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Review Deadly Friend (1986): Light Wes Craven film that still surprises!

genre: horror, science fiction

Apparently, Wes Craven never intended Deadly Friend to be a horror film. He actually wanted to focus on the bizarre love story between Paul (Matthew Labyorteaux) and Samantha (Kristy Swanson). And wanted to explore how the surrounding adults were the true monsters inside. Craven got to test his original vision and the audience wasn't having it, to which the studios intervened and added the blood and gore the audience demanded. Craven and Bruce Joel Rubin were outraged by the end results and therefore disowned the film.

I am very curious about this original vision, since it does seem like it would jell more with audiences today. But as a horror fan, I can't deny that I loved the blood and gore scenes in the film. It certainly livened up events for me. Now, there is a slight chance Craven and Rubin overreacted a little. Some of their vision is still very much intact. Samantha's father truly is a horrific person and easily is the most evil character in the film. Then there is Elvira. At first, one might think she is just a nice little old lady who is lonely and misunderstood.  But then, you get exposed to her actions, and you will be thinking differently. Samantha's violent outbursts are mostly out of love and self-defence. If I remember correctly, the revived Samantha is made of parts of BB, the friendly but dangerous robot we get introduced to in the beginning. Paul isn't really aware of BB's tendencies towards revenge and violence. Or he is and is in denial about it. Somehow, those tendencies got transferred to Samantha. Even then, both Samantha and BB are pure and innocent. They are childlike beings who still have to learn the ways of the world. I think most viewers would agree with me. Of course, it would have been nice had the relationship between Paul and Samantha been explored further. 

The first time I watched this, I was quite young and was quite impressed with the horror aspects of the film. Even today, the violence is effective. But yes, I do see how it doesn't mix well with the overall, child-friendly tone of the film otherwise. Especially with Matthew playing his role very similar to the one he played in a show called, Whiz Kids. But at the same time, the contrast is what makes the film compelling. So Craven might not have been proud of it. I do consider this one of his better works. 

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