Terror Tuesday: Minute By Minute #4 - DEADLY FRIEND

Each and every single minute of Wes Craven’s weird ass killer robot movie.

So without further ado, let’s get to it!

00:00 Hell yeah, the old-school Warner logo.  None of this “AOL/Time Warner” shit at the bottom.  I hate when studios (MGM in particular is guilty of this) put out DVDs of library titles and change the logo at the beginning of the film.  Read all about it in my new book: “Things That I Find Irritating That No One Else Would Notice Or Care About If They Did”.

01:00 Some blurry video footage.

02:00 Still the video footage, but with the credit for Matthew Laborteaux.  He was Albert on Little House, but this seems to be his only starring role in a feature.  Now he does voiceover work (and not even GOOD voice work; his last credit was “Additional Voice” in the reviled rom-com Bride Wars).

03:00 Paul looking back at BB (the pixelly video is her POV).  Also, you can see the street behind him. I swear this is the same neighborhood as some other 80s movie, but the IMDb doesn’t list its filming location, nor does the DVD have any bonus material, so I don’t even know where to start beyond watching every 80s movie I can think of in order to compare.  Fright Night?  Boy Who Could Fly?  Anyone know?

04:00 An obscured shot of someone at a window.  But it’s not pixelated video footage, so at least we’re moving on.

05:00 A shot of Paul’s clumsy new best friend Tom.

06:00 Another shot of Tom, who already looks kind of confused.  Christ dude, we haven’t even gotten to the “let’s put a robot chip inside the hot dead girl” part of the movie yet.  If you can’t handle the introductions you might as well just abandon ship now.

07:00 Paul talking to his professor.

08:00 A reaction shot of Paul watching BB mow the lawn, an act they just cut away from.  Thanks, Wes.  Two seconds ago I had the best screenshot ever, but you apparently wanted to fuck with me 25 years later.

09:00 Sam (Kristy Swanson) meets BB.  Young BC was quite smitten with Ms. Swanson thanks to this and another human/robot movie, Not Quite Human, where she played the girl “Chip” had a crush on.  Also, it’s cool that back in the day, teenagers would be played by teenagers.  Swanson was only 16-17 at the time of filming, which is about her age in the movie.  Nowadays we get shit like The Roommate, in which college freshmen are played by actors in their late 20s (Minka Kelly was actually 30).

10:00 Paul wheeling BB down a ramp.  Now, did he build the ramp himself, or did they hire a contractor?  “Is someone disabled?” “No, I just need it for my giant yellow robot that speaks gibberish.”

11:00 Tom explaining his dream of handing the old bitchy lady her paper instead of throwing it at her door.  Way to dream big, buddy.

12:00 Tom dishing out some foreshadowing.  “My dad has the keys to everything!”  Sure, that’s just the sort of thing people say, completely unprompted.  Nowadays I can look at this as a precursor to My Soul To Take, which features some of the most insane and unnecessary exposition ever heard in a film, including a character who uses his dying breath to explain how he made his way into the house in the first place.

13:00 The world’s oldest bully slapping BB around.  See, this is what I don’t get about the movie; half of it seems like it should have been written for pre-teens instead of high school juniors. I’d even suspect maybe they just cast it too old and changed some dialogue to accommodate it, but if he was younger it would be way too far-fetched for him to be taking early college classes, not to mention building the thing in the first place.  The romance wouldn’t work either.  But bullies and being afraid of the creepy old lady across the street?  Who still deals with that stuff when they’re old enough to drive?

14:00 BB rambling on and on after successfully scaring off the bullies.  Charles “Roger Rabbit” Fleischer provided the voice of BB, which is 99% gibberish.  I’m guessing he doesn’t get too many requests to say “Bak too feetah! Whatoo keepsh kipi DAH!” when fans see him on the street.

15:00 Sam looks around Paul’s room.  Because Paul is smart, he has a giant poster of Albert Einstein up, as well as one of those wooden models of a dinosaur skeleton.  There’s probably a globe there too but we can’t see it from this angle.

