[Editor's Note: In this special guest post, Joseph Maddrey, author of Beyond Fear, reflects on Deadly Friend as part of our Wes Craven tribute week.]

"For horror fans, Deadly Friend is a film that seems to have everything going for it. It’s a modern-day reimagining of Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein, directed by A Nightmare on Elm Street creator Wes Craven, written by Bruce Joel Rubin (the future Oscar-winner behind Ghost and Jacob’s Ladder), and starring Kristy Swanson (the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer). But while the film has its admirers, it was a critical and commercial failure in 1986, quickly disowned by its creators and leaving viewers to wonder what went wrong....

...Deadly Friend began its life as a popular novel by Diana Henstell, simply called Friend.  The story revolves around an emotionally disturbed 13-year-old boy named Paul “Piggy” Conway.  Piggy is cursed with a lack of social grace, troubled over his parents’ recent divorce, and haunted by daydreams and nightmares about a violent “accident” that resulted in the fiery death of a classmate.  For a while his only friend is a robot named BeeBee, which Piggy built himself.  That changes when he and his mother move to a small town in Pennsylvania and Piggy befriends Samantha Pringle, the 11-year-old girl next door.

Sam and Piggy have an instant connection because they are both essentially adults trapped in children’s bodies.  Piggy has an elevated IQ that separates him from his peers.  Samantha’s father Harry treats her more like a wife than a daughter, forcing her to cook and clean for him, right up until the moment when he murders her in a drunken rage.  After her death, Piggy uses his advanced knowledge of robots and biochemistry to transplant BeeBee’s “brain” into the Samantha’s body.  Henstell, obviously aware that she’s treading on familiar ground, crafts this plot twist as an homage to Frankenstein: Sam’s resurrection takes place in a science lab on a dark and stormy night, and a bolt of lightning brings her back to life.

Like Mary Shelley’s famous monster, however, Sam doesn’t come back all the way.  At first she can’t walk, and she never re-learns how to talk.  The only thing she does really well is kill.  She strangles her father in the basement of her childhood home, drowns neighbor Elvira Williams in the bathtub, and inadvertently causes the death of a local police deputy.  Regardless, Piggy loves her.  He refuses to acknowledge that he has created a monster until Sam attacks his parents, and even then he can’t let her go.  Piggy finally chases his creation out into a wicked snowstorm (like a certain famous baron), and the story ends on a tragic note when Sam jumps into an icy river, and Piggy follows her down into darkness."

To read Joseph's full reflections on Deadly Friend, click on the link or poster below to view or download a .PDF version:

Deadly Friend by Joseph Maddrey

For more of Joseph's insights on the work of Wes Craven, as well as Stephen King and George A. Romero, read Beyond Fear: Reflections on Stephen King, Wes Craven, and George Romero's Living Dead:

"Stephen King, Wes Craven and George Romero are known for tales of ghosts, zombies and madmen - but their power as storytellers extends far beyond things that go bump in the night. At the deepest level, their stories are about the light that emerges from darkness, guarded hope for the future, and faith in the great unknown. Beyond Fear draws on decades of interviews to reveal the worldviews of three modern masters of horror - from the romantic idealism of George Romero to the intellectual spirituality of Wes Craven to the hard-­won humanism of Stephen King."