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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Wes Craven|
|Produced by||Robert M. Sherman|
|Screenplay by||Bruce Joel Rubin|
|Based on||Friend by Diana Henstell|
|Music by||Charles Bernstein|
|Cinematography||Philip H. Lathrop|
|Edited by||Michael Eliot|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|October 10, 1986 (US)|
|Box office||$8,988,731 (US)|
Originally, the film was a sci-fi thriller without any graphic scenes, with a bigger focus on plot and character development, and a dark love story centering around the two main characters, which were not typical aspects of Craven's previous films. After Craven's original director's cut was shown to a test audience, the audience criticized the lack of graphic, bloody violence and gore that Craven's films included. Warner Bros. vice president Mark Canton and the film's producers then demanded script re-writes and re-shoots, which included filming gorier death scenes and nightmare sequences, similar to the ones from Craven's previous horror film, A Nightmare on Elm Street. Due to studio imposed re-shoots and re-editing, the film was drastically altered in post-production, losing much of the original plot and more scenes between characters, while other scenes, including bloodier deaths and a new ending, were added.
Although fans have been clamoring for the release of Craven's original version in a special edition, Warner Bros. currently has no plans to release a director's cut of Deadly Friend. In April of 2014, an online petition for the release of the original cut was made. Fans suggested that both versions (the theatrical cut and the original director's cut) should be released in a special edition by Shout!/Scream Factory.
In a parking lot, a thief tries to steal from a Volkswagen van but a robot named BB (voiced by Charles Fleischer) stops him by grabbing this throat. BB lets go of the dazed thief as soon as Paul Conway (Matthew Laborteaux) and his mother Jeannie (Anne Twomey) return from shopping and drive away in the van. Paul is the owner of BB, which he built. They arrive at their new house in the town of Welling the next day.
Paul soon become friends with newspaper delivery boy Tom Toomey (Michael Sharrett). Paul has a university scholarship at Polytech due to his vast intelligence and interests in neurology and artificial intelligence. As they move in, BB's batteries run low. The robot, which occasionally shows signs of autonomy, plugs himself into an electrical socket to charge up. At the university, Paul, Jeannie, and BB meet Paul's professor, Dr. Johanson (Russ Marin), who gives them a tour of Paul's new laboratory.
A few days later, Paul and BB are cleaning the yard. Paul meets his next-door neighbor, Samantha Pringle (Kristy Swanson). Paul notices some bruises on her arm but Samantha tries to hide them. Samantha's busive, alcoholic father, Harry (Richard Marcus), soon comes outside and stares at her menacingly. Samantha is frightened and returns to her father. That night, Samantha visits Paul and Jeannie to give them a housewarming gift. Her father soon drags Samantha home and beats her.
Tom helps Paul teach BB to deliver newspapers. They stop at the house of reclusive harridan Elvira Parker (Anne Ramsey), who threatens the boys with a loaded shotgun and expresses dislike for BB. As the three three walk away, Tom reveals that his father is a security guard at the university hospital. Walking further, they encounter a motorcycle gang led by biker punk bully Carl (Andrew Roperto). After Carl pushes Paul onto garbage bags, BB grabs Carl's crotch. The gang rides away, with Carl vowing revenge.
Paul, Samantha, Tom, and BB develop a close friendship. One day, they play basketball in the neighborhood. BB accidentally tosses the ball onto Elvira's porch. She stomps out of her house and takes the ball, refusing to give it back. BB's eyes freeze on Elvira as if he will never forget the insult.
On Halloween night, Samantha comes over with a bloody nose and asks for ice. Paul and Jeannie believe that her father is abusing her. Samantha goes out with Paul, Tom, and BB. Tom decides to pull a prank on Elvira. BB unlocks her gate and Samantha rings her doorbell. Alarms go off and they hide in the shrubbery. Elvira finds BB standing near her porch and shoots the robot. Paul is devastated by the loss of his friend, while Tom blames himself for suggesting the stunt.
On Thanksgiving Day, Paul and Jeannie eat dinner with Samantha. Afterwards, Paul and Samantha share their first kiss. Samantha returns home late at night, outraging her father, who punches her in the face and pushes her down the stairs, causing her to be rushed to the hospital. Samantha is left brain-dead. Dr. Johanson tells Paul that she will be put on life support for twenty-four hours and then the plug will be pulled. Paul remembers how BB's microchip links artificial intelligence with the human brain, and runs to Tom's house. With an idea in mind, he asks him for his father's keys to the hospital to sneak into Samantha's room and bring her back to life when the plug is pulled. They get the keys, and enter the hospital as Tom deactivates hospital power from the basement, Dr. Johanson pulls the plug on Samantha. When the hospital goes dark, Paul enters Samantha's room and drags her to his lab. Paul's inserts the microchip into Samantha's brain and brandishes his remote control, attempting to activate Samantha. Samantha's foot moves, causing Tom to faint. Paul takes Samantha to the shed at his house and activates her. She opens her eyes mechanically and starts to breathe, with her hands in the position of BB's pincers as Paul teaches her to sit up.
