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Deadly Friend (1986) Poster

(1986)

Trivia

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Director Wes Craven and screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin's original vision for the film was a PG-rated supernatural science fiction thriller, with the primary focus being on the macabre love story between Paul and Samantha, as well as a secondary focus on the adults around them and how they are truly monsters inside themselves. Craven filmed this version of the film and Warner Bros. decided to screen it to a test audience mostly consisting of Craven's fans. The response from fans was negative, criticizing the lack of violence and gore seen in Craven's previous films. The studio eventually discovered Craven's popularity as a horror film director. The president of Warner Bros. at the time, Mark Canton, demanded Rubin write six additional gore scenes into his script, each bloodier then the last. Rubin worked very hard with Craven to create a very deep and heartfelt movie out of it. Unfortunately, added gore scenes, re-shoots and post production re-editing of the movie heavily changed the original story. Craven and Rubin expressed strong anger at the studio and thus disowned the film.
In an interview with Fangoria, Kristy Swanson said that she found herself and the other actors caught up in the studio's attempts to strong-arm Wes Craven into making the film more visceral than what was originally intended. During both production and re-shoots, changes to the script were being made, title changes were being discussed (when Craven started the project, it was called 'Friend', then it was changed to 'Artificial Intelligence' and then to 'A.I.' before the producers and the studio finally settled on 'Deadly Friend'), and there were many discussions about how violent and bloody the final film would be. All these issues also caused some problems for actors.
Kristy Swanson said that she had probably thrown the basketball over a hundred times during the re-shoot filming of Elvira's death scene: Wes Craven kept at me to throw it as hard as I could to indicate great speed. I must have tossed that ball a hundred times. My arm sure felt I did." Swanson also said in an interview with Maxim magazine in May 2000 that the fake head was stuffed with actual cow brains that the production crew picked up from a butcher shop.
Wes Craven wasn't attracted to the story of 'Deadly Friend' because Samantha goes on a killing spree when she's revived as an undead monster. Craven was much more interested in exploring the adults around her, all of whom seem to be monsters in human skin. In his own words: "The scares don't come from her, but from the ordinary people, who are actually much more frightening - a father who beats a child is a terrifying figure. That's the one person you're afraid of in the movie...the idea is along the lines that adults can be horrible, without being outside what society says is acceptable."
Kristy Swanson was 16 years old during filming, making 'Deadly Friend' her feature film debut. She thought it was very challenging to play a vibrant teenager re-animated as a zombie with a robotic brain. Today, Swanson is proud of her work in the film.
Promotional stills, lobby cards and many other pictures show some of the deleted scenes, all of which show more of the character and plot parts and specially more scenes between Paul and Samantha:
  • Paul and Sam having a picnic in Paul's yard with BB.
  • Paul and Sam sitting on a bench and kissing while Sam holds a toy animal that could be a gift from Paul.
  • Paul and Sam in Halloween costumes talking and/or arguing with Carl, the leader of the biker punk gang who bullied Paul, Tom, and BB earlier.
  • Paul talking with his mom Jeannie in his room after finding out that Sam is going to be unplugged from life support.
  • Paul sitting next to Sam and holding her hand while she is in hospital when some nurse shows up and probably tells him that he needs to go.
  • Paul at the hospital kneeling next to Sam soon after she is unplugged from life support.
  • The original death scene of Elvira, wherein Sam sneaks up behind her and slams her through the front door of her house. This original death scene is also shown in theatrical trailer.
  • An extended version of the scene in which Paul talks with Sam after she shows him the photo of two of them with BB.
  • Paul and Sam sitting together in the attic.
  • Paul and his mom in their living room together with re-animated Samantha (part of the different plot from original version of the movie). The back cover of the Twisted Terror DVD edition of the movie shows the picture from this deleted scene.
  • The back cover of the Twisted Terror DVD edition of Deadly Friend also shows a picture of ghostly-looking Samantha wearing a white dress. This is one of the few stills showing original ending whereafter she is killed at the end of the movie. Paul dreams that Samantha is in his room saying goodbye to him. Other stills of this original ending do exist but are very rare, although one can be seen on Kristy Swanson's website.
There were many more scenes that were deleted from the original cut during the post-production re-shoots and re-editing, some because after the forced re-shoots it ended up turning into a completely different film and some others because of the studio demands to make it shorter for more profitable theatrical release, since ninety minutes long movies or less would have more theatrical screenings. This is why there are some jump cuts and choppy editing in the final version, especially around the first half of the movie.
