul be this brainy genius and knowing how to integrate a computer chip into a human brain is ludicrous, seeing Kristy Swanson walk around making Mr. Spock hands and showing her point-of-view as terrible resolution is laughable, but this movie is still entertaining. Really, you need to check your brain at the door and don’t put it back in your head until you are well out of range from this movie. It’s nostalgically 80s and cheesy, so you can’t go wrong if you’re a horror fan like me.

First off, at the beginning of the film, when you hear the sounds B.B. produces (voiced by Charles Fleischer of Who Framed Roger Rabbit fame) while constantly saying his name, you harken back a year to Gremlins and the sound they make as you say to yourself, “This doesn’t sound like a robot.” But if you can push that aside, the beginning of the film is believable and has a wonderful plot of boy-meets-girl, even the abusive father is believable (man, he just does not give a shit about her, does he?), but when they introduce the plotline of how Paul is this college wonder kid who has better neurological skills than the city’s best neurosurgeon, that’s when it becomes a little ridiculous.

As for the kill scenes (after all, this IS a horror movie), there’s a few involving revenge for both Sam and B.B., but the scene everybody remembers is the basketball to the head gag…I loved it! And although a little dated, the practical effects are still gory and brutal.

As for the filming location, it reminds me a lot of the set of Fright Night or the Universal Studios back lot. But seeing as this is a Warner Bros. film, it’s probably their back lot, which is one place I still have not visited so I can cross it off my bucket list.

The film is adapted from a bestselling book entitled, “Friend” by Diana Henstell. I’ve never read it, but I hear there are certain parts portrayed in the book that would’ve helped the movie if they’d adapted it to the screen. For instance, I heard that Sam slowly decomposes as the story goes on. I think that would’ve helped the creepiness a little if we saw Kristy Swanson start to decay rather than seeing her with that blue eye shadow around her eyes.

What’s my final “bit” on Deadly Friend?

The movie is another 80s film that you have to suspend disbelief—as well as logic—and just sit back and have a good time with it. Like most movies of its ilk, it’s there to entertain us, not teach us anything or preach to us…well…maybe a little bit. Like how you shouldn’t try to bring to life a dead girl with a robot’s computer brain.

Thanks for reading!

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