Another blu-ray release from the Black Label of 101 Films to follow on from this week’s welcome revival of Suburbia; it’s another from pioneer Penelope Spheeris, who went on to capture the upbeat fun of Wayne’s World, but aims for a very different target in this cautionary story of two young men on a LA killing spree. This represents a far more problematic text that Suburbia, but no less rewarding; sex and violence again means that Roger Corman’s New World Pictures are on producer duties, but this is anything but typical Corman fare.
It’s graduation day in a suburban high school, but drop-outs Roy Alston (Maxwell Caulfield) and Bo Richards (Charlie Sheen) have little to look forward to but a lifetime of menial labour. Spurned by their classmates, who are spurned in return, Roy and Bo take off in a car for the bright lights of LA, but quickly find themselves out of their depth. Their fantasies about women are soon extinguished, and they end up in a gay bar where they attract predatory attention that ends in violence. With the cops in pursuit, Roy and Bo’s first night quickly becomes a last stand, and we, the audience, are left to watch horrified as one interaction after another leads to bloodshed.
The Boys Next Door starts with a series of snapshots of real serial killers and details of their crimes; Roy and Bo may be fictional, but Spheeris treats their adventure as if it was a true story, and that makes for uncomfortable viewing to say the least. There’s a stunningly painful scene in which Roy meets an attractive older woman called Angie (Patti D’Arbanville), a scene that is all the more agonising because Spheeris takes the time to make Angie such a real and sympathetic character. So when Bo turns up as Hyde to Roy’s Jekyll, the bloodshed that results is truly horrifying. But it’s also worth noting that Spheeris does not direct like a man; there’s no macho camaraderie, and the violence doesn’t result in Scorsese-lite catharsis. The killings are brutal, unfortunate and barely understood or acknowledged by the men responsible.
There’s some interesting support from Christopher MacDonald, Moon Unit Zappa and future Oscar-winner (for Argo) Grant Heslov, and the treatment of LA is convincing, with grotty bars and even grottier apartments. But Spheeris is going for the jugular here; Roy and Bo are early versions of today’s incels, men who can’t connect with women and lash out as a result. The Boys Next Door isn’t an easy watch, but it nails down a message decades ahead of its time; that the codes that bond men together may well be toxic both for women and for themselves.
The Boys Next Door is out now in the UK from 101 Films Black Label.
Thanks to 101 Films for advance access to this title.
Special Features Include
• Limited edition booklet: Includes Living with the Boys Next Door by John Towlson and AssassiNation: Cold–
blooded Rebels and the Death of the American Dream by Rich Johnson
• Audio commentary with director Penelope Spheeris and actor Maxwell Caulfield
• Blind Rage: Interview with Stephen Thrower, author of Nightmare USA
• Both Sides of the Law: Interview with actors Maxwell Caulfield and Christopher McDonald
• Give Us Your Money: Interviews with street band performers Texacala Jones and Tequila Mockingbird
• Caveman Day: Cinemaniacs interview with director Penelope Spheeris and actor Maxwell Caulfield
• Tales from the End Zone: Interview with actor Kenneth Cortland
• The Psychotronic Tourist – The Boys Next Door
• Alternate Opening Title Sequence & Extended Scenes (Silent)