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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Boys Next Door (1985) review

THE BOYS NEXT DOOR 1985 aka KILLER'S HOLIDAY (working title)

Maxwell Caulfield (Roy Alston), Charlie Sheen (Bo Richards), Patti D'Arbanville (Angie), Christopher McDonald (Det. Mark Woods)

Directed by Penelope Spheeris

The Short Version: A gloomy look into the lives of two young social outcasts heading into the black hole of self destruction--one is an angry, ticking time bomb and another, a confused follower, the very definition of ambivalence. Both embark on a weekend that ignites the fuse and explodes in a murder spree by films end. Noted documentarian, Spheeris delivers a provocative story that is all too real and could come out of any decade.

After high school graduation, Roy and Bo, two outcasts among social circles at school, decide to have a wild weekend in Los Angeles. A deep, seething rage begins to boil within one of the teen boys that eventually erupts in ferocious violence that soon leads to murder. The two young men end up on a senseless murder spree till they're finally cornered inside a mall after hours.

What with Charlie Sheen's recent Oscar worthy performance on television and print in recent weeks, this picture serves as a grim portrait of the future Charlie, a man with little sheen and even less personality. Strangely mirroring the similarly plotted BADLANDS from 1973 (and that film starred Charlie boy's dad, Martin Sheen!), this 80s teenage meltdown is a strikingly potent portrait of two teens succumbing to the effects of societal damnation. Two spree killers in training (more so Caulfield's character than Sheen's), both Roy and Bo begin their rapid burnout upon leaving for the City of Angels. The film foreshadows Roy's proclivity for violence very early on when they've invaded a graduation party. A pretty young girl is standing all alone as Roy watches her with a piercingly evil look that barely contains the rage that will shortly boil over into bloodshed.

Spheeris and scripters, Glenn Morgan and James Wong (FINAL DESTINATION, BLACK CHRISTMAS remake), manages to build the character of Roy as a Frankenstein Monster created by a broken home and shunned by everyone around him save for his best friend, Bo. There's one minor sequence prior to the LA Massacre that clues the audience in to a possible catalyst to Roy's emotional detachment. Roy has a father who'd rather entertain the company of a beer and a small television than talk to his son. What makes this brief scene of note is that as Roy prepares to leave their small trailer home, he talks to his dad as if they have something resembling a bond. We hear a voice that's presumably his dad's, yet his lips never move. It's Roy saying the words he expects, or wants his father to say back to him. We see a close up of his old man's face with its blank stare lost amidst the TV blaring back at him. Roy then closes the door behind him never to return again.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I bet Charlie Sheen (left) has maintained this same expression for what is going on three decades now.

Charlie Sheen is the more "stable" of the two. He's the "Chester" to Caulfield's "Spike" (the bulldog and terrier duo from Looney Tunes Cartoons). Bo is a mischievous troublemaker, but shows little to no interest in predatory stalk and kill machinations. Bo is a follower who disapproves of Roy's actions, but reluctantly goes along with things till the end of the movie. Having brutally beaten a gas station attendant, murdered a homosexual, stalked and cold-bloodedly executed a young couple and another woman, the rebellious, lost and disturbed duo are chased and cornered inside a mall. Upon realizing there's no way out and nowhere to go, it's judgment day for the two friends and Roy's rage intensifies leading to a coda that is both poignant and powerful.

The films final shot echoes the opening montage of B/W serial killer photographs that play over the credits. The very first scene of Roy and Bo drawing a mock chalk line on school property also bears an ironic resonance that crops up during the final moments. When the film begins, these opening moments set a downbeat, horrific tone that is quickly and deceptively undermined by several minutes of footage that could fit in with any teen sex comedy. Immediately after the deadly duo set off for LA, things take an increasing turn for the worse as the violence escalates, spiraling out of control. Nicolas Cage bowed out as Bo, but later regretted not taking the part. Crispin Glover also tried out for the part and his audition ended up being more insane than the role Roy, the true maniac of the duo. Interestingly, Martin Sheen went to the premier and got up and walked out after the couple get murdered in their car. He proclaimed his displeasure for his son participating in the movie despite the elder Sheen starring in the similar BADLANDS (1973), a film based on spree killer Charles Starkweather and his very young lady partner, Caril Fugate.

This New World production is easily one of the best movies from the company after Corman sold it in the early 1980s. The film didn't do much business and never received much of a release, but found a home on late night cable stations like HBO (which is where I first saw it in 1987) and on VHS. Maxwell Caulfield (GREASE 2) steals the show as the angry, mentally unstable Roy Alston. His slow regression into a murderous rebel without a cause is a captivating portrayal emanating a dangerously unpredictable aura. Sheen, in light of his current obnoxious, clueless tirades has recently taken on the personality of his on screen friend, Roy. But as Bo Richards, he could be Roy's savior, but is content to go along with things till late in the film. One gets the impression Bo holds both admiration and fear for his deadly friend. Only after things go horribly awry during Bo's tryst with a tipsy gypsy does he finally reel his friend in, albeit far too late.

Fantasy fans will recognize Kurt Christian as the gas station attendant. He had roles in such movies as HORROR HOSPITAL (1973), THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1974) and SINBAD & THE EYE OF THE TIGER (1977). Penelope Spheeris will likely be best remembered for her DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION trilogy (especially the first two) and WAYNE'S WORLD (1992). Incidentally, WAYNE'S WORLD is a comedic extension of her previous documentaries showcasing the deterioration and decadence of youth lost in an angry world trying to find their place amidst the mud and blood. The same holds true with Spheeris' THE BOYS NEXT DOOR--the title signifying the next generations murderers could be living next door to you. Recommended for 80s cinema buffs and those with an interest in films about serial, and or spree killers.

This review is representative of the Anchor Bay DVD


Franco Macabro said...

Looks interesting, I love Spheeri's Waynes World films (have watched them thousands of times) but I'd never heard of this one.

This film you've just reviewed would easily fit amongst similar themed 'youth gone wild' films like Gus Van Sant's Elephant, Gregg Arakis's The Doom Generation, James Kox's Highway and The Basketball Diaries. Thanks for the heads up on this one, I didnt know that Anchorbay had released it either.

venoms5 said...

I saw it as a kid late one night when I was supposed to be in bed for school the next day. I used to have the VHS tape, too. SP mode for $10 at K Mart! Sometimes those Standard Play tapes would slip through at LP and EP prices.

This DVD has been out for some time now, Fran. It's still available for under $10 at amazon. It has an audio commentary with the director and Maxwell Caulfield whom you'll be surprised to hear his noticeable English accent. The trailer is on their, too.

Richard of DM said...

Great review, duder! I rented this movie in my later teen years and it was so different from what I expected it to be (I'm not totally sure what I was expecting to see). The grim nature of the plot and its deadpan delivery of violence was pretty shocking to me at the time. And this is one of those films that really sticks in your head.

venoms5 said...

Thanks for stopping by, Rich! I think I was 13 when I first watched it late one night on HBO. It was one of those movies where you click over just as it's coming on and it grabs your interest enough to stick with it for a while. I think it's still pretty well underrated, too.

I Like Horror Movies said...

This is the first I have heard of the film, but you caught my attention V! I will add it to your section of my wishlist, which just grew shorter since I am watching HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD right now!

venoms5 said...

I think you'll like it, Carl. Also, I hope you're digging HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD since it's essentially about making movies at New World Pictures.

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