16:00 Sam apologizes to her dad for sneaking out.

17:00 Sam’s sweaty dad leering at her.  I can’t remember if it’s her stepdad or biological, but either way this is mad creepy.

18:00 Sam shaking around in bed.  Guess the previous was a nightmare.  Well, at least Wes is back in proven territory; his previous release was Hills Have Eyes Part 2, which featured dog flashbacks in lieu of nightmare scenes.

19:00 Fun!  Foreshadowing!

20:00 The trio look through a fence.

21:00 BB staring at the old lady’s house, pissed about her taking their ball.  Anyone else think the movie Monster House was partly an homage to Deadly Friend?  That film was co-written by Community‘s Dan Harmon, and we know that guy has an affinity for robot cinema (Abed has a Short Circuit 2 poster on his dorm wall).

22:00 Paul doing some science stuff.

23:00 Paul’s mom tending to Sam’s bloody nose.  This is the 80s, so “tip your head back” still made sense.  But the human biology has apparently changed since then, because now they tell you to tip your head forward/down.

24:00 16 year olds Trick ‘r Treating.  Again, was this movie meant to star children?  I felt stupid going when I was like 14, though then again I was 6"2 when I was 14 and I usually dressed like Michael Myers, so I guess it was for the best that I retired.

25:00 Paul explaining that BB is trying every possible combination for the padlock, instead of explaining why the robot with super-strength doesn’t just break the goddamn thing so they could pull their prank without standing around in front of the house for a lengthy period of time.

26:00 Sam screaming after setting off the alarm.

27:00 Jesus CHRIST!  Poor BB.  But Ma Fratelli isn’t someone you want to mess with.

28:00 Everyone sitting down to dinner.  They really should have had an empty place setting for BB to really feel the loss.

29:00 Sam looking back at Paul after their first kiss.  Gotta hand it to Paul, for a nerd, he’s also a go-getter.

30:00 Sam sneaking up the stairs.

31:00 Sam lying at the bottom of said stairs.  Poor Paul, he’s down a robot AND a girlfriend in under four minutes.  Worse, he’s still got Tom.

32:00 A doctor working on someone (Sam, I guess).

33:00 Establishing shot.  I’ve included a pic.  Come on, what the hell is this street from?  Is it the Uni back lot (now Wisteria Lane)?  I KNOW I’ve seen it elsewhere, dammit!  This is why entering in the “filming locations” for IMDb should be mandatory.

34:00 Paul and Tom, in what looks like a homage to the Jesse/Gray bedroom scene from Nightmare On Elm St 2.

35:00 A shot of the ugliest goddamn clock I’ve ever seen.

36:00 Paul’s mom putting out some dessert.

37:00 A shot of a TV showing the movie A Summer Place.

38:00 Paul’s mom passing out after being roofied by her son.  But it’s not what you think.  I haven’t seen the movie in a while but I think I’d remember THAT.

39:00 Paul and Tom sneaking into the lab.

40:00 Paul sneaking AROUND the lab.

41:00 Shot of a heart rate monitor.  I forgot that Swanson was actually just brain dead.  P.S. you can toss your own joke in there (though it won’t top Charlie Sheen’s).

42:00 Paul wheeling stuff out of the lab.

43:00 Paul starting a car.  Anyone else miss BB?

44:00 Another shot of a clock, though at least this one’s pretty normal looking.

45:00 Paul and Tom trying to bring Sam back to life. Do the same for the movie while you’re at it, fellas.  In a way, this movie has the same exact problem as Shocker, in that it takes forever to get the part of the movie people remember.  Ask anyone what Shocker is about, and they’ll say it’s about a killer who possesses people and goes through the TV, but that stuff doesn’t start until about an hour into the movie.  Same here; Deadly Friend is ostensibly about a killer robot in a girl’s body, but here we are, at the halfway point, and he hasn’t even successfully brought her back to life yet. Deadly Friend is based on a novel simply called “Friend”, I’m not sure how close it sticks to the source material - perhaps this is an issue in the book as well, but in a novel you can forgive this sort of thing.