The film was censored heavily by the MPAA and was submitted 13 times before it finally got an R rating. Samantha's nightmare about killing her father, the death scene of Samantha's father, the aftermath of his death scene, and the death scene of Elvira were all cut. An uncut version has been restored on the DVD release from the Twisted Terror Collection released by Warner Bros. on September 5th, 2007.
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The B.B. robot cost over $20,000 to build. Wes Craven used a company called Robotics 21. His eyes were constructed from two 1950 camera lenses, a garage remote control unit, and a radio antenna taken from a Corvette. B.B. could actually lift 750 pounds in weight.
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According to Wes Craven, the film had "seven or eight" producers and each had their own idea of what the film should be like.
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The voice of B.B. the robot was provided by Charles Fleischer, who had previously appeared in Wes Craven's earlier film A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and who would go on to voice Roger Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988).
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Wes Craven once said regarding the reasons why re-shoots and adding more graphic death scenes into the film were demanded by the studio: "We started off doing a picture that Warner Bros. indicated they wanted to do, a macabre love story with a twist. About five weeks into the shoot, they realized who I was and told me not to be inhibited by what they had told me in the past... So, in the last weeks of shooting, I made up one little nightmare scene and put it into the film. It was the big hit of the screening. So, then, they came to me and said, 'Listen, what we need is more of that stuff. What we're doing is adding to the deaths of few people, a jump for the beginning, a new closing scene and two nightmares - that sort of Wes Craven touch'." After negative reactions from preview audiences that saw Craven's first cut of the film and wanted a much more grisly film, it was re-edited and the gorier deaths and all of the other re-shot scenes were included, but these scenes only made the film look like a mash-up of two different genres: a family-friendly film and a straight-up horror film. While new scenes were added, others like more scenes between Paul and Samantha that would have made the movie more of a love story as originally intended were deleted for pacing and length because it was decided that the movie was to be released as a fast-paced horror film.
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While filming the movie and having problems with the studio-forced re-shoots, Wes Craven and his ex-wife Mimi were going through a messy divorce, and he even faced a $30 million lawsuit in court with a person who claimed not only to have written A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), but that Craven stole the story. On top of all that, he was removed from two major projects: Beetlejuice (1988), and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987), both of which were also distributed by Warner Bros.
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In promotional interview (Fangoria #60, The Prettiest Deadly Friend), Kristy Swanson mentioned some problems she had during filming: "I felt that, at times, people on the set thought I was just this dumb teenager who had to be lend around by the hand. Nobody actually patted me on the head or anything like that, but I had a hard time getting the point across that even though I may have been young, I was a young actress." Wes Craven at first wasn't convinced that she could handle the role of Samantha: "Eventually, he changed his mind. He was always encouraging me, prodding me in subtle ways to get me to give a scene everything I could. There were days when we were behind schedule, or a particular scene was not working, where he would get a little upset, but I found Wes Craven to be a very patient man."
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Although a critical and financial failure at the time it was released, over the years 'Deadly Friend' has become a cult movie and garnered a fan following.
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Earlier in production, when the movie was originally going to be a PG-rated sci-fi thriller, Wes Craven wanted to make something that was similar to Starman (1984), in which Jeff Bridges played an alien who, after crashing on Earth, transforms into a human, falls in love with a woman who helps him out, and, throughout the film, reacts to the certain things around him in similar way that Kristy Swanson's character does in 'Deadly Friend' after she gets the microchip implanted into her brain. According to Swanson in 1987 interview with Fangoria: "Craven suggested that I take a look at the movie 'Starman' because what he wanted to do with 'Deadly Friend' was similar in tone to that film." Interestingly, John Carpenter directed 'Starman' because he wanted to get away from his reputation as director of violent horror movies, just as Craven wanted to make 'Deadly Friend' into PG-rated movie in order to show that he could make a movie that wasn't "blood and guts" horror.
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Although the movie has much of Wes Craven's trademark iconography, including nightmare sequences, Craven himself originally didn't want to film them. During the re-shoots, he was told by the producers to include few of them. As Craven said, "They were mine but they came very late. It was after the film was shot and the producers said, 'Let's put dream sequences in'."
