We’ve all seen those movies where a character acts in a bewildering manner when it’s obvious to everyone in the auditorium that their life is in danger. Then there’s a film like The Boy Next Door in which every character responds in a bewildering manner, making the viewer wonder when any of the people involved last had interaction with what we might refer to as a normal person. There’s no way around it, The Boy Next Door is an astoundingly stupid movie, but at least it can harness its idiocy in an entertaining way.
Recently separated from her unfaithful husband, Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez), a high school English teacher, is trying her best to move on while raising her son, Kevin (Ian Nelson). One day when her garage door won’t open she meets Noah Sandborn (Ryan Guzman), the 20-year-old beefcake who has just moved in next door. Though he’s 20, Noah is still in high school after missing a few years following the tragic death of his parents. Before long, Noah has struck up a friendship with Kevin and has been warmly welcomed into the home by Claire. After the vice principal at her school, Vicky (Kristen Chenoweth), sets up Claire on a disastrous blind date, Claire returns home dejected and lonely. In a moment of weakness, she and Noah share a moment of passion. In the morning, Claire realizes her mistake and rushes home before Kevin and her separated husband, Garrett (John Corbett), make it home from a camping trip. What was once a fleeting moment of passion turns into a never-ending tale of obsession as Noah finds more and more intrusive ways to enter Claire’s life. Noah is manipulative and does all he can to tear the Peterson Family apart since he can’t have Claire. This continues on and on until its obviously predictable conclusion.
There isn’t one shred of originality in The Boy Next Door. If you’ve seen any obsessive stalker movie, you pretty much know what is going to happen next. It seems to lift a lot of elements from The Guest, leaving out the wit, charm, and competence of that film. Everything that occurs within this film has all the subtlety of a tack hammer to the temple. The film whiffs at creating tension or a surprise that works. It’s the kind of film that inspires an exaggerated sarcastic response, “Oh, I didn’t see that coming.”
Veteran schlock director Rob Cohen, of Daylight and xXx fame, brings nothing exciting visually to the film. Scenes drag on well past the point of relevance, especially the excruciating sex scene between Lopez and Guzman. Working from a script by first time screenwriter Barbara Curry, Cohen is unable to mine the material and find anything except the surface level sleaze, nor is he able to coax one competent performance. But there is an attempt to give the film a bit of smarts. Noah, the beefcake stalker boy, is big fan of Homer’s The Iliad. At one point, he begins listing great poets which includes Byron, Shakespeare, and Zeppelin. Maybe I’m crazy, but I always thought that the words were the least impressive thing about Led Zeppelin. The Iliad subplot is resolved when Noah provides Claire a first edition of The Iliad, a book written around 700 BC.
With its low budget, inept execution, and sleazy subject matter, The Boy Next Door plays like a studio exploitation film. It’s trash but it’s entertaining trash. Produced by Blumhouse Productions, who were behind films like Ouija and The Purge: Anarchy, The Boy Next Door will turn a profit on its first day in theaters. I’ve heard good things about the people at Blumhouse, though, with the exception of Whiplash which is a legitimately good movie, they’ve yet to produce any quality trash. The Boy Next Door is a movie about morons made by morons for morons. Kind of like watching someone trying to pull a door open though the sign clearly says push for 90 minutes, The Boy Next Door is tragically funny.