• Deadly Friend (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: October 12th, 2021.
    Director: Wes Craven
    Cast: Matthew Labyorteaux, Kristy Swanson, Michael Sharrett, Anne Twomey, Anne Ramsey, Richard Marcus
    Year: 1986
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    Deadly Friend – Movie Review:

    One of Wes Craven's goofiest films, 1986’s Deadly Friend is at least interesting in a 'hey look who it is!' kind of way and that, combined with the eighties camp appeal, makes the film an entertaining distraction even if the film itself is pretty bad.

    As far as the story goes, Paul (Matthew Laborteaux from Little House On The Prairie!) is a super-genius teenager who has been accepted at a university level neuroscience program. He and his mother, Jeannie (Anne Twomey), move into a new neighborhood to be close to the school where Paul has to learn to make new friends and adjust to school life. Thankfully, Paul has a friend on his side in the form of a big, dopey robot that he's named BB. Paul soon buddies up with Tom (Michael Sharrett) and falls for the cute girl next door, Samantha (Kristy Swanson).

    Things get crazy one night when Samantha's drunken loser of a dad, Harry (Richard Marcus), knocks her out and puts her in a coma. As Samantha lies on her deathbed, Paul figures he can sneak into the hospital and through some impromptu brain surgery save her life, even if it means taking her brain back to a 'BB' like stage where she'll have to learn all over again. It works, but Paul doesn't realize that something is wrong with BB's brain. But he sure finds that out soon enough when the re-animated Samantha starts going nuts and killing off a few neighborhood villains, highlighted by the scene where she destroys Anne Ramsey's (yes, the woman from Throw Momma From The Train!) head with a basketball.

    If the idea of Kristy Swanson coming back to life as a killer robot sounds a little ridiculous, you're not far off the mark. The premise is bad, the script is horribly written, the dialogue completely contrived and the BB robot is completely annoying. The whole thing is so farfetched that it's simply impossible to suspend our disbelief that far and, as such, we don't wind up caring about anyone in the film. That said, what keeps the film from being a total waste of time is its inventive and explosive kill scenes (the basketball scene... my God.... it's brilliant!) and the sheer, blatant stupidity of the whole project. The film winds up an entertaining and fabulous disaster.

    Hardly a high note in Craven's career, but if you’re in the right frame of mind for it, Deadly Friend really is a fun time killer with some neat gore. The robot effects might not be convincing but the gore effects are reasonably plentiful and well-done. If the acting isn’t really very good, it is at least amusing (watching Swanson in killer robot mode is kind of surreal at times!) and the whole thing is absolutely worth seeing just for Ramsey’s death scene alone (everything else is just a bonus).

    Deadly Friend – Blu-ray Review:

    Shout! Factory brings Deadly Friend to region A Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen taken from a ‘new 2k restoration of the film from an interpositive.’ Taking up 25.6GBs of space on the dual-layered 50GB disc, the picture quality here is quite strong. Detail sees a very strong upgrade when compared to the past DVD release, colors look better and more natural here as well. Black levels are strong and we get nice depth and texture. Print damage is never a problem though the expected amount of natural film grain is visible. There aren’t any noticeable problems with compression, noise reduction or edge enhancement, this looks nice and film-like.

    The 24-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 track, which comes with optional subtitles in English only, sounds very good. The score has some pretty decent range to it, the effects pack just the right amount of punch and the dialogue is always easy to understand and follow. There are no problems with any audible hiss or distortion and the levels are nicely balanced.

    The previous DVD release didn’t have much going for it in the way of extra features but Shout! Factory has wrangled up a few new interviews to include on the disc, starting with Hey Sam, Nice Shot, which is an interview with actress Kristy Swanson that runs for just over nine minutes ago. Swanson she talks about doing the film as a sixteen year old, thoughts on the original script and how everything changed a few weeks into shooting when the title and script were both changed to make things into more of a horror movie than a love story. She talks about how Craven originally want to do a psychological thriller rather than a horror movie and how great Craven was to work with (she gets a bit choked up talking about him), thoughts on her character, getting along with Matthew Laborteaux and Anne Ramsey, and, of course, filming the infamous basketball kill scene. Swanson comes across as genuinely nice and gracious here, it's a treat to get the chance to hear her reminisce about working on the film.

    Up next is Written In Blood, an interview with screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin that clocks in at eight minutes. This covers how Rubin got into screenwriting, adapting a book called Friend into the screenplay that became Deadly Friend, taking the script to provide for his family more than anything else (and how his deceased yoga teacher guided him on this!), how he really liked working with Craven and sharing the same reservations about the project, how excited his kids were to go to the Warner Brothers lot where the movie was shot, some of the themes and ideas that he tried to work into the script, changes that were made to the title and the script, how the test audience reacted to an early version, adding the violence and gore at the behest of a WB executive, thoughts on the finished film and more.

    Special makeup effects artist Lance Anderson gets in front of the camera for Robots, Ramsey And Revenge. In this five minute piece, he talks about having to create the two main 'gags' for the film, thoughts on Swanson's performance and the silliness inherent in her role, wishing that the robot was more threatening than the 'yellow, plastic looking thing' they wound up with, working with Anne Ramsey and crafting her explosive death scene, and how great Craven was to work with (this is a recurring theme in each and every one of these interviews).

    Last but not least, Samantha's Symphony is an interview with composer Charles Bernstein that runs just over eight minutes in length. This goes over first working with Craven on A Nightmare On Elm Street, how they got along and enjoyed working together, how by the time they made Deadly Friend they had established a relationship, thoughts on the film itself, some of the elements that he tried to work into his score, using electronics to get the right sound in key scenes, how his score was received by the producers and his thoughts on how it all turned out.

    Rounding out the extras are a few theatrical trailer and TV spots for the feature, menus and chapter selection. This release also comes with a nice reversible cover sleeve featuring newly created artwork on one side and the original poster art on the reverse. Additionally, for the first pressing, Shout! Factory has included a slipcover featuring the newly created artwork on the front side.

    Deadly Friend – The Final Word:

    Deadly Friend is a big, beautiful, fabulous disaster of a film and Shout! Factory has done it justice with a very nice high definition presentation and four genuinely interesting interviews that do a very good job of documenting the film’s history. All in all, a fine release for a ridiculous, but very fun, movie.

    Click on the images below for full-sized Deadly Friend screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Hahaha, I don't remember much about the film, but I sure remember the basketball scene and the "surprise" ending lol
    1. Darcy Parker's Avatar
      Darcy Parker -
      I think, if we are all being honest, Wes Craven had a lot more bad movies in his resumé than good ones, but the good ones tended to be spectacular enough to sway his reputation.