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Much like 'Deadly Friend', another movie written by Bruce Joel Rubin, _Jacob's Ladder (1990)_, had similar problems with script and negative test screenings. Rubin's original script for 'Jacob's Ladder' was re-written prior to filming, and around 20 minutes of horror scenes were deleted from the original cut of the movie because preview audience thought that they were too disturbing.
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Wes Craven had a hand in selecting Bruce Joel Rubin to write the screenplay for 'Deadly Friend'. Rubin agreed that the film should have a gentler tone than Craven's other features. Craven couldn't write the script himself because he was preoccupied with directing episodes of The Twilight Zone (1985) at the time. Craven and producer Robert M. Sherman hired Rubin as screenwriter after reading and being impressed with his (at that time) unproduced script for _Jacob's Ladder (1990)_.
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In an interview for Fangoria, Wes Craven said that the deadline for delivering the first cut of 'Deadly Friend' with re-shoots included, and delivering a script for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), which he was working on with 'Bruce Wagner', was virtually the same, making it very difficult for him to do both projects at once.
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Screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin went on to write two more afterlife-themed movies; Ghost (1990) and _Jacob's Ladder (1990)_. Unlike 'Deadly Friend', both films were critically and financially successful.
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The theatrical trailer shows parts of the original death scene of Elvira. Also, Samantha is shown in Paul's room saying, "You're so cute", but this scene is not in the actual movie. Since scenes from both the original and the re-shoot version are shown in it, the trailer was probably edited by combining footage from both versions of the movie.
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The suburban setting of the film echoed Wes Craven's previous film, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and was a deliberate choice by Craven himself.
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Matthew Labyorteaux said, in interview for Starlog, that Wes Craven didn't want to turn 'Deadly Friend' into a horror film: "Wes said that one thing he didn't want to do was make this a horror movie, because it's one of his first large budget movies which isn't from New Line Cinema or Joe Blow Pictures. That gave me a little sense of security knowing that he wanted to do a nice picture."
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The theatrical trailer of the movie that Warner Bros. made represented it as a straight-up horror film, with not one frame of B.B. the robot anywhere. The mixture of teens and terror as seen in the trailer implied that 'Deadly Friend' would be vastly derivative of Wes Craven's previous film, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).
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In an 1996 interview Kristy Swanson said about 'Deadly Friend': "It was my first starring role in a feature. I was 16. I committed myself completely to it. I just went full out with it. I wanted to do the best job I could possibly do. I was having the time of my life. As for the movie itself, some people love it, some people hate it. It is what it is. I really enjoyed making 'Deadly Friend'. At that point in my life, it was spectacular."
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According to Wes Craven, 'Deadly Friend' came about as a direct consequence of his agent saying to him, "You should do a studio film, because otherwise you'll be stuck doing small films for the rest of your life."
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For the scene chronicling the transplant of B.B.'s microchip into Samantha's brain, Wes Craven called on the advice of retired neurosurgeon William H. Faeth, who has a cameo in the film as a coroner in Sam's hospital room. Craven said that "he was very helpful on all the anatomical details." Craven himself studied anatomy a great deal before filming started.
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While critics, audiences, and horror fans praised the film's script, plot and actors, most of the bad criticism was centered on scenes that were added or changed because of the demands made by Warner Bros. and the producers. These include all gore and dream scenes, as well as the post-mortem "transformation" of Sam in the revised ending.
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Because of all the studio interference and re-shoots, when it was released, 'Deadly Friend' was considered to be "a schizophrenic jumble of genres", and even Wes Craven himself admitted that he didn't know "what the Hell kind of film it was."
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Just like 'Deadly Friend', another Warner Bros. movie from the same year, the cult action film Cobra (1986) was also a victim of studio forced cuts and re-edits. Much like he did with 'Deadly Friend', Warner Bros.' head demanded for some drastic changes to be done on the film, which included shortening the running time from two hours down down to 84 minutes, removing many of the plot and character scenes and heavily cutting down the action sequences and all the gore and violence.
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'Deadly Friend' was released in cinemas in October because Warner Bros. were hoping the Halloween crowd would boost its box office performance. It bombed.
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In an interview, writer Bruce Joel Rubin told a story of how the $36,000 he got paid for writing the script for 'Deadly Friend' saved him from bankruptcy due to the four-month Writer's Guild strike and also helped him prepare his son's Bar Mitzvah and to buy a house. In the same interview, Rubin said that at first, he didn't want to write the script, but after changing his mind, he called producer Robert M. Sherman and got the job. He also said how working on the film was one of the most extraordinary experiences of his life: "It was a horror film with a lot of elements that are not things I wanted on my resume. And it didn't do very good business, but it was total fun. My kids were on the set every night. My five-year-old Ari was totally in love with Kristy Swanson, who was the lead. She later became Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the movie. She was really sweet to him and even took him on a date."
