The Boy Next Door review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
What can be theorized from a title like The Boy Next Door? Watch the first few minutes and one might assume that it was a dramatic bit of romance with a mother desiring the hunky guy next door. She’s frustrated with her current situation of disastrous dates and showy husband who her son favors. In walks the muscle bound teenager next door who is good with his hands and kind to his ill uncle. But, wait, this is a Blumhouse Production. Don’t they usually produce horror movies? You see their creepy studio identification before the movie begins and you know something terrible is going to happen to our poor protagonist. So why was I laughing the entire time at this farce?
This has to be one of the dopiest erotic thrillers I’ve seen this year. While Fifty Shades of Gray was just dull in its mediocrity, The Boy Next Door is a stinky hunk of preposterous cheese. Jennifer Lopez plays the hot high school English teacher Claire who finds herself so attracted to neighborhood newcomer Noah (Ryan Guzman) that she spends a wild night with him. But having a one night stand with the young stud proves to be an awkward mistake for both parties. For Claire, however, it hasn’t even begun to get awkward as Noah turns from taunter to stalker to killer in the most confusing progression.
Noah’s frustration at being led on by the hot teacher results in some of the most laughably terrible attempts at generating tension. He spends plenty of time at her house becoming great friends with her teenage son Kevin (Ian Nelson). Noah winks at Claire the entire time he is over with his stupid grin and uttering such comically suggestive dialogue. When Noah takes his leave, Kevin asks if he wants one of his mother’s cookies for the road. “I love your mother’s cookies,” he delivers with that dopey I’ve-got-you look on his face. This 17-year-old kid even manages to somehow make it into both Claire's high school and the class she teaches, quoting the The Iliad and defending Kevin from hallway bullies. For the first third of the movie, it plays almost like a comedy just for amateurishly it was written.
But, given that it’s a Blumhouse Production, we have to go dark. Noah pits Kevin against his father (John Corbett) to make sure Claire is alone and all to himself. He starts decorating the schools with the old repeating printer that shoots out copies of their dirty pictures and tags the boys bathroom with slanderous graffiti. Breaks are cut, friends are killed and it isn’t long before he goes completely psycho with guns and knives. If you think his descent into murder is baffling, just wait until you hear his warped past which is supposed to explain his behavior, but leaves more confusing questions than anything.
How exactly did this strange story take shape? Writer Barbara Curry was apparently inspired by a “bad boy” across the street who was friends with her son. Combined with her work experiences as a criminal lawyer, she has crafted a vindictive little piece that mutated into a strange erotic thriller. Credit should be given to director Rob Cohen who at least convinced Barbara to change the age of Noah from 12 to 17. The last thing this movie should be is an uncomfortable blending of Fatal Attraction and The Good Son.
If it weren’t so terribly uneven and savage in its assault, The Boy Next Door might have been a hoot for its trainwreck story with solid actors. Rather than capitalize on any drama from an affair, the film turns into a rickety ride of TV-movie dialogue, uncomfortable sexual tension and an over-the-top finale in a burning barn. Director Rob Cohen is a long ways away from his days of directing the first The Fast and the Furious movie in 2001. He does manage to insert one competently staged car chase into the mix. I wonder if he misses doing action movies because he’s sure not at his best with erotic thrillers.