The police arrive at Samantha's home and inform Harry that her body has disappeared. In the middle of the night, Paul finds Samantha staring at the window, looking at her father. Paul deactivates her. The next morning, Paul awakens and sees that Samantha is gone. He searches for her in the street, but there is no sign of her. Samantha is at her house, avenging herself upon her father. Harry finds the cellar door open and goes downstairs. Samantha yanks her father off his feet and drags him to the furnace. She breaks his wrist and then kills him by snapping his neck. Paul finds her in the cellar and sees her father's head burning. Horrified, he hides the corpse in a pile of coal. He goes home with Samantha and locks her in his bedroom.
That night, Samantha breaks free again. This time, she avenges herself upon Elvira for shooting BB. Elvira calls the police, but they hang up on her. A basketball bounces ominously in her living room indicating that Samantha has broken in. Samantha, now developing superhuman strength, corners Elvira and throws her at the wall of her living room. As Elvira screams at the top of her lungs, Samantha decapitates her with the basketball, her head exploding away from her shoulders. Elvira's decapitated body then walks in circles, spurting blood and gore until it finally lays dead on the floor.
Police discover Elvira's and Harry's corpses. When Tom learns that Samantha is killing people, Paul promises things will change. Tom refuses to budge, and the two fight. Samantha jumps out a window and attacks Tom, believing that he has injured Paul. Paul and Jeannie save Tom, but Samantha runs away. As Paul runs after her, Carl confronts him. As a police car arrives, Samantha throws Carl into the car's windshield. As she runs off, she is confronted by the police. She makes her way back to Paul's shed. Paul meets her there and tries to comfort her. He is amazed as he realizes that Samantha is becoming more human. She even says his own name tenderly. The police arrive and point at Paul. Samantha yells Paul's name and the police shoot. The bullet hits Samantha, who was defending Paul. She dies in his arms.
Later, Paul visits Samantha in the morgue and tries to escape with her. Samantha's arm grabs Paul's neck and Samantha's face rips apart, only to reveal a more vicious and psychopathic version of BB himself with Samantha's voice, revealing that BB was growing inside Samantha all along after the microchip was implanted in her brain, while we see Samantha's/BB's arms melting to reveal skeletal/metal robot arms as Paul tries to break free from Samantha's/BB's grip. Samantha/BB tells Paul to come with her in which Paul refuses and screams out "No!" while off-screen, Samantha/BB snaps Paul's neck, seemingly killing him. The film ends by showing the morgue's doors and then fading to black. The credits roll with a chant by BB.
- Matthew Laborteaux as Paul Conway, a highly intelligent boy and the protagonist of the film.
- Kristy Swanson as Samantha Pringle, a girl who lives next door to Paul and the titular deadly friend. Sam is also Paul's love interest.
- Michael Sharrett as Tom Toomey, the local newspaper boy and Paul's friend.
- Anne Twomey as Jeannie Conway, Paul's concerned mother.
- Richard Marcus as Harry Pringle, Samantha's abusive, alcoholic father.
- Anne Ramsey as Elvira Parker, a mean old neighbor who gets her head exploded by a basketball slam on impact by Sam (when she is resurrected).
- Lee Paul as Sergeant Volchek, who kills Sam at the end of the film.
- Charles Fleischer as BB (voice), an intelligent robot built by Paul who gets shot down by Elvira.
- Russ Marin as Dr. Johanson, who welcomes Paul into the university he has a scholarship to.
- Andrew Roperto as Carl, the leader of a biker punk gang who bullies Tom, Paul, and BB earlier in the movie. During the climax, he gets thrown by Samantha into the windshield of a car (the impact killing him) while attacking Paul.
Differences between the book and movie
- Paul and Tom's nicknames in the book, Piggy and Slime, respectively, are never mentioned in the film.
- In the book, the robot's name is spelled Bee Bee. In the film, Bee Bee is shortened to BB.
- Elvira's last name in the film is Parker. Her last name in the book is Williams.
- In the film, Samantha and Paul are in their mid-teens. In the book, Sam is around twelve years old and Paul is only thirteen.
