Deadly Friend

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Deadly Friend
Deadly friend movie poster.jpg
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.
Release dates
  • October 10, 1986 (1986-10-10) (U.S.)
Running time
91 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $11,000,000[citation needed]
Box office $8,988,731 (US)[1]

Deadly Friend is a 1986 science fiction horror film directed by Wes Craven. It is based on the novel Friend by Diana Henstell, which was adapted for the screen by Bruce Joel Rubin.

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.


In a parking lot, a thief tries to steal from a 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, whom 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 intelligence and interests in neurology and artificial intelligence. BB, who 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. Harry (Richard Marcus), Samantha's alcoholic and abusive father, 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 double-barreled 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.

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 and pushes her down the stairs, causing her to be rushed to the hospital and 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. Since he owes him one for BB getting shot because of his prank on Elvira having gone wrong, 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, in which 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, causing Samantha to grab her father's feet and drag him to the furnace. She breaks his wrist and finally snaps his neck, killing him. Paul finds her in the cellar and sees her father's corpse. Horrified, he hides the body 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 she hang ups after waiting too long. A basketball bounces ominously in her living room, indicating that Samantha has broken in. Samantha appears and throws her at the wall of her living room. As Elvira screams, Samantha throws the basketball at her head, causing the head to explode. Elvira's headless body stumbles around until it finally lays dead on the floor.

When Tom learns that Samantha is killing people, he and Paul get into a fight. Samantha jumps out a window and attacks Tom. Paul and Jeannie save him, 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, the impact killing him. As she runs off, she is confronted by the police. She makes her way back to Paul's shed, where Paul meets her there and tries to comfort her. He realizes that Samantha is becoming more human. The police arrive and point at Paul. Samantha yells Paul's name and the police shoot, hitting Samantha, who was defending Paul. Samantha then dies in his arms.

Later, Paul visits Samantha in the morgue and tries to escape with her. Suddenly, Samantha's arms grabs Paul's neck and her face rips apart, only to reveal a terrifying variant of BB with Samantha's voice. Her arms rips apart, revealing skeletal-like arms as Paul struggles to break free from her grip. She tells him to come with her, which he refuses and snaps his neck, killing him. The film ends by showing the morgue's doors and then fading to black, as the credits roll with a chant by BB.



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.

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."[2]

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 settled on Deadly Friend), 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.[3]


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."[4]

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."

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."[5]

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.[6]

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.[7]


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.'"[8][9]

In a 1990 interview with Fangoria journalist Daniel Schweiger, screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin said this about the 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.[10][11]

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."[12]

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,[citation needed] 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.

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.

Original version and deleted scenes[edit]

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."[13]

Critical reception[edit]

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."[14] 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.


  1. ^ "Deadly Friend - Box Office Data, DVD Sales, Movie News, Cast Information - The Numbers". Retrieved 8 August 2012. 
  2. ^ Fangoria #56, Wes Craven's Deadly Friend: Building a Better Monster, pages 52-54
  3. ^ Screams and Nightmares: The Films of Wes Craven by Brian J. Robb
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Fangoria #60, "The Prettiest Deadly Friend," pages 50-51 and 59
  8. ^ Fangoria #57, "Wes Craven's Deadly Doubleheader," pages 50-53 and 64
  9. ^ Wes Craven: The Man and His Nightmares by John Wooley, pages 139-143
  10. ^ Fangoria #98, "Climbing the Ladder of Success," page 54
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Wes Craven: The Art Of Horror by John Kenneth Muir, pages 120-131
  14. ^ Guarisco, Donald. "Deadly Friend (1986) - Review - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 8 August 2012. 

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