Deadly Friend qualifies as a crappy movie, without a doubt, but there's some neat things in it and it can be enjoyable on its own terms. Most importantly, and comically, the movie exposes the dangerous potential of basketballs.
This leads to the group of them attempting to pull a prank on Elvira on Halloween night. The prank of course goes tragically wrong and Elvira (SPOILER) blows BB up with her shotgun, shooting him to pieces. Paul is of course devastated at the loss of his friend (and creation; jeez how much did that thing cost?? Hope he had insurance), as are Sam and Tom, who feels extra guilt, as the prank was his idea.
Devasated at yet another loss, Paul (showing shades of Herbert West) comes up with a scheme to use BB's microchip brain to kickstart Sam's. He and Tom steal Sam's body (pretty elaborate for a couple teen boys) and hide her out in Paul's garage. Sam returns to life, but is basically an animated corpse, slowly remembering how to do things, like walk and move around properly. As could be predicted, the melding of a robot and human brain does not go well. Once Sam relearns basic motor functions, she also gains super robot-level strength and a need for revenge against those that have wronged her and BB. Paul has to deal with the implications of having a murderous, reanimated girlfriend, as well as explain all this to his buddy Tom while trying to hide Sam from his mother and the authorities. Teenager problems are the worst problems...
Craven wanted to abandon the project, but was forced to stay on for the reshoots because he was going through a messy divorce at the time and was also facing a lawsuit, so getting paid became the bottom line. To this day, Craven dislikes the final film, effectively disowning it. I can't imagine his original version being much better than the final product, as most of the added scare scenes are some of the best parts of the movie.
The Elm St. comparisons don't end there. The basement of Sam's father's house has a creepy, fiery furnace in it that closely resembles the same thing in the basement of Nancy's house in Nightmare. Also, the idyllic suburban setting closely resembles the neighborhoods seen in many 80s horror films, including Fright Night (1985), The Gate (1987), and yes, Elm St. as well.
The best added scene also happens to be the most memorable scene in the movie. After Sam has been resurrected, she breaks into Elvira's home and attacks her, killing her in the most ludicrous fashion: with a basketball. It's quite the head explosion, really graphic stuff (again, tonally out of place in the film) but then it goes an extra step into goofiness when the body begins to shimmy and shake around with laughable effects. It really is a must see, truly the one great scene in the movie:
The most compelling relationship in the movie, to me, was not the Sam/Paul drama, but the Paul/Tom dynamic. As friends, they're shown to have a true camaraderie, as evidenced in the scene where Paul convinces Tom to help him steal Sam's body from the hospital. Later, when Tom finds out that Sam has started killing people, he's justifiably freaked out and decides to tell the police. This doesn't go over well with Sam, who leaps out of a window and attacks Tom. It's at this moment that Paul first realizes that bringing Sam back from the dead maybe wasn't the best idea (or maybe it's a few seconds later when she's choking him?).
Cinematographer Philip H. Lathrop has an impressive filmography that includes John Boorman's Point Blank (1967), Sydney Pollack's They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969), and Walter Hill's The Driver (1978). Deadly Friend would be his last theatrical film and evidence that he had bills to pay or owed someone a favor.
Craven's post-Nightmare/pre-Scream resume also includes other wildly uneven and questionable product, like Shocker (1989), The People Under the Stairs (1991), New Nightmare (1994), and Vampire in Brooklyn (1995). I've always been partial to New Nightmare, but his best film from this period is probably the voodoo thriller The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), but I've always been lukewarm on that one due to the presence of Bill Pullman and the severe lack of deaths by basketball.
Two things about this trailer:
#1- There is a suspicious lack of BB.
#2- at the 51 second mark there is a "hey, girl."