- The persona of Dr. Johanson differs greatly between the book and the film. In the film, he is a friendly man who welcomes Paul to the university. In the book, he is stubborn, ignorant, and grouchy, clashing with Paul on several occasions.
- In the film, Harry's abusing of Sam is given little to no explanation. In the book, Harry's wife and Sam's mother, Grace, left Harry for another man because of his violent ways, thus whenever he abuses Sam, he sees it as him beating Grace because she and Sam look so similar to one another and he treats Sam more like a wife than a daughter.
- In the film, BB is killed when Elvira blows him apart with a shotgun. In the book, the shotgun is still the instrument of BB's destruction, but it is Samantha's father who wields the weapon, and he beats BB to death with it.
- In the book, the re-animated Samantha becomes more and more corpse-like as the story progresses.
- The infamous basketball decapitation scene is not present in the book. In the book, Sam murders Elvira by drowning her in her bathtub.
- The ending of the book is totally different from the ending in the film, in which Sam turns into a robot that closely resembles BB before snapping Paul's neck off-screen. The book ends at a moment in which Sam and Paul are on a bridge, fighting in the rain. Sam is on top of Paul, and Paul, thinking that Sam is trying to kill him, kicks her so hard that she goes over the railing and crashes through the ice below. Paul then realizes that Sam wasn't trying to kill him, but rather trying to take him with her when she would have jumped anyway, because, "...she did not want to go into the darkness alone. She wanted him with her." Paul then swan dives off the bridge, with the final line of the book being Paul's final thought: "So this is what love comes to."
Director Wes Craven and screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin's original vision for the film was to be a PG-rated supernatural science fiction thriller with the primary focus being on the dark, macabre, romantic love story between Paul and Samantha, as well as a secondary focus on the adults around them. Craven filmed this version of the film and Warner Bros. decided to screen it to a test audience mostly consisting of Wes Craven's fans. The response from fans was negative, criticizing the lack of violence and gore seen in Craven's previous films. The studio eventually discovered Craven's popularity as a horror film director. The executive vice president of Warner Bros. at the time, Mark Canton, demanded Rubin write six additional gore scenes into his script, each bloodier then the last. Rubin worked very hard with Craven to create a deep and heartfelt film out of his screenplay. Unfortunately, added gore scenes, re-shoots, and post production re-editing heavily changed the original story. Craven and Rubin expressed strong anger at the studio and they later virtually disowned the film.
Wes Craven wasn’t attracted to the story of Deadly Friend because Samantha goes on a killing spree when she’s revived as an undead monster. Craven was much more interested in exploring the adults around her, all of whom seem to be monsters in human skin. In his own words: "The scares don’t come from her, but from the ordinary people, who are actually much more frightening. A father who beats a child is a terrifying figure. That’s the one person you’re afraid of in the movie. The idea is along the lines that adults can be horrible, without being outside what society says is acceptable."
In an interview with Fangoria, actress Kristy Swanson, who plays Samantha, said that she found herself and the other actors caught up in the studio's attempts to strong-arm Craven into making the film more visceral than what was originally intended. During both production and re-shoots, changes to the script were being made, title changes were being discussed, and there were many discussions about how violent and bloody the final film would be. All of these issues also caused some problems for the actors.
In another interview for ugo.com, Swanson also talked about problems that movie had during production: "I was aware of some of it. I didn’t know that that was his first studio picture. He already had a name for himself, so I just assumed that he made studio movies. But we did have a lot of producers so I guess he might have had a problem with too many chefs. I know Wes was trying to make a film that wasn’t so horror. It was based on a book called Friend and our script was originally called Friend and Bruce Joel Rubin wrote the script and he went on to write Ghost. So I think Wes was trying to make sort of a Bride of Frankenstein-type film but then about three or four weeks into filming, Warner Bros. changed the name of the movie to Deadly Friend and added dream sequences and blood and gore. I remember Wes being a little perplexed by that. At that time in his career, he was trying to do something different. Other than that, I really enjoyed working with Wes. He has a really fun, wicked sense of humor. It was a good experience."
Craven had a hand in selecting Bruce Joel Rubin to write the screenplay for Deadly Friend. Rubin agreed with Craven that the film should have a gentler tone than his other features. Craven couldn't write the script himself because he was directing episodes of Twilight Zone at the time. Rubin wrote two more afterlife-themed movies: Ghost and Jacob's Ladder. Unlike Deadly Friend, both films were critically and financially successful. The reason why Craven and producer Robert M. Sherman hired Rubin as the screenwriter is because they read his (at the time) unproduced script for Jacob's Ladder.
