Monday, 2 March 2015
The Boy Next Door (4 Stars)
This is a classic example of a film that's loved by the public and hated by the critics. I can see both sides of the arguments. A critic would say that it offers nothing new, it's just a rehash of a dozen films before it. A film fan like myself -- I think of myself as a fan rather than a critic -- sits on the edge of his seat jumping at every new shock and appreciates the story as something he can relate to.
Claire Peterson is a school teacher for English Literature in a small American town, probably in California. She's separated from her husband after his infidelity and lives with her son Kevin, who's about 16, if I understand the American school system correctly. (He's a high school junior). A 19-year-old boy, Noah Sandborn, moves into the house next door to live with his uncle after the death of his parents.
After she goes on an unsuccessful double date with her best friend Vicky, the vice principal (deputy headmaster) of her school she returns home half drunk and is seduced by Noah. The next day she has regrets about it and tells Noah that it was just a mistake, but he's persistent. He makes friends with Kevin and becomes part of her family life. When school begins he hacks into Claire's account to send an email requesting that he be transferred into her literature class. The more she refuses his advances the closer he gets, until he threatens to expose their "relationship", as he calls it.
Without going into too many details, desire soon turns into violence, as is always the case with stalkers. The final scenes are horrific and terrifying.
The film begins slowly. If anything, the introductory scenes are stale, and I could hardly wait for them to finish. The film got into its stride after the sex scene. From then on it was thrills all the way to the conclusion. Yes, it's an erotic thriller full of clichés, but I enjoy erotic thrillers. In the 1990's the direct-to-video market was flooded with low budget erotic thrillers. Having a budget of only $4 million "The Boy Next Door" could be called a low budget movie as well, especially when you consider that at least half of the budget must have gone into Jennifer Lopez's pockets. An erotic thriller only has a chance of pulling in audiences with a big star in the main role. But the budget was adequate. Erotic thrillers, like romantic comedies, don't need a lot of money to be good films. All they need is a good script and competent acting. "The Boy Next Door" succeeds on both counts.