Plot: What’s it about?
Director Penelope Spheeris is better-known for her more mainstream movies like “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Wayne’s World” as opposed to some of her older, lesser-known titles. Movies like “Surburbia” and “The Boys Next Door” weren’t as popular as the previous two titles, but critically acclaimed. Her true to life, gritty perspective of teenagers is as far as you can get from the glossy “rock and roll” movies like Wayne’s World, but amazingly enough, both are enjoyable. Back in 1984, when Orwell’s book had a lot more meaning (it’s now 2001 and we’re all amazed at Kubrick again), two actors took the lead in this low budget movie. Maxwell Caulfield, better know for his role as Michael in Grease 2, and Charlie Sheen, who has obviously gone on to become the bigger of the two stars (though he slowly faded through the 90’s). While watching the opening credits, you’re not sure if it’s a movie about