Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Deadly Friend

  So, Deadly Friend is basically Frankenstein + Short Circuit. I mean, that should tell you all you need to know about this movie. It's painfully dated, but still ridiculous fun. I had heard opinions from both sides about this movie. Some people hate it, some love it- but regardless, the most common gripe was about the tone of the movie, not the quality of it. I popped this movie in without expecting much, despite the fact it was directed by Wes Craven. It was going to be nothing but a filler entry between yesterday's It Follows and my planned entry for tomorrow. Yet, despite not being very into it, the movie drew me in and made me more invested than I had any intention of being.

   For starters, I was pleasantly surprised at how good the acting was in here, with one or two scenery chewing exceptions. Especially in a movie about a teenage genius, who's built a robot with artificial intelligence, and later brings a girl back to life using said technology... the actors actually do really well with what they're given. Somehow they make it convincing, which... in lesser hands would've been really hard to do. Anyways, the tone of the movie is all over the place. It's bubbly and cute in the first act, then gets rather dark in the second act, back and forth for a while, and then the last act is pure horror. The two don't gel well and it'd actually be easy to forget you're not watching a silly kid's movie for the first... what, half an hour to forty minutes?

   It's not a huge deal though because the movie itself isn't a huge deal. I didn't expect anything but some silly horror shlock, and I got that- and then some. The movie was a treat, due in no small part to 80's-90's heartthrob Kristy Swanson. At the time this came out, her most notable role was a supporting part in Pretty in Pink, but she really got more popular in the 90's. She's adorable here, a total girl-next-door cutie. But, a tragic one at that. Her father is viciously abusive and it's hard to watch her go through that. This is one of those dark tone shifts I mentioned. When not five minutes prior, a bunch of teens were playing basketball with a cute little robot named BeeBee.

   Anyways, Swanson ends up being Frankenstein's monster so to speak- which is probably the most difficult role in the movie. She has to put up with having to act like a robot for a good long while, and yet somehow her humanity shines through making her even more tragic and sympathetic. Even though she walks around, wide-eyed, and hands extended- frozen in what looks like a Vulcan handshake -she manages to find moments and ways to remind us of what's actually going on here. She's a dead teenage girl that's been crudely resurrected from the dead with garage-built technology. It's not silly, it's horrifying. On the surface it looks goofy, but the more you think about her situation, the scarier it is. She drew me into the movie and it broke my heart.

  Super genius teen Paul, and his new friend Tom, are actually really well written. During some of the more intensely dramatic moments, both actors seriously threw themselves into their roles. Some really frightening stuff here. Also, since I'm wrapping up my review here, and sorta running out of things to talk about, lemme just say (minor spoilers ahead if you actually wanna see the movie) there's a scene in which Swanson's undead character throws a basketball at someone so hard, their head explodes in a mess of blood and brains. It's delightfully nasty, the kind of ridiculousness that make semi-obscure movies like this completely worth watching.

  Granted, the movie isn't exactly some hidden gem, and ends up being little more than an interesting albeit uneven experiment, but at least it was interesting. It borders on spoof, but really isn't one. It's just kind of goofy at times. If not for the actors, the violent shifts in tone might have sunk the movie- because I don't think most people knew what to make of it as is anyway. The writing is fairly average, and the music was standard, but the gore effects and the characters make it worth it. It's a sterling piece of 80's sci-fi/horror camp. If it had been just a bit more focused, streamlined, and scary- it would probably be more of a cult classic instead of being just rather forgotten. Nevertheless, I am glad I own this fun little no-brainer flick. (On VHS no less.) You could do a lot worse for seasonal viewing. Come for Kristy Swanson, stay for the basketball death scene.

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