Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Review: The Boys Next Door

Synopsis: A couple of high school outsiders take a trip to Los Angeles, after their graduation, only to go on a murderous and rage-fueled crime spree, which has the cops on alert and the citizens in their sights.

Review: Sometimes a film comes along, that will truly stick with you long after you've seen it. It will gnaw at your mind and make you look at life and people in a very different way, which you never did before. "The Boys Next Door" is just such a film for me.

Director Penelope Spheeris is probably most well-known for her work on perennial comedic fare, such as "Wayne's World" and "Black Sheep," but long before that she was a very edgy and somewhat visionary filmmaker. Some of her earliest works have a very deep social commentary to them, of which this film is one of her best (and most overlooked). This tale of two high school outcasts, who go to the big city and raise some murderous hell, almost has a modern ring to it. In the wake of real life events, like the massacres at Columbine and Virgina Tech, this film seems less the low-rent crime drama it probably was seen as when it first debuted and more like a prophecy of things to come.

It is absolutely chilling in how it shows the casual use of violence by two supposed teenagers. Their lack of conscience and concern for anything or anyone, save themselves, feels like a mirror being held up to our so-called modern world. What really stuck out for me, though, was the moments of seemingly uncontainable rage expressed by the character of Roy (incredibly performed by Maxwell Caulfield). One scene that truly made my blood run cold, was after his first act of violence on a gas-station attendant, when he and his friend Bo (played by a very young Charlie Sheen, in one of his earliest leading roles) are talking about it in their hotel room, and Roy expresses that the beating wasn't good enough. That he should have killed him. The look of satisfaction on his face as he expresses these thoughts, brought out a dark symmetry to the character, which would dominate everything he does afterwards. It actually comes off like a blueprint to the mindset of such thrill-killers that we see in our real world today. I really enjoyed how the film almost plays like a docudrama in some instances, like this one.

While some of the language and settings might be a bit dated, the emotion and societal insights into the mind of teenage rage are as powerful now as they ever were back in 1985 (when the film debuted). At the time, this film had a bit of controversy about it, due to the amounts of violence shown on screen, but I think that today, in our much more politically-correct minded worldview, it is the thoughts behind the violence which should be more disturbing. It is a film that has truly become MORE relevant as time has gone by, not less. If there is anything lacking in the film, it would be not enough information given on the characters life at home. We see the torment they have with not fitting in with their peers at school, as well as their fears of living out the rest of their lives at dead-end jobs, but there is little info on the role played by the family in helping these boys to be filled with such murderous contempt. There is one scene with Roy's father being shown as a neglectful parent, more interested in getting his next beer than the welfare of his son, but I felt this brief glimpse should have been expand on more. Still, even lacking in this one area, the film is still a very potent brew to behold.

Make no mistake, this is not a "feel good" or party film. It is a shocking, and sometimes twisted, look into how society can mold a teenager into a raging killer and how easily the that rage can be let loose on an unprepared society. And the fact these two characters are attractive looking, as well, only deepens the scary similarities of our current times. Despite that, however, it is certainly a very worthwhile film and is deserving of much more attention. If you are looking for a film that isn't just out to entertain you, but also make you think, this is one movie you need to seek out! But be warned... prepare to be unnerved by much of what you will see. I doubt many will walk away from this film totally unaffected, nor should they.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

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