Evan Slead ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Assistant TV Editor
There is a fine line between a downright bad movie, and one that ultimately evokes positive feelings. The camp between these two descriptions is a mysterious and blurry one that not everyone will see or appreciate. The jargon “cult classic” or “camp film” is typically used to label such films. While some may deem that branding as a negative, overall the campy films are the ones that have a slow but steady life stream that can outlive those one hit “good time” films. Rob Cohen’s (The Fast and the Furious) latest film The Boy Next Door falls squarely into that wooded forest of special films with its goofy line deliveries, over the top thriller sequences, and underlying mythological parallels.
English teacher Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez) is dealing with a lot. Her husband Garrett (John Corbett) is trying to win her back after an affair stint with a woman in San Francisco. Her son Kevin (Ian Nelson) suffers from severe allergic reactions that require calm environments and close watch. Her best friend Vicky (Kristin Chenoweth) is constantly trying to set her up with men that end up being the epitome of douche or just a drop in the bucket. When the new neighbor Noah Sunborn (Ryan Guzman) begins to befriend Kevin and help Claire with daily chores, Claire feels a little of that weight begin to lift. In its place, she finds herself drawn to the young, sexy and intelligent Noah who has invaded her world in the best way possible. Or so she thinks. One night Noah seduces Claire with promises of passion and romantic ideals, but once the deed is done, Claire feels the guilt of sleeping with a younger man. She withdraws from him and tries to force her life back into normal perspective, only to feel Noah’s presence loom closer and closer. Noah enrolls himself in Claire’s class, which sets the ball rolling for an obsession of insane proportions that Claire will never escape.
The key aspect to note about The Boy Next Door is that it is goofy. The premise of having a young man obsessed with the older woman he slept with is a bit “been there, done that”. The lengths that Noah goes to in keeping Claire part of his control are extreme and can only exist within a movie world. There’s a moment when Noah overflows the school gym’s sinks and writes threatening love notes on the wall for Claire, and by then it’s apparent that this is going to be wacky. The flipside of that same aspect is that it makes the film a true enjoyment to watch. Even though there are a few cringe worthy line deliveries and head scratching moments, the overall ride is one that feels nice and surprisingly exciting. Once the director and writer have painted the picture that this is going to be an odd and unpredictable experience, the only means to get through it are to sit back and enjoy. The film has no fear of showing its absurdity or campiness, especially in the final sequence of fighting. Any horror or thriller fan will love the amount of homage dripping in each stabbing and final blow attempt.
The most intriguing part of the film is its underlying parallel to Greek mythology. There are constant references to mythology as Claire and Noah first connect over the genius of “The Iliad”. Noah has his past revealed throughout the run of the film which tie directly into moments from “The Odyssey” about what a true hero really is and how it can be skewed. It also later links to “Oedipus Rex”, in a bloody fun scene with a hint of smarts, two joints that are typically hard to connect. Even the delivery of lines and the way the dialogue is structured is reminiscent to a Greek tragedy.
The tricky truth about this film is that it will likely turn many viewers off completely. Unless one is looking for the context and subtleties underlying the scenes, then it will just be another thriller with JLo’s name splashed across it to rake in a decent box office income. For those that do go with the ride and appreciate it for what it is, then you’ll find a new classic to return to again and again. Whichever camp one falls into, you’ll have a good time making fun of it, or checking for its release on Blu-Ray.
Overall Grade: A-