Friendship is Science! (Deadly Friend, 1986)

Paul is a tech genius teen who has built his own robot named BB. BB has the ability to learn and grow in intelligence. When Paul and his mother move to a new neighborhood, he is befriended by Sam (a girl abused by her father) and Tom. The three form a bond which is shaken up when Sam is accidentally killed by her father.

Paul uses BB’s brain to re-animate Sam’s body. Paul hides Sam in a shed, but she goes out to explore and starts killing people who wronged Sam and BB. Paul finds this a problem as he tries to cover for Sam, but he is terrible at this. Instead, his lies start falling apart and when Tom threatens to go to the police and expose him, Sam goes on the attack. Seeing the threat, Paul tries to stop her so she is not killed (again). But it is clear that Sam and BB are not the girl Paul wanted to bring back.

Deadly Friend is an interesting concept and one of the early forays into the idea of IA and learning computers. BB’s design falls into the cute robot category and has a fun vocal provided by Roger Rabbit’s Charles Fleischer.

The film makes use of dreams and nightmares, much like a lot of Craven’s work. And the early parts of the film are equal parts fun and ominous. The film makes it clear that Sam’s father beats her showing bruises. But there is also the disturbing implication that he has raped her as well.

But where the film goes wrong is the choices made with the resurrected Sam. To show Sam is more reanimated flesh, they give her dark under-eyes and pale skin with light blue lips. This would be fine, if the choice was made to give her slightly more natural movement. While you could argue that her movements should be awkward, as BB is not used to walking. And there are moments where it is clear Sam/BB are trying to understand what is going on. But there was a clear and conscious choice for Kristy Swanson to move like a robot. BB had metal pincers for hands. So Sam walks around like this…

“I AM ROBOT”
“Kill!!!!”

It just looks hilarious, rather than scary or threatening. I do not know who thought this was a good idea. But it definitely makes it hard to take anything in the film seriously.

Deadly Friend had real potential on paper, but the execution is a pretty big disappointment. I mean, except for Anne Ramsey as the mean old neighbor who gets killed in a rather funny and memorable kill.

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