Much like Deadly Friend, Jacob's Ladder had similar problems with script and negative test screenings. Rubin's original script for the film was re-written prior to filming, and around 20 minutes of horror scenes were deleted from original cut of the movie because preview audience thought that they were way too disturbing.
Deadly Friend: An Autopsy, an article by Joseph Maddrey written in 2014, went into great detail about the film's troubled production as well as different versions of the script. Bruce Joel Rubin submitted his initial story treatment, entitled "A.I.", to Warner Bros. in May of 1985, followed by a first draft of the screenplay on July 19th. His idea was to get away from Frankenstein clichés of the book, and both Craven and Sherman liked that idea. According to Rubin, Craven really wanted to "make something that had more basis in character and sort of emotional underpinnings that he had not had in his other films."
In subsequent drafts of the script, there was greater focus on developing Samantha and BB as complex characters. One scene that didn't make it into the final film was a poignant dialogue scene between Paul and Sam in which they discuss their absent parents. Paul has come to terms with his father's absence, but Sam continues to express hatred and rage toward the mother who abandoned her and the father who abuses her. Paul responds like a mature advisor, diagnosing her repressed anger as battered child syndrome. Rubin's script makes it obvious that Sam is already predisposed to become a monster.
In Rubin's earlier screenplay, there was also a dream scene where Paul dreams Sam standing by his bedside covered with blood, then after he wakes up, he finds out that she killed Elvira. Craven however didn't liked this, so for the final version in the film, he changed it so that Paul dreams of the decapitated head of Sam's burnt father Harry breaking out of his bed and laughing at him, only intended by Craven to be a sly nod to his previous film, A Nightmare on Elm Street.
The character of Carl, the biker punk bully, was added in early drafts of the script by Rubin to appease Warner Bros. executive vice president Mark Canton who requested that they need to "toughen up" the first act. In the final shooting script, submitted on December 26, 1985, in the scene where Sam finds a photo of herself with Paul and BB, she sheds a tear (this part of the scene is still in the film) and Paul embraces her. In an effort to highlight the love story, Rubin has avoided the more overly horrific details of the novel, including a gruesome sequence where Paul sees that rats have been gnawing on Sam's toes, as well as a subsequent bathtub sequence that could have been perversely erotic.
Rubin remembered that this script, which had more of a sweet and fantastical tone rather than one that's twisted and gothic, was read by Lucy Fisher, who was the vice president of Warner Bros. at the time, and that she called him one morning to tell him that the script made her cry. He reflected, "I had to ask her which script because I couldn't believe it was Deadly Friend. She was really moved by the story. So at one point, it really had a bit of a heart and an emotional life that was compelling." Even in an on-set interview with Starlog journalist Lee Goldberg, Rubin claimed, "Deadly Friend is an unexpectedly tender movie. It's really story about romantic obsession and the length to which someone might go to be with person he loves."
The death scenes of Harry and Elvira were completely different in shooting script. In Harry's death scene, Sam comes at him with her arms stretched out like Frankenstein's monster, but his death is left for the viewer's imagination, although Paul later finds his dead body stuffed in the furnace. In the original version of Elvira's death, Sam shoves the old woman's head through a door. As it's well known, few shots of this original death scene are shown in the theatrical trailer for the film. In previous drafts of the script, Elvira is electrocuted by Sam.
The ending of the film was completely changed. In the script, the final act and confrontation with Sam starts in Paul's living room, and not with her jumping out of the window and attacking Tom. Some stills showing Paul and his mother Jeannie with the re-animated Sam in their living room prove that this ending was indeed filmed. In the shooting script, it's also made clear that in her last moments, before she is shot and killed, she runs towards the police and Paul because she is trying to protect him.
Ever since production began, everyone involved knew that Sam/BB couldn't really be dead at the end of the film. Rubin initially proposed an ending in which Sam escapes from the morgue only to be picked up by a hitchhiker who screams when he gets a good look at her. In a subsequent draft, she appears in Paul's bedroom at night. A dreamy image of the undead Sam wearing a white dress on the back cover of Twisted Terror DVD release suggests that this scene was actually shot.
When he was asked about original version of the film (before test screenings, re-shoots, re-writes, and re-editing) Rubin fondly remembered that this version "did have a kind of emotional underpinning that got decimated by the next cut." Amongst many other scenes, this version of the film also included additional character-based scenes that appear in shooting script. Some examples include the scene where Paul and Sam talk about their missing parents, a scene where Paul waits by Sam's hospital bedside, a scene where Jeannie tries to console Paul after Sam's death, a montage showing undead Sam's feeble attempts to learn how to walk and talk, and a scene near the end of the film in which Paul tells Sam that they need to run away together. Official publicity and promotional stills, U.S. and international lobby cards, and many other pictures show a lot of these and other deleted scenes confirming that they were filmed.
