The second narrative feature from director Penelope Spheeris – who is perhaps best known for helming the best Saturday Night Live movie of all time, Wayne’s World – is a quintessentially ’80s movie, from its squealing guitar-heavy soundtrack to its fetishization of 1950s greaser attitude. It is also compelling, tense and rather brutal, and though it seems to be reaching for relevant social commentary, it never sacrifices its pure entertainment value for this higher goal. This is a film that knows what it does well and sets about doing just that, without pretension.
The Boys Next Door stars a young, pre-“passion,” Charlie Sheen as Bo Richards, a high school outcast whose only real friend is the even more ostracized Roy Alston (Maxwell Caulfield). After a gripping opening credits sequence featuring pictures and voice-over narration of various well-known mass murderers, including David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz and Kenneth “Hillside Strangler” Bianchi, the pair are introduced playing a childish prank on their high school on the last day of their senior year. Faced with nothing better than a future of low-wage labor at a nearby factory, the two crash and basically ruin a party attended by the more popular kids before hitting the streets of L.A. to try and pick up girls by yelling at them from their car windows, with all the success such a method usually brings. Before long, they vent their sexual and social frustrations in a series of increasingly violent acts that escalate from assault to multiple murders in the span of a few hours.
It is interesting to think of Bo and Roy in parallel to Spheeris’ most famous protagonists, Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and Garth Algar (Dana Carvey) from Wayne’s World. Here, as in that film, we have a dark-haired youth (Bo), who is the smarter and less socially awkward of the two, paired with a blonde guy (Roy), of whom he seems to take care in many ways. Relatively early in the film we see Roy having a one-sided conversation with his neglectful, drunken father (Ron Ross) before hitting the town with Bo, who is shown time and again to have a stronger connection to the world of normal, socially accepted people. In its depiction of the frustrations and alienation that lead to extreme, random violence, The Boys Next Door seems to predict some of the most shocking mass murder cases of the past decade or so, from Columbine to Virginia Tech, among others. However, as disturbing as it often gets in its frank depictions of the boys’ unleashed rage, this movie can best be described as a lurid good time; fans of exploitation movies such as The Last House on the Left and Death Wish are especially encouraged to give this one a look.
Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.