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Editor Michael Eliot, who also re-edited the original and longer cuts of two other Warner Bros. movies Out for Justice (1991) and _Showdown in Little Tokyo (1988)_, re-edited the original cut of 'Deadly Friend'.
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According to the book 'Wes Craven: Art of Horror', Wes Craven's original cut of the film was "a teenage film filled with charm, wit, and solid performances by likeable teens Kristy Swanson and Matthew Labyorteaux. It was definitely a mainstream, PG film all the way, but the point was made that Craven could direct something other than double-barreled horror".
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During filming of one of the re-shoot scenes where Sam has a nightmare in which her father attacks her in her room and she stabs him with glass vase, there were difficulties on set with effects. Kristy Swanson said in interview: "The scene was set up so that I would hit a protective device inside his shirt. But, during one take, I missed the device and glass actually shattered on his chest. I freaked out because I thought I had really stuck this glass into his chest. Everybody else just laughed." In another accident, the great amount of fake blood turned out to be a problem: "We had been working on that scene a long time. Finally, it was time for blood to spray out, but something leaked and we had blood spraying all over the set and myself. I was so tired that I started yelling, 'More blood!' and the effects people really pumped it out."
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As of 2015, 'Deadly Friend' remains Matthew Labyorteaux's last appearance in a theatrical film. Most of his later projects were voice work in films, animations, games and minor roles in two TV movies.
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The movie the neighbor is watching is "The Bad Seed," about a homicidal little girl.
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Based on the archive site of Variety and Joseph Maddery's 2014 article from Deadly Magazine about the film, principal photography of 'Deadly Friend' began on January 6, 1986, in California and ended sometime in February. That's not counting the later re-shoots.
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One of the many original titles this movie had while in development was 'Artifficial Intelligence', later shortened to 'A.I.', until the studio settled on 'Deadly Friend'. Many years later, a movie combining both initial original titles would be released, A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001). Both films were produced by Warner Bros.
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In some countries a film title for TV broadcasting was changed to simply: BB, which are actually the initials and the name of a deadly robot.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

What has probably became the most confusing and hated scene of the film since its release, the ending where Samantha turns into a robot and kills Paul, was indeed considered to be a very bad idea for the ending by people involved in filming, but it was included as a nonsensical last-minute idea of Mark Canton, who was the head of the studio at the time. In an 1990 interview with Fangoria magazine, screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin commented on the forced ending: "The robot coming out of girl's head belongs solely to Mark Canton, and you don't tell the president of Warner Bros. that his idea stinks!" Rubin also said how, at least at that time, people were still blaming him for the ending where Samantha turns into the robot, even though Canton was the one who conceived it. He also mentioned that despite the fact that studio destroyed the love story of the movie that he and Craven enjoyed, he still liked working with Craven, confirming that he wasn't the one who wanted to change the film and that he should not be blamed for what happened to it. Rubin even said that production was one of the happiest experiences he ever had.
Professional mime artist Richmond Shepard taught Kristy Swanson all of the robotic movements that her character has in the movie. In an interview, Swanson said about learning to walk in that specific way: "Getting those moves down was difficult at first. You don't think walking that way is hard until you actually try doing it. But Richmond was a good teacher and I picked up on most of the moves pretty quickly."
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When the new ending with Samantha turning into a robot and attacking Paul was to be filmed, an extra actress was hired and trained three weeks for the scene, but she panicked when she realized that oxygen was to be put through two different masks so that she could breathe. Production coordinator Nancy E. Barr was then asked to do the scene with full make-up on; she complied.
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In an earlier rough cut of the movie, Elvira's death was filmed to be less gorier than in the final cut. Instead of shattering her head with a basketball, Sam smashes Elvira through her front door, leaving the upper half of her body hanging outside the door and the lower half still inside. In the scene where Elvira's body is carried out on a gurney, a big hole in her door was still visible. Dialogue said by Dr. Johanson that her head was smashed all over the room is heard off-screen, meaning that it was probably added later when the scene was changed.
