This is a brilliant, highly underappreciated film
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This an exceptional, virtually unknown film written by Glen Morgan and James Wong (who have produced and written numerous X-Files episodes) and was directed by Penelope Spheeris with gritty realism. It's the story of two outcast high school graduates who decide to take a short vacation the weekend before they are to start work at a local factory. It is soon revealed that one of the young men is somewhat disturbed and fed up with the way life has treated him and decides to take revenge on the world. The results are insightful and frightening. What is so interesting about this film is that it is presented from two perspectives. The character of Roy, played wonderfully by Maxwell Caulfield, is driven over the edge to the point where he can not be saved, while Bo, Charlie Sheen in a surprisingly good performance, gets so swept up in Roy's chaos that he loses sight of the fact that the things they are doing are wrong. This is a very chilling and realistic portrayel of the isolation and confusion that young people face everyday and how being tormented often leads to violent response. Many films have dealt with this issue before, but very few have been as truthful and effective as Boys Next Door."
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 01/18/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Before Penelope Spheeris's directed "Wayne's World," she made another film about a pair of young men. "The Boys Next Door," though, contains little of the offbeat humor that marked the Dana Carvey/Mike Meyers collaboration. You won't find subtle and not so subtle pop culture references punctuated with over the top antics in "The Boys Next Door." Nor will you hear a single reference to "party on." In a way, "The Boys Next Door" resembles Spheeris's other films, namely "The Decline of Western Civilization," in that it looks closely at the sort of young people we don't normally see on television or in the print media. In the case of "Decline," Spheeris examined the effects of punk rock music on select members of America's youth. In "Boys Next Door," it's how the loss of hope leads a select few youngsters to a life of murder and mayhem. The movie, interestingly enough, begins with an error. Pictures of notorious criminals David Berkowitz, Ken Bianchi, and Ed Kemper float by in order to set a context for what we are about to see. Regrettably for the film, Berkowitz, Kemper, and Bianchi were serial killers. The two boys we meet in the movie, Roy and Bo, are spree killers. There is a big difference between the two as anyone interested in true crime stories knows.
Roy Alston (Maxwell Caulfield) and Bo Richards (Charlie Sheen) are just two of your average, everyday kids getting ready to graduate from high school. They are also the loner type, two kids who paired up with each other after the other kids excluded them from the various social circles. Both Roy and Bo are instantly recognizable high school types, at least for those of us perceptive enough to notice those around us during those painful years of compulsory schooling. They are a little rough around the edges, thanks to their miserable home lives and their relative poverty, but occasionally they make tentative overtures to others that are cruelly rebuffed. One can only feel sorry for Bo when he admires one of the prettiest girls in his class from afar, hoping against hope that he can somehow approach her and strike up a meaningful connection. Roy, the more cynical of the two, has long since reconciled himself to being an outcast, and he spends most of his time quashing any kernels of kindness popping up in Bo's mind. There's something more about Roy, something that goes beyond cynicism into the realms of downright cruelty and hatred. We first see it when he talks to a Marine recruiter on campus about joining the Corps so he can kill people. Not good. Later, of course, Roy will give full vent to his murderous rages.
After crashing a graduation party and finding themselves tossed out on the street, the two decide to cruise down to Los Angeles for a day or two for some old fashioned hijinks. Besides, getting away for a few days sounds like a good idea when the only thing they have to come back to is a couple of cruddy jobs at a local factory, jobs that will probably last a lifetime. The two barely enter the Los Angeles area when all heck breaks loose at a gas station. Roy, thinking the attendant ripped him off over two bucks in gas, beats the man to a bloody pulp. Later, at the beach, one of the boys throws a beer bottle that strikes an elderly woman on the head. Two young ladies attempt to confront the pair about the bottle, and one of them ends up taking a ride around the parking lot on the hood of Roy's car. More atrocities follow, all escalating with ferocious brutality. A gay man dies at their hands, as does an attractive young couple whose only crime involved first making eye contact with Bo and later spurning him in a video arcade. By the time Roy murders Angie (Patti D'Arbanville) while she's in the process of wooing Bo, the game is about over. Two cops, Detective Mark Woods (Christopher McDonald) and Detective Ed Hanley (Hank Garrett), have been tracking these two since the gas station heist, and a lucky break puts the boys right in their hands. Or does it?
I remember seeing "The Boys Next Door" back in the mid 1980s on cable. I was impressed with it then and consider it a good movie now. Aside from the misidentification of the two as serial killers, the movie still contains plenty of good performances, good dialogue, and shocking scenes. Sheen and Caulfield both carry off their respective roles convincingly, but Caulfield does the best job in the frightening role of Roy Alston. His speech about how he feels inside sends chills down the spine, as does his transformation from composed youth to shrieking beast. Oddly enough in a film larded with killings, I consider the bottle scene one of the most disturbing in the film. The look on that old lady's face when the bottle conks her on the head is so upsetting that it's not easy to forget, especially when the camera cuts back to Bo and Roy in order to show them laughing about what they did. There's just something about this scene that successfully telegraphs, just as much as the murders, the coldness of these two kids. "The Boys Next Door" does contain at least one unintentionally hilarious scene in the form of Detective Ed Hanley's haircut. Geez, I thought he was wearing a tricorn hat or something!
Extras on the DVD include a commentary with Spheeris and Caulfield, a trailer, and cast biographies. The picture quality looks great for a twenty year old film. I would recommend this movie to most fans of low budget cinema, but it's also got an appeal to Charlie Sheen completists (Is there such a thing? God help us!) and lovers of movies dealing with the criminal mindset.
Disturbing, but great
Patricia Honts | Bushnell, IL United States | 07/21/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Deeply disturbing story of 2 boys who have no sense of right and wrong. One boy has so much anger in him that he just wants to kill and Charlie Sheen's charcter doesn't seem to mind. You won't be turning this movie off. I seen it for the first time about 11 years ago. It was one of the best movies I had ever seen. I bought it on dvd the first day it came out. Just as good the second time around."