Some of the scenes from earlier drafts of the script were also possible to be filmed but were deleted, including a poignant funeral for BB that strengthens the bond between Paul and Sam, a pivotal moment when Paul heatedly lashes out at Harry after learning of Sam's death, an extended conversation between Paul and his mentor Dr. Johanson that addresses the moral implications of Paul's experiment, and a later scene in which Paul expresses guilt and remorse over what he has done, only to realize that his love for Samantha outweighs everything else.
Based on the archive site of Variety and Maddrey's article, principal photography of the movie began on January 6, 1986, in California and ended sometime in February, not counting the later re-shoots. The suburban setting of the film echoed Craven's previous film, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and this was a deliberate choice by Craven.
Professional mime artist Richmond Shepard taught Kristy Swanson all of the robotic movements that her character has in the film. In an interview, Swanson said about learning to walk in that specific way, "Getting those moves down was difficult at first. You don't think walking that way is hard until you actually try doing it. But Richmond was a good teacher and I picked up on most of the moves pretty quickly."
For the scene chronicling the transplant of BB's microchip into Samantha's brain, Craven called on the advice of retired neurosurgeon William H. Faeth, who has a cameo in the film as a coroner in Sam's hospital room. Craven said that he was very helpful on all the anatomical details. Craven himself studied anatomy a great deal before filming started.
The robot, BB, cost over $20,000 to build. Craven used a company called Robotics 21. His eyes were constructed from two 1950's camera lenses, a garage remote control unit, and a radio antenna taken from a Corvette. BB could actually lift 7,500 pounds in weight. The voice of BB was provided by Charles Fleischer, who appeared in Wes Craven's previous film A Nightmare on Elm Street as a doctor and later provided the voice of Roger Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? in 1988.
Kristy Swanson was 16 years old during filming. She thought it was very challenging to play a vibrant teenager re-animated as a zombie with a robotic brain. Today, Swanson is proud of her work in the film. In a 1996 interview with Starlog magazine, Swanson had this to say about Deadly Friend: "It was my first starring role in a feature. I was 16. I committed myself completely to it. I just went full out with it. I wanted to do the best job I could possibly do. I was having the time of my life. As for the movie itself, some people love it, some people hate it. It is what it is. I really enjoyed making Deadly Friend. At that point in my life, it was spectacular."
Some time after the film was released in theaters, Swanson mentioned in a promotional interview (Fangoria #60, The Prettiest Deadly Friend) some problems she had during filming: "I felt that, at times, people on the set thought i was just this dumb teenager who had to be lend around by the hand," she confessed. "Nobody actually patted me on the head or anything like that, but I had a hard time getting the point across that even though I may have been young, I was a young actress."
Wes Craven at first wasn't convinced that she could handle the role of Samantha: "Eventually, he changed his mind. He was always encouraging me, prodding me in subtle ways to get me to give a scene everything I could. There were days when we were behind schedule, or a particular scene was not working, where he would get a little upset, but I found Wes Craven to be a very patient man." She also mentioned her throwing of the basketball during the re-shoot filming of Elvira's death scene: "Wes kept at me to throw it as hard as I could to indicate great speed. I must have tossed that ball a hundred times. My arm sure felt like I did."
During filming of one of the re-shot scenes where Sam has a nightmare where her father attacks her in her room and she stabs him with a glass vase, there were difficulties on set with the special effects. Swanson mentioned, "The scene was set up so that I would hit a protective device inside his shirt. But during one take, I missed the device and glass actually shattered on his chest. I freaked out because I thought I had really stuck this glass into his chest. Everybody else just laughed." In another incident, the great amount of fake blood turned out to be a problem. "We had been working on that scene a long time. Finally, it was time for blood to spray out, but something leaked and we had blood spraying all over the set and myself. I was so tired that I started yelling, "More blood!" and the effects people really pumped it out."
In an interview with Maxim magazine in May 2000, Swanson said that the fake head of Elvira that was decimated by the basketball was stuffed with actual cow brains that the production crew picked up from a butcher shop. In a 2006 interview regarding The Hills Have Eyes, Craven mentioned problems that the basketball scene had with the MPAA: "On Deadly Friend, we had a scene where a nasty old lady gets her head knocked off with a basketball. The actual scene as it was originally cut was fabulous. She was running around the room like a chicken with its head cut off for ten, fifteen seconds. It was bizarre and wonderful and they cut the shit out of it. So I compiled what we called our “Decapitation Compilation,” all the films that I knew of that had decapitations in them that had an R, and sent it to them. They immediately sent it back saying they just base it on what they feel in the room at the time. And we had like eight or ten films in there, like The Omen where the guy gets his head cut off by the sheet of glass, and it didn’t matter to them."