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In a 2006 interview, Wes Craven mentioned a few problems that one of the re-shot gore scenes from 'Deadly Friend', the infamous basketball-to-the-head death scene, had with MPAA; "On 'Deadly Friend', we had a scene where a nasty old lady gets her head knocked off with a basketball. The actual scene as it was originally cut was fabulous; she was running around the room like a chicken with its head cut off for ten, fifteen seconds. It was bizarre and wonderful and they cut the shit out of it. So I compiled what we called our 'Decapitation Compilation', all the films that I knew of that had decapitations in them that had an R, and sent it to them. They immediately sent it back saying they just base it on what they feel in the room at the time. And we had like 8 or 10 films in there, like The Omen (1976) where the guy gets his head cut off by a sheet of glass, and it didn't matter to them."
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Kristy Swanson actually didn't throw the basketball at Anne Ramsey's prosthetic head when filming the infamous head explosion sequence. Samantha throws the ball during one shot, but when it cuts to Elvira being decapitated by the ball, the ball in that shot was actually thrown by the special effects team. This was done for insurance and safety reasons as they didn't want to risk damaging an expensive prop for the scene. Director Wes Craven actually really wanted to throw the ball, but the effects crew had to do it instead.
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The original cut of the movie did not include the gory dream sequences, the infamous basketball decapitation sequence, the opening jump scare scene where the thief tries to steal from Jeannie's minivan, and the ending where Samantha turns into a robot and kills Paul. All of these scenes were added because of script re-write demands and re-shoots forced by Warner Bros. executives and the producers.
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Some of the differences between the original book and the film are; - Paul and Tom's nicknames in the book, Piggy and Slime, are never mentioned in the film. - In the book, the robot's name is spelled Bee Bee. In the film, Bee Bee is shortened to BB. - Elvira's last name in the film is Parker. Her last name in the book is Williams. - In the film, Samantha and Paul are in their mid-teens. In the book, Sam is around twelve years old and Paul is only thirteen. - In the film, Paul is slim teenager while in the book he is fat. He is also teased in school. - In the book there is a ghost character called Lennard that haunts Paul because he was the one that burned him alive in his old school in Boston because Lennard was going to hurt BB. - The persona of Dr. Johanson differs greatly between the book and the film. In the film, he is a friendly man who welcomes Paul to the university. In the book, he is old, stubborn, ignorant, and grouchy, clashing with Paul on several occasions and doesn't really cares about him and BB. - Character of Sgt. Volchek (one that accidentally shoots and kills Sam by accident in ending of the movie) is talked about more in the book. - In the film, Harry's abusing of Sam is given little to no explanation. In the book, Harry's wife and Sam's mother, Grace, left Harry for another man because of his violent ways, thus whenever he abuses Sam, he sees it as him beating Grace because she and Sam look so similar to one another. Samantha's character is also fleshed out more in the book. - In the film, Tom recruits Paul, Sam, and BB to help him prank on Elvira. In the book, Tom scares Paul with a haunted house. - In the book Paul and Tom steal Sam's body from morgue instead of hospital like in the film because she was already dead. - While in the film Sam is revived by Paul who puts BB's microchip into her brain, in the book Sam is resurrected by bolt of lightning. - In the film, BB is killed when Elvira blows him apart with a shotgun. In the book, the shotgun is still the instrument of BB's destruction, but it is Samantha's father who wields the weapon, and he beats BB to death with it. - In the book, the re-animated Samantha becomes more and more corpse-like as the story progresses. Also her feet are full of rat bites. - The infamous basketball decapitation scene is not present in the book. In the book, Sam murders Elvira by drowning her in her bathtub. - Sam also kills Tom by stabbing him (he lives in the movie). The ending of the book is totally different from the ending in the film, in which Sam turns into a robot that closely resembles BB before snapping Paul's neck off-screen. In the ending of the book Paul follows Sam into the snow towards the bridge while police is chasing them. While they're on the bridge Sam and Paul are fighting in the rain. Sam is on top of Paul and hugs him and Paul, thinking that Sam is trying to kill him, kicks her so hard that she goes over the railing and crashes through the ice below. Paul then realizes that Sam wasn't trying to kill him and that she was holding him because she still felt love for him and was actually trying to take him with her when she would have jumped anyway, because, "...she did not want to go into the darkness alone. She wanted him with her." Then when Sam yells "Come with me" Paul swan dives off the bridge into the icy water, with the final line of the book being Paul's final thought: "So this is what love comes to".
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Body count: 5.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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