1986 was probably my best horror year. It was the year Stephen King's magnum opus, It, was published. Skipp and Spector unleashed The Light at the End on an unsuspecting public, shaking the pillars of the field. The Books of Blood came out a little before that, but I first read them in '86. Charles Grant's best novel, The Pet, came out. Thomas Tessier's Finishing Touches was ahead of its time in that year. Dennis Etchison's anthology, Cutting Edge, was another sign of things to come. I was reading Night Cry, The Horror Show, and Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Magazine.

And movies. We had The Fly. Aliens. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Night of the Creeps, The Hitcher, From Beyond. The slasher cycle was almost dead, but one of the best Friday sequels, Jason Lives, came out. Plus one of the more innovative and entertaining holiday slashers: April Fool's Day. Great films, but also a ton of fun little movies I hold dear to my heart, like Maximum Overdrive, Vamp, Psycho 3, The Howling 2 (Your Sister is a Werewolf!), Critters, Chopping Mall, Terrorvision, Gothic, Witchboard, Rawhead Rex.

The best of times to be a horror fan. We still had drive-in theaters in oepration, and they would play offbeat, oddball movies that somehow found themselves in distribution.

I also read Fangoria religiously. These were the early Timpone days. A time before there were numerous books and articles everywhere about horror. Information was hard to come by, and I cherished every nugget I could find.

A movie that got a lot of promotional coverage was Wes Craven's Deadly Friend. This was Wes's first feature since A Nightmare on Elm Street. He had been toiling in the world of television for a couple of years, and fans were anxious to see what he would come up with.

Sadly, Deadly Friend was not the picture Freddy fans were waiting for. I think Wes Craven came a lot closer with his following movie, The Serpent and the Rainbow, but Deadly Friend just didn't work.

I mentioned the popularity of horror at the time. Teen films were still in vogue, with Pretty in Pink and Ferris Beuller's Day Off coming in 1986.

At the same time, Steven Spielberg was making family friendly fantasy-horror-SF movies, and they were generally very successful.

Deadly Friend was based on a well-received novel by Diana Henstell, simply called Friend. So it had that going for it. As with many of Craven's movies, the Hollywood mucky-mucks second guessed not only the director, but themselves, and Deadly Friend ended being an awkward combination of slasher horror, teen dramedy, and goofy robot science fiction fit for preteens.

I said that Deadly Friend was not exactly a success, but that did not stop me from loving it. The movie was released on October 10, 1986, and me and my best friend saw it at a drive-in. We went one night in the middle of the week, so the drive-in was mostly empty.

I remember it so well. A cool, almost cold evening. We sat on the hood of his car, leaning against the windshield. Plenty of beer in the back seat, and burgers and fries from the snack bar.

We had a great time that night. It seemed as though everything in the universe was in perfect working order. I was much more of a goggle-eyed fan than a critical movie fan. The teen stuff worked, the kills were innovative and entertaining. Especially that juicy basketball scene! The cutesy robot stuff didn't even bother us.

I've seen Deadly Friend numerous times over the years, and I even reviewed the DVD in these pages almost fifteen years ago. That same friend and I watched Deadly Friend on Saturday night. No beer this time. We watched it on his flatsceen, and we had sandwiches and peanuts in the shell. A nice time, even if it were not quite the same as being twenty-five and partying like we would never grow old.

This time we cringed over the robot stuff, and the teen actors were far from A-List material. Kristy Swanson was pretty good, though. We laughed through the gore scenes, poked fun at the attempts at wit, and I mostly felt sorry for Wes Craven, who was far better than this material. I can only picture him with his face in his hands and wondering if he would have a career after this turkey hit the screens.

Despite it all, I will always love Deadly Friend. It was an important movie in my development as a horror fan. I do admire some things about it. Some of Craven's intelligence snuck its way into the final cut, as did screenwriter Bruce Joel Ruben's metaphysical vision.

Written by Mark Sieber

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