46:00 A shot of a box and a leg.  Again, I really don’t remember a lot of this movie, so forgive the vagueness.  If this was Scream 2 or whatever, I’d know whose leg it was and if that box contained something important.

47:00 Paul and Tom checking on his still sleeping mother.

48:00 The mom, understandably puzzled that her teenage son and his weird friend both just told her that they have spent the last 12 hours “just fooling around”.  I have a bunch of movies that I want to show at the New Beverly, and this is one of them, but this exchange alone has prompted me to bump it higher on the list.  The half drunk/half-asleep cackling at this moment will be divine.  Course, the pacing issue will be even MORE glaring on the big screen…

49:00 Paul removing the covers from a dead (or “shut down”) Sam. Good a place as any to mention that there’s a thread on the IMDb where a guy ponders why he didn’t use Sam as a sex robot, and all of the responses are pretty much “Yeah, I agree”, which is a perfect example of how the IMDb simultaneously provides the best and worst message boards on the planet.

50:00 Paul looking out a window.

51:00 Paul sleeping.  Come ON, movie!

52:00 OK, here we go, this is a cool creepy moment, where Sam looks back at Paul with a knowing look (that’s her dad in background).  But this is also where the movie’s pacing kind of hurts; she’s only been “alive” for like five minutes and already turning murderous.  It would have been cool if it was a more gradual thing, but since it took so long to get to this point as is, they really can’t afford to waste any more time.

53:00 Paul’s mom yelling at him.

54:00 Paul looking around as Charles Bernstein’s crazy score drowns out any source audio that might have been there.  I loved Bernstein’s work on Nightmare on Elm Street, but his cues here just sound like Manfredinian nonsense for the most part.

55:00 Sam’s dad looking around as a fire clearly rages in the next room.  Props to Wes for staging the movie’s first real kill scene in the daylight (or at least, the first part of it, if memory serves they go into the dark basement for the rest).

56:00 Yup, basement.

57:00 Why always with the arm thing?

58:00 A shot of black smoke coming from the chimney.  So I guess Sam has been unable to choose a new pope.

59:00 Paul dragging the dad’s crispy body away.

60:00 Paul and Sam walking up some stairs.

61:00 Ma Fratelli watching The Bad Seed, a movie that also featured a drunken jerk being immolated.  But due to the Hays Code we didn’t get to see it, so this is Wes’ way of sticking it to them, I guess.  Or it’s just a Warner movie that they could show for cheap.

62:00 The sheriff talking to a deputy that looks like Ty Burrell.

63:00 BB/Sam playing with the lock again, and again not just breaking it (and why didn’t she remember the combination?  Shitty robot, if you ask me.)

64:00 Ma Fratelli pointing a shotgun.  Oh shit, it’s coming!

65:00 Sam grabbing the old lady from behind.  Sorry folks, looks like we’re gonna miss it.  Interestingly, in the trailer, you can see that her death scene was originally completely different.

66:00 Paul waking up. Like Minute by Minute readers, he missed out on basketball related death.

67:00 No idea what’s happening here, but check out his other awesome posters: hot air balloons and the Met.

68:00 Paul sneaking Sam out of the house before his mom sees.

69:00 Mom saying goodnight to Paul.

70:00 Sam looking confused.

71:00 A reaction shot of Paul’s mom as she hears about the death of the old lady.

72:00 Sam busting out.  Yeah, there’s 15 minutes left of your modern Frankenstein movie, so now’s a good time to finally let the monster loose (cue the Meat Loaf song).

73:00 The mom again, hearing a noise.

74:00 Paul talking to Sam in his room.  So I guess she still HASN’T broken loose.

75:00 The same goddamn shot!  Come on, Wes!  The clock is ticking!  You can at least have your hero going around setting traps, like usual.

76:00 Paul’s professor talking to the mom about his absence from classes.

77:00 Sam, still not in crazy killer robot mode, peering from behind a coat rack at Tom.

78:00 Paul and Tom fighting.  Ordinarily I’d be like “isn’t it a bit late in the movie for this sort of stuff”, but at least it’s something besides people looking at each other.  Kick his ass, Paul!

