Friend of the Family (1995): The Surreal Life

Matty shacks up with a rich clan — and, of course, the slinky Shauna O’Brien — for a flawed but singularly strange slice of mid-’90s erotica.

Despite feeling twice as long as its already backside-numbing run time (with very few exceptions, no direct-to-video flick should be over ninety minutes), there’s a lot of neat stuff in the, erm, ‘evenly paced’ FRIEND OF THE FAMILY. Sitting at the weirder end of the erotic spectrum, this surreal offering from Walter Gernert and Andrew W. Garroni’s Axis Films International, a former staple of Cinemax’s ‘Max After Dark’ strand, is bolstered by the seductive, vibe-y air of oneiric floatiness that helmer Edward Holzman conjures. It’s an appropriate thematic choice, what with the idea of dreams and fantasies lacing the film’s deceptively simple narrative, and as far as engagement goes, such ambient posturing certainly sucks you in. Lit like a celestial vision and augmented by some stagey, heavily mannered performances, Friend of the Family’s fanciful yet mellow, flesh-laden atmosphere casts quite the spell, and Holzman’s sterling command of mood and tone is broken only by the odd boom mic falling into frame and his bewildering, wholly unconvincing decision to have the thirty year-old Lisa Boyle play a teenager. Then again, Friend of the Family is so strange and so stylised that maybe these things are intentional; Brechtian flourishes amidst a sea of simulated thrusting and grunting. 

Primarily unfolding in a gorgeous Malibu mansion, Holtzman and co-scenarist April Moskowitz’s chamber-y script concerns an affluent, stress-addled clan who’re brought closer together when the eponymous pal, a mysterious and possibly supernatural young woman named Elke (Shauna O’Brien), moves into their pool house and starts dishing out the fortune cookie wisdom. Naturally, shagging both Dad (Burke Morgan) and Step-Mom (Griffin Drew) is part of her holistic therapy. 

While the speech-bubble dialogue reduces her initially intriguing guardian angel-type character to little more than wish-fulfilling wank fodder by the film’s close, the role of Elke proved to be a star-making turn for model/actress O’Brien, who nonetheless manages to imbue the Zen-spewing temptress with a pleasing sense of mischief. The charismatic O’Brien had previously featured in Holzman’s Penthouse videos Beverly Hills Workout (1993) and Lingerie Dreams 2 (1994), and Seduce Me: The Pamela Principle 2 (1994) — the Holzman-directed sequel to Axis’ original 1992 smash. And post Friend of the Family, the raven-haired ultra-babe would quickly become a fixture in VHS and cable-era softcore, chalking up memorable leading lady spots in the excellent Over the Wire (1996) and The Escort (1997) before semi-retiring following her appearance in Rolf Kanefsky’s teen comedy Pretty Cool (2006)

“I initially read for the smaller part of Laura,” O’Brien told Femme Fatales magazine in 1995. “The girl who was originally cast as Elke had cancelled. So I read for Elke and was booked about an hour later. Friend of the Family was movie bootcamp for me. It was my first real movie and I had to concentrate on my acting… The fantasy scenes were a piece of cake because I’d already done Penthouse videos, and by the time me and Griffin had to do our lesbian love scene together, we had become good friends and would talk about how funny it was.” [1]

Also known as ‘Elke’ and ‘Elke’s Erotic Nights’.

USA ● 1995 ● Erotic Drama ● 102mins

Shauna O’Brien, Griffin Drew, Burke Morgan (as ‘C.T. Miller’), Lisa Boyle (as ‘Lissa Boyle’) ● Dir. Edward Holzman ● Wri. Edward Holzman & April Moskowitz

[1] Interview with Dan Scapperotti, Femme Fatales, Vol. 4, No. 3, October 1995

2 thoughts on “Friend of the Family (1995): The Surreal Life

  1. I had 16 Old yeas when this Masterpiece came out @ Brazil. I could to mention a lot about my attraction with the beautiful shauna’s body.. But not… This real story of the movie changed my life. Turned my way how to see my life. Im thankful forever Edward for give us a brilliant & e motive story. Today Im 40 Old years and i cant see how my life could be without this experience probably


    1. Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m glad you got so much from the film. Despite its flaws, it’s definitely an interesting experience!


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