Matthew Laborteaux, who played Paul, said in an interview with Starlog that Craven didn't want to turn Deadly Friend into a horror film. In Laborteaux's words: "Wes said that one thing he didn't want to do was make this a horror movie, because it's one of his first large budget movies which isn't from New Line Cinema or Joe Blow Pictures. That gave me a little sense of security knowing that he wanted to do a nice picture.
Earlier in production when the film was originally going to be a PG-rated sci-fi thriller, Craven wanted to make something that was similar to John Carpenter's 1984 romantic sci-fi film Starman, in which Jeff Bridges played an alien who after crashing on Earth transforms into a human, falls in love with the woman who helps him out, and throughout the film, reacts to the certain things around him in a similar way that Kristy Swanson's character does in Deadly Friend after she gets the microchip implanted into her brain. According to Swanson in a 1987 interview with Fangoria writer Mark Shapiro, "Craven suggested that I take a look at the movie Starman because what he wanted to do with Deadly Friend was similar in tone to that film." Interesting enough, John Carpenter directed Starman because he wanted to get away from his reputation as a director of violent horror and thriller films, just like Wes Craven wanted to make Deadly Friend with a PG rating in mind so he could prove that he could make a film that wasn't simply "blood and guts" horror.
When the new ending with Samantha turning into a robot and attacking Paul was to be filmed, an extra actress was hired and trained three weeks for the scene, but she panicked when she realized that oxygen was to be put through two different masks so that she could breathe. Production coordinator Nancy E. Barr was then asked to do the scene with full make-up on, which she did.
According to Wes Craven, the film had over twenty producers and each had their own idea of what the film should be like. Although the film has much of Craven's trademark iconography, including nightmare sequences, Wes Craven originally didn't want to film them, but during the re-shoots, he was told by the producers to include a few of them. As Craven said: "They were mine but they came very late. It was after the film was shot and the producers said, 'Let’s put dream sequences in.'"
Wes Craven once said this about the reasons why re-shoots and adding more graphic death scenes into the film were demanded by the studio: "We started off doing a picture that Warner Bros. indicated they wanted to do, a macabre love story with a twist. About five weeks into the shoot, they realized who I was and told me not to be inhibited by what they had told me in the past. So, in the last weeks of shooting, I made up one little nightmare scene and put it into the film. It was the big hit of the screening. So, then, they came to me and said, 'Listen, what we need is more of that stuff. What we're doing is adding to the deaths of a few people, a jump for the beginning, a new closing scene, and two nightmares--that sort of Wes Craven touch.'"
After negative reactions from preview audiences that saw Craven's first cut of the film and wanted a much more grisly film, it was re-edited and the gorier deaths and all of the other re-shot scenes were included, but these scenes only made the film look like a mash-up of two different genres: a family-friendly film and a straight-up horror film. While new scenes were added, others like more scenes between Paul and Samantha that would have made movie more of a love story as originally intended were deleted for pacing and length because it was decided that the movie was to be released as a fast-paced horror film.
What has probably became the most confusing and hated scene of the film since its release, the ending where Samantha turns into a robot and kills Paul, was indeed considered to be a very bad idea for the ending by people involved in filming, but the reason why it was included was because it was the nonsensical last-minute idea of Mark Canton. In a 1990 interview with Fangoria journalist Daniel Schweiger, screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin said this about the forced ending and why it stayed in the film: "That robot coming out of girl's head belongs solely to Mark Canton, and you don't tell the president of Warner Bros. that his idea stinks!" Rubin also said how, at least at that time, people were still blaming him for the ending where Samantha turns into robot, even though Canton was the one who conceived it. He also mentioned that despite the fact that studio destroyed the love story of the movie that he and Craven enjoyed, he still liked working with Craven, confirming that he wasn't the one who wanted to change the film and that he should not be blamed for what happened to it. Rubin even said that production was one of the happiest experiences he ever had.