79:00 Yes! Now Sam takes a turn beating up Tom.  I hope the mom takes a shot at him too.

80:00 Paul running around looking for Sam, as one of the bullies approaches.

81:00 The bully beating the piss out of Paul.  Seems to me that these guys should have been taken care of earlier; this is basically the action climax of the movie and we haven’t really seen them since their introduction (given this movie’s pace, I think it’s safe to assume they didn’t appear in between minute marks, plus I didn’t see them while scanning around).  I mean, her dad is the real villain, so they should have worked it out so that he was the LAST to die, not the first, if only to sell the sort of tragic/revenge tale they were going for.  Instead, the movie boils down to her taking out a character we’ve practically forgotten about.

82:00 Sam lifting the bully above her head.

83:00 Sam running from the cops.

84:00 Paul finds Sam in a shed or something.

85:00 Sam running from the cops. Again. Either this movie doesn’t have end credits or the rest has to be the most rushed in movie history.

86:00 Sam apparently going for “suicide by cop”.

87:00 The professor looking at Sam’s once again dead body.  I don’t recognize this actor; seems to me he should have been a big(gish) name, maybe even a former Frankenstein actor (doctor or Monster). I certainly didn’t recall him being such a relatively big part.  Also, I would have killed him off, because this movie’s body count is too low considering how silly it is.

88:00 Gah!  The beginning of a baffling transformation scene that freaked me out as a kid, and was pretty much the only thing I remembered (besides the basketball) until I watched it again a few years ago for HMAD.  I am at a loss to explain this bit; I get that the robot “soul” may have taken over, but how would her hands and face turn to metal?  Some fans have suggested this is actually just a dream sequence, but if so it seems weird to not clarify that (guess maybe they figured if they could have it both ways, just in case it was a hit and thus they had to make a sequel).

89:00 Credits, accompanied by the weirdest theme song in all of 80s horror.  It’s basically just a bunch of different voices saying “BB” over and over, with a bit of the score underneath.  This movie may share some of Shocker‘s pacing problems, but it certainly doesn’t share its awesome soundtrack.

90:00 End of the credits (copyrights and MPAA number - 28254 if you’re curious).  And that’s it, the movie ends 19 seconds later.

I really would like to read the book for this.  As I said, the idea of crossing a typical Frankenstein tale with an adolescent romance is a good one, and a book would allow for some fleshing out of the characters.  Just a shame that after his biggest success, Wes got kind of screwed over twice; first with Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (which was shot BEFORE Nightmare, but released after), a film he did because he was broke, before Freddy presumably set him up for a while.  And then this, which he was also unhappy with, due to studio interference (all of the gore scenes were added later at the insistence of the producers after a bad test screening).  But what makes it more frustrating (for fans) is that there’s never been much said about what was LOST as a result of these changes.  Again, it seems more of a kid’s movie when there’s no blood being splashed around, so maybe the romantic angle worked a lot better in the previous cut, but there’s next to no information about how the film originally played, and I don’t see Warner opening their vaults to do some sort of “original cut” for a movie that tanked 25 years ago.  Luckily, Wes’ next film was Serpent And The Rainbow, which was a critical and commercial hit, followed by the mild success of Shocker and then People Under The Stairs, which was his biggest hit since Nightmare and remained so until Scream came along.

So as a result of misguided studio demands, Deadly Friend is a movie that ultimately doesn’t fully satisfy any audience.  I find it amusing at best, but then again I’ve always had a soft spot (or is that tolerance?) for Wes’ less-than-revered pictures (Shocker of course, and now My Soul To Take), so I’m not the best one to judge.  What do you guys think of it?

P.S. here ya go!  You didn’t think I’d REALLY hold out on you, did you?  Interestingly, the DVD actually has a few more seconds of this scene than was originally there for the theatrical/VHS releases, though it’s not mentioned on the DVD case.

Brian Collins watches a horror movie every day. Watch him slowly fall apart at Horror Movie A Day.