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. Lathrop|
|Edited by||Michael Eliot|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Release date(s)||10 October 1986 (US)|
|Running time||91 min.|
|Box office||$8,988,731 (US)|
Originally, the movie was a sci-fi thriller without any graphic scenes, with a bigger focus on plot, 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 other movies included. Warner Bros. president Mark Tappin 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 hit, A Nightmare on Elm Street. Due to studio imposed re-shoots and re-editing, the movie was drastically altered in post-production, losing much of the original plot and more scenes between characters, while other scenes, including bloodier death scenes and a new ending, were added.
Although fans of the movie 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 the movie. In April of 2014, an online petition for the release of the original cut was made. Fans of the movie 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. 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 the next day.
Paul soon become friends with newspaper delivery boy Tom Toomey (Michael Sharrett). Paul has a university scholarship at Polytech West 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 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, 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 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 and thus, they're now together forever in oblivion, and the film ends by showing the morgue's doors and then fading to black. The credits end with a chant by BB.
- 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 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, along with his deputy, kills Samantha.
- 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.
- Andrew Roperto as Carl, the leader of the biker gang who gets thrown to death by Samantha into the windshield of a car while attacking Paul.
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 and how they are truly monsters inside themselves. 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 president of Warner Bros. at the time, Mark Tappin, demanded Rubin write six additional gore scenes into his script, each bloodier then the last. Rubin worked very hard with Craven to create a very deep and heartfelt movie out of his screenplay. Unfortunately, added gore scenes, re-shoots, and post production re-editing of the movie heavily changed the original story. Craven and Rubin expressed strong anger at the studio and thus they 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 (when Craven started the project, it was called Friend, then it was changed to Artificial Intelligence and then to A.I. before the producers and the studio finally decided to settle on Deadly Friend), and there were many discussions about just how violent and bloody the final film would be.
According to Wes Craven, the film had seven or eight producers and each had their own idea of what the film should be like.
Although movie 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.'"
The suburban setting of the film echoed Craven's previous film, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and this was a deliberate choice by Craven.
A professional mime artist taught Kristy Swanson all of the robotic movements that her character has in the movie.
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. Craven said that "He was very helpful on all the anatomical details." Craven himself studied anatomy a great deal before filming started.
BB the robot 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 is 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.
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.
Kristy Swanson was 16 years old during filming, making Deadly Friend her feature film debut. 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. She admitted in an interview with Fangoria 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. Swanson mentioned that she must have thrown the basketball over one hundred times during the re-shoot filming of Elvira's death scene. Swanson said; "Wes kept at me to throw it as hard as I could to indicate great speed". Swanson also said in an interview with Maxim magazine in May 2000 that the fake head of Elvira was stuffed with actual cow brains that the production crew picked up from a butcher shop.
In a 2006 interview about Alexandre Aja's remake of one of his first films, The Hills Have Eyes, Craven mentioned some problems that the basketball-to-the-head death 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 movie 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 fantasy film Starman. Jeff Bridges' character in that 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 movies, just like Wes Craven wanted to make Deadly Friend into a PG-rated movie in order to show that he could make a movie that wasn't "blood and guts" horror.
Craven had a hand in selecting Bruce Joel Rubin to write the screenplay for Deadly Friend. Rubin agreed with the director that the film should have a gentler tone than Craven's other features. Craven couldn't write the script himself because he was wrapped in his Twilight Zone chores at the time. Rubin wrote two more afterlife-themed movies: Ghost (1990) and Jacob's Ladder (1990). Unlike Deadly Friend, both films were critically and financially successful.
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 the negative reactions from the preview audience who saw Craven's first cut of the movie and wanted a much more gorier film, it was re-edited and more gorier deaths and all other scenes which were re-shot were included, but these scenes only made the movie look like a mash-up of two different genres: a family film and a horror film. While new scenes were added, some 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 fast-paced horror.
What has probably became the most confusing and hated scene of the movie 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 reason why it was included is because it was idea of Mark Tappin, who was the head of studio at the time. In an 1990 interview with Fangoria, screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin said this about the forced ending and why it stayed in movie; "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 ending where Samantha turns into robot, even though Tappin is the one who came up with it. He also mentioned that despite the fact that studio destroyed the love story of the movie which he and Craven liked, he still enjoyed working with Craven, confirming that he wasn't the one who wanted to change the movie and that he should not be blamed for what happened to it. Rubin even said that the production of the movie was one of the happiest experiences he ever had.
The theatrical trailer of the movie that Warner Bros. made represented it as a straight-out horror film, with not one frame of BB the robot anywhere. The mixture of teens and terror as seen in trailer implied that Deadly Friend would be derivative of A Nightmare on Elm Street.
In an interview with Fangoria, Craven said that the deadline for delivering the first cut of Deadly Friend with 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 studio-forced re-shoots, Craven was going through a messy divorce and faced a $30,000,000 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.
Deadly Friend was released in cinemas in October because Warner Bros. aimed at Halloween trade in order to make the movie a financial success, but the movie underperformed at the box office, as well as with critics.
Because of the all studio interference and re-shots, 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."
Original Version and Deleted Scenes
According to the book "Wes Craven: The Art of Horror", 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 movie did not include the gory dream sequences, the infamous basketball death scene, 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, former WB president Mark Tappin, and the producers.
In the exact 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 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 movie. Since scenes from the original and theatrical versions are shown in it, the trailer was edited by combining the footage from both versions of the movie.
There are pictures that show some of the deleted scenes: Paul and Sam having a picnic in Paul's yard with BB, Paul and Sam sitting on a bench and 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 the leader of the biker punk gang who bullied Paul and Tom earlier, Paul talking with his mom in his room after finding out that Sam is going to be unplugged from life support, Paul at the hospital kneeling next to Sam soon after she does gets unplugged from life support, longer version of the scene where Paul talks with Sam after she shows him photo of two of them with BB, and one picture from the original death scene of Elvira. The back cover of the Twisted Terror DVD edition of Deadly Friend shows a picture of what is probably a 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 costume that she wore during Halloween earlier in the movie. Also on the same DVD back cover, there is a picture of Samantha with Paul and his mom from another deleted scene which is not in the movie. There were much more scenes that were deleted from the original cut during the post-production re-shoots and re-editing.
Film editor Michael Eliot, who also re-edited original and longer cuts of two other Warner Bros. movies, Out for Justice and Showdown in Little Tokyo, was hired to re-edit the original cut of Deadly Friend.
The film has received a negative critical response. Praise was given towards the performances from the cast, but the script and plot received a mixed response and the film was mostly criticized for the lack of character development, unnecessary blood and gore, the nonsensical and ludicrous ending, and scenes that were added or changed because of the demands made by the studio and the producers. 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 infamous basketball scene drew an overwhelmingly mixed response. On one hand, horror fans in general praised it for being incredibly shocking and disturbing as well as being unintentionally hilarious. On the other hand, it was criticized for its nonsensical, over-the-top nature, the lack of plausibility, and the scene itself being called ridiculous and unnecessary. The scene is widely regarded as one of the most memorable death scenes in the history of horror cinema.
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.
The original release of the movie contained cuts which were implemented by the MPAA in order to prevent an X rating. Movie was submitted to the MPAA 13 times before it finally got an R 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.
- "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