By: Addison Wylie
If Rob Cohen’s The Boy Next Door is an indication of anything, it’s that American filmmakers are still having grave difficulty making erotic thrillers without avoiding camp. Nowadays, it’s almost a requirement for the movie to fly off the rails.
A film like The Boy Next Door often has the viewer questioning if the filmmakers were making a bad movie on purpose. A movie gullible audiences could innocently flock to and get their rocks off to its intentional trashiness. That option is always available but I don’t believe that was the case with The Boy Next Door. I don’t think the film’s producers would’ve welcomed such a nosedive.
One of the producers is leading star Jennifer Lopez, who probably would enjoy watching intentional camp with some gal pals on a Friday night but would rather not have her name attached to the cheesy thrills. The movie is also a Blumhouse production, a studio that has helped produce low budget franchises like the Paranormal Activity series and the Insidious films. Blumhouse has stuck its neck out on some surreal selections (The Lords of Salem), but something tells me they wouldn’t have taken a chance by financially backing a turkey.
Considering the talent behind the film, The Boy Next Door was supposed to be a deadpan addition to the thriller genre. However, I don’t entirely trust Cohen. Cornball escapism is sort of his bread and butter (xXx, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor). I don’t see why he would treat The Boy Next Door any differently. It feels as if – on a lark – he accepted the job to direct the film, and dared himself to see how far over-the-top he could take Barbara Curry’s screenplay without getting caught.
The Boy Next Door is entertaining in all the wrong ways. Performances are unpredictably screechy, the poor choice in lighting is better suited for a Halloween hay ride, and its hard not to scoff whenever Lopez parades around in her outlandishly revealing nightwear.
Lopez’s Claire Peterson is seduced and then stalked by Noah, a charmer cut from marble who turns out to actually be a high school student Claire teaches. Ryan Guzman’s portrayal of psychopathic Noah is so wild, that its hard to take him seriously at all. Although, Cohen was probably very satisfied with how much scenery was being chewed on a daily basis. Every now and then, Noah’s weirdness has the ability to make movie goers feel uncomfortable, but not in a traumatizing way that Blumhouse and Lopez hope it is.
The final stretch of The Boy Next Door is completely off its hinges, offering squeamish special effects that seem borrowed from Troma’s bag of tricks. How nobody called Cohen out on any of it proves he may just be a modern day Hollywood Houdini.