By Rich OsmondDEADLY FRIEND, 1986, Directed by Wes Craven
After his breakout success with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, Wes Craven went to work for the majors and got to do anything he wanted... as long as it was another teenage horror flick. So he hooked up with would-be deep thinker Bruce Joel Rubin (author of such meditations on the afterlife as GHOST and JACOB'S LADDER) to adapt Diana Henstill's teenage Frankenstein novel, Friend.
Matthew Laborteaux (Albert on "Little House On The Prairie" and who could forget "Whiz Kids"?) stars as Paul, a teenage science prodigy who hits suburbia with his mom and his only friend, an endlessly gibbering homemade orange robot named BeeBee. Misunderstood and lonely (like most kids who go everywhere with their homemade robot), Paul strikes up a friendship with Samantha, the cute girl next door (played by Kristy Swanson, the most listless actress of her generation). But, double tragedy strikes the couple before they can get down to business: Kristy is thrown down the stairs by her abusive asshole dad (child abuse being one of Wes' big themes) and BeeBee is blown away by THROW MAMA FROM THE TRAIN's Anne Ramsey.
Since Paul not only knows robots but also does a little work on human brains in the local college morgue, he figures he'll bust Samantha out of the vegetable ward and do a little home-style brain surgery to save her. Tragically, he arrives too late: they've already pulled the plug! No problem! Paul just takes BeeBee's old circuit board and grafts it to Samantha's brain. And you know the result: a hot-wired teenage zombie on a non-stop killing spree.
Yeah, this sounds like a can't-fail premise to me too but Wes really blew it by casting the eternally dorky Kristy Swanson. Her idea of being a robot zombie is to imitate BeeBee: holding out her hands stiffly in front of her and even beeping fer chrissake! What could Wes have been thinking? And if Paul were such a supergenius, why can't he program BeeBee to speak English instead of beeping all the time? Or, at least get it to shut up! Some gory brain surgery and a cool decapitation with a basketball give a glimpse of what could have been, but overall DEADLY FRIEND was just the first in a long series of misfires before Wes got a decent script and unleashed his second breakout success, SCREAM.