In another interview, Rubin told the story about how the $36,000 that he got paid for writing the script for Deadly Friend saved him from going nearly broke due to the four months long Writer's Guild strike and also helped him with a Bar Mitzvah for his son and to buy a house. In the same interview, Rubin said how at first, he didn't want to write the script, but after changing his mind, he called Robert M. Sherman and got the job. He also said how working on the film was one of the most extraordinary experiences of his life: "It was a horror film with a lot of elements that are not things I wanted on my resume. And it didn't do very good business, but it was total fun. My kids were on the set every night. My five-year-old Ari was totally in love with Kristy Swanson, who was the lead. She later became Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the movie. She was really sweet to him and even took him on a date."
The theatrical trailer of the movie that Warner Bros. made represented it as a straight-up horror film, with not one frame of BB anywhere. The mixture of teens and terror as seen in trailer implied that Deadly Friend would be vastly derivative of Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street. In an interview with Fangoria, Craven said that the deadline for delivering the first cut of Deadly Friend with all of the re-shoots included, and delivering the original script for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, which he was writing with Bruce Wagner, was virtually the same, making it very difficult for him to do both things at once.
At the same time, while filming the movie and having problems with the studio-forced re-shoots, Craven and his ex-wife Mimi were going through a divorce, and he even faced a lawsuit in court with a person who claimed not only to have written A Nightmare on Elm Street, even though Craven himself wrote that film and no one else did, but that Craven stole the story. On top of all that, he was removed from two major studio projects, Beetlejuice and Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, both of which were also distributed by Warner Bros.
Deadly Friend was released in theaters on Friday, October 10th of 1986 because Warner Bros. aimed at Halloween trade in order to make the film a financial success, but the film ended up underperforming at the worldwide box office, as well as receiving negative reviews from film critics. Because of the studio interferences, re-shoots, and re-editing, when it was released, Deadly Friend was considered to be, as some have said, "a schizophrenic jumble of genres," and even Craven himself admitted that he didn't know "what the hell kind of film it was."
In the same year, another Warner Bros. film, Sylvester Stallone's cult action film Cobra, was also a victim of studio forced cuts and re-editing. Much like he did with Deadly Friend, Mark Canton demanded for some drastic changes to be done on the film, which included shortening the runtime from two hours down to an hour and twenty-four minutes, removing many of the plot and character scenes, and heavily cutting down the action sequences, violence, and gore.
Original Version and Deleted Scenes
According to the book Wes Craven: The Art of Horror by John Kenneth Muir, Craven's original cut of the film was "a teenage film filled with charm, wit, and solid performances by likeable teens Swanson and Laborteaux. It was definitely a mainstream, PG film all the way, similar in tone to Real Genius or Short Circuit, but the point was made that Craven could direct something other than double-barreled horror."
The original cut of the film did not include the gory dream sequences, the infamous basketball decapitation sequence, the opening jump scare scene at the beginning of the film where the thief tries to steal from Jeannie's minivan but BB stops him by grabbing his throat, and the ending where Samantha turns into a robot and kills Paul. All of these scenes were added because of script re-write demands and re-shoots forced by Warner Bros. executives, Mark Canton, and the producers.
In exactly the same original cut, Elvira's death was filmed to be less gory than in the final cut. Instead of shattering her head with a basketball, Sam smashes Elvira through her front door, leaving the upper half of her body hanging outside the door and the lower half still inside. In the scene where Elvira's body is carried out on a gurney, it's still visible that the door of her house has a big hole which was created in the original version of her death scene. In the aftermath of Elvira's death scene in the final theatrical version, there is dialogue said by Russ Marin's character Dr. Johanson and somebody else in the scene mentioning how her head was smashed all over the room. This dialogue is heard off-screen, meaning that it was most likely added later when the scene was changed.
The theatrical trailer shows parts of the original death scene of Elvira. Also, Samantha is shown in Paul's room saying "You're so cute," but this scene is not in the film. Since scenes from the original and theatrical versions are shown in it, the trailer was obviously edited by combining the footage from both versions of the film.
- Paul and Sam having a picnic in Paul's yard with BB.
- Paul and Sam sitting on a bench on the verge of kissing while Sam holds a toy animal that could be a gift from Paul.
- Paul and Sam in Halloween costumes talking and/or arguing with Carl, the leader of the biker punk gang who bullied Paul, Tom, and BB earlier.
- Paul talking with his mother Jeannie in his room after finding out that Sam is going to be unplugged from life support.
- Paul sitting next to Sam and holding her hand while she is in the hospital when a nurse shows up and most likely tells him that he needs to go.
- Paul at the hospital kneeling next to Sam soon after she gets unplugged from life support.
- The original death scene of Elvira where Sam sneaks up behind her and slams her through the front door of her house. This original death scene is also shown in theatrical trailer.
- An extended version of the scene where Paul talks with Sam after she shows him a photo of the two of them together with BB.
- Paul and his mom sitting in their living room together with the re-animated Samantha (part of the completely different plot from the original version of the film). The picture of this deleted scene is shown on the back cover of Twisted Terror DVD.
- The back cover of the Twisted Terror DVD also shows a picture of another deleted scene in which the re-animated Samantha wears what appears to be some kind of white dress or possibly the wedding gown very similar to the toga costume that she wore during Halloween earlier in the film. It's possible that this is the picture from the original ending where after she is killed at the end of the film, Paul dreams that Samantha is in his room.
There were much more scenes that were deleted from the original cut during post-production re-shoots and re-editing, some because after the forced re-shoots, it ended up turning into a completely different film, and some others because of the studio demands to make it shorter for a more profitable theatrical release, since films ninety minutes long or less would have more theatrical screenings. This is why there are jump cuts and choppy editing in the final product, especially around the first half of the film. Editor Michael Eliot, who also re-edited original and longer cuts of two other Warner Bros. films, Out for Justice and Showdown in Little Tokyo, was hired to re-edit the original cut of Deadly Friend.
The original release of the film contained cuts which were implemented by the MPAA in order to prevent an X rating. Scenes that caused the film to initially receive an X rating were all of the gore scenes which were re-shot under studio demands. The film was submitted to the MPAA thirteen times before it finally got an R rating. Uncut scenes have been restored on the DVD release from the Twisted Terror Collection released by Warner Bros. on September 25th of 2007. These include:
- In a scene where Samantha is dreaming about her father intruding in her bedroom, Samantha breaks a vase on her nightstand and stabs her father in the stomach with it. In the VHS release, all that is shown is blood spurting onto Samantha's bed and close-ups of her father's face laughing and taunting Sam. On the uncut DVD, the scene includes lots of blood spurting onto Sam's face and close-ups of Sam's face as she screams and gets coated in blood.
- In the scene where Sam takes revenge on her father, Sam trips her father on the stairs leading to the boiler room, breaks his neck, and burns his body inside the boiler. In the VHS release, when Paul comes to conceal the body, the scene is edited to briefly show Paul pulling Sam's father out of the boiler, without showing much of his charred body. In the uncut DVD release, when Paul pulls her father's body from the boiler, a close-up of his charred skeletal face is shown.
- In the infamous basketball scene, Samantha crushes Elvira's head with a slam from the basketball that Elvira had stolen earlier in the movie. In the VHS release, when Sam throws the ball, Elvira's head explodes on impact and then cuts back to Sam watching in amazement as Elvira's headless body wanders around the living room until it falls on the floor. In the uncut DVD release, when Sam throws the ball at Elvira's head, more of the head explosion is shown as Elvira's head completely shatters from her shoulders and shows her headless body wander directly from the wall around the living room, spurting blood and then cuts back to Sam watching as the body comes to rest on the floor.
The film was panned by critics. AllMovie gave the film a generally negative review, writing, "It's an intriguing combination of elements, but the end result is a schizoid mess", calling Craven's direction "awkward" and opining that it "lacks the intense, sustained atmosphere of his previous horror hits." The film currently has a 0% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and was a bomb at the box office, grossing $8,988,731 in the U.S. on an $11 million budget. Although a critical and financial failure, over the years, Deadly Friend was regarded by some as a cult classic and has garnered a fan following.
On May 2, 2010, Warner Bros. was planning a remake of the film to be released in 2011 in 3D. Kristen Stewart was rumored to play the role of Sam. However, no other news regarding the remake has come since and the project has been cancelled.
- "Deadly Friend - Box Office Data, DVD Sales, Movie News, Cast Information - The Numbers". the-numbers.com. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
- Fangoria #56, Wes Craven's Deadly Friend: Building a Better Monster, pages 52-54
- Screams and Nightmares: The Films of Wes Craven by Brian J. Robb
- Fangoria #60, The Prettiest Deadly Friend, pages 50-51 and 59
- Fangoria #57, Wes Craven's Deadly Doubleheader, pages 50-53 and 64
- Wes Craven: The Man and His Nightmares by John Wooley, pages 139-143
- Fangoria #98, Climbing the Ladder of Success, page 54
- Wes Craven: The Art Of Horror by John Kenneth Muir, pages 120-131
- Guarisco, Donald. "Deadly Friend (1986) - Review - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
- "Deadly Friend Redux Coming in 3D?".
- Deadly Friend at the Internet Movie Database
- Deadly Friend at AllMovie
- Deadly Friend at Box Office Mojo
- Deadly Friend at Rotten Tomatoes