Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Wes Craven|
|Produced by||Robert L. Crawford
Robert M. Sherman
|Screenplay by||Bruce Joel Rubin|
|Based on||Friend by Diana Henstell|
|Music by||Charles Bernstein|
|Cinematography||Philip H. Lathop|
|Editing by||Michael Eliot|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Release dates||10 October 1986 (USA)|
|Running time||91 min.|
|Box office||$8,988,731 (USA)|
In a parking lot, a thief tries to steal from a Volkswagen van but a robot named BB (voiced by Charles Fleischer) stops him. BB lets go of the thief, who is dazed. 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 Proper the next day.
Paul soon become friends with newspaper delivery boy Tom Toomey (Michael Sharrett). Paul has a university scholarship 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, 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. Sam's abusive, 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. 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. The three walk away. Tom reveals that his father is a security guard at the university hospital. Walking further, they encounter a motorcycle gang. The gang insults Tom and they push Paul into a garbage bin. BB grabs the gang leader's crotch. The gang rides away, with the leader 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 24 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 Samantha. 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 on 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 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 super-strength, grabs the basketball and throws it at Elvira, causing her head to explode. Elvira's decapitated body rolls on the floor and runs in circles, spurting blood and gore until it bounces off the door and lays dead on the porch.
At Elvira's house, police discover Elvira's corpse and Harry's body. 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, the leader of the biker gang confronts him. As a police car arrives, Samantha throws the biker into the car's windshield. As she runs off, she is confronted by 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, even saying his 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 vicious psychopath version of BB himself with Samantha's voice, revealing that Samantha is a BB-robot all along, while shows Samantha-BB arms melting to reveal skeletal-metal robot arms as Paul tries to break free from Samantha's grip. Samantha-BB says to bring Paul along in which Paul refuses and screams out "No!" while off-screen Samantha-BB snaps Paul's neck, seemingly killing him and the film ends shows the morgue's doors and the film fades to black
The credits end with BB's name being said over again by different voices.
- Matthew Laborteaux as Paul Conway, a highly intelligent boy who moves in.
- Kristy Swanson as Samantha Pringle, a girl who lives next door to Paul and the "deadly friend."
- Michael Sharrett as Tom 'Slime' Toomey, the local newspaper boy and Paul's friend.
- Anne Twomey as Jeannie Conway, Paul's mother.
- Richard Marcus as Harry Pringle, Samantha's abusive alcoholic father and the first one to die.
- Anne Ramsey as Elvira Parker, the mean old neighbor lady who gets her head exploded by a basketball slam on impact.
- Lee Paul as Sergeant Volchek, the sergeant of the police who kills Samantha along with his deputy.
- Charles Fleischer as BB (voice), an intelligent robot built by Paul who gets shot down by Elvira.
- Russ Marin as Dr. Johanson, the local doctor who examines Samantha's "seemingly" dead body.
- Joel Hile as Deputy, who's with the sergeant when they kill Samantha.
Wes Craven and 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 romantic love story between Paul and Samantha, as well as a secondary focus on the adults around them and how they are truly monsters. 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 president of Warner Bros. at the time, Mark Tappin, demanded Rubin write six additional gore scenes into his script. Craven and Rubin expressed anger at the studio and virtually disowned the film by that point. At the same time, Craven was going through a messy divorce and faced a $30,000,000 lawsuit due to a claim that Craven did not really write the script for his previous film. Gory dream sequences, the basketball scene, and the ending were all ideas of the studio. Craven recalls that the film had "seven or eight" producers and each had their own idea of what the film should be like. The film was censored heavily by the MPAA and was submitted 13 times before it could receive an R rating. Kristy Swanson was 16 years old during filming, making this her feature film debut, and 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 an interview with Fangoria, she told them 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 intended. Changes to the script were being made, title changes were being discussed (when Craven started the project it was called Friend, then it was changed to Artificial Intelligence to A.I. to Deadly Friend), and there were many discussions about just how violent and bloody the final film would be. The effect of the basketball smashing Elvira's head was added after the fact. Swanson remembers that she must have thrown the basketball over a hundred times. "Wes kept at me to throw it as hard as I could to indicate great speed," says Swanson. She admitted that Craven 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," says Swanson. For the scene chronicling the transplant of BB's microchip into Samantha's brain, Craven called on the advice of neurosurgeon William H. Faeth. "He was very helpful on all the anatomical details," explains Craven, who also studied anatomy. The suburban setting of the film echoed Craven's previous film, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and was a deliberate choice by Craven. To this day, Craven dislikes the final film, and admits he did the film because his agent suggested he do a studio film or else he'd "be stuck doing small films" for the rest of his life.
The film has received overwhelmingly negative reactions from critics and audiences. Praise was given towards the plot, the acting, the script, and cast, but criticism was towards the direction, the character of BB, and the ending. 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. The most praise was given to the basketball death scene. Fans of the film thought that the scene succeeded in combining black comedy with genuine horror. However, some fans felt that scene was ridiculous and not scary nor creepy. The ending caused universal speculation. Those who watched the film predicted that the ending could be a dream sequence. Nevertheless, the ending attracted harsh criticism. Over the years, the film has garnered a very small cult following.
The original release of the movie contained cuts which were implemented by the MPAA in order to prevent an X rating. These scenes have been restored on the DVD release from the Twisted Terror Collection released by Warner Bros. on Sept. 25th, 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 newly released 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 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 DVD release, when Sam throws the ball at Elvira's head, more 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.
- In an earlier version of the movie, Elvira's death was filmed to be less gory than the final shot. 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. In the same earlier version, in a scene where Paul is dreaming about Sam's father coming up out of his bed, Sam's father comes completely out of the bed and lunges for Paul. In the final cut of the film just his charred head comes out of the bed and exhales smoke. These alternate scenes can be seen in the theatrical trailer found on the new DVD.
- "Deadly Friend - Box Office Data, DVD Sales, Movie News, Cast Information - The Numbers". the-numbers.com. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
- Guarisco, Donald. "Deadly Friend (1986) - Review - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
- Deadly Friend at the Internet Movie Database
- Deadly Friend at allmovie
- Deadly Friend at Box Office Mojo
- Deadly Friend at Rotten Tomatoes