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‘Deadly Friend’

By Paul Attanasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 11, 1986


Wes Craven
Matthew Laborteaux;
Michael Sharrett;
Kristy Swanson
Under 17 restricted

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In "Deadly Friend," computer whiz Paul (Matthew Laborteaux) moves to a new town so he can pursue his studies, particularly the refinement of an all-but-human robot named Bee Bee. Once there, the young prodigy is enticed by the appetizing meatiness of Samantha (Kristy Swanson), the girl next door. When Bee Bee is blown up by a vengeful biddy and Samantha is "accidentally" murdered by her child-beating father, Paul has the idea of implanting Bee Bee's microchips in Samantha's brain, thus bringing her back to life.

Director Wes Craven ("A Nightmare on Elm Street") works some humor out of Paul's timid sidekick, Tom (Michael Sharrett), who regularly advises that things have gone too far, and the movie has its occasional Cravenisms -- just when you're tiring of the robot's cutesy antics, the old woman opens up with her shotgun, and there's a fairly spectacular effect in which a woman's head is pulverized by a basketball.

But it also has its familiar Craven miscues, like "nightmare" sequences that fool no one, and a "surprise" ending that makes no sense. On the whole, "Deadly Friend" is a routine horror movie, poorly photographed (by old-time cinematographer Philip Lathrop) and poorly performed (with the exception of New York stage actress Anne Twomey, as Paul's mother).

Craven doesn't explore the implications of his story with anything like the thematic richness or the over-the-top morbidity of, say, Stuart Gordon's otherwise similar "Re-Animator." Instead, he's content with the rigid cliche's of a revenge plot, as the revived Samantha, imbued with superpowers, takes off after all those who have wronged her. And that makes "Deadly Friend" a movie whose ho is exceeded only by its hum.

"Deadly Friend" is rated R and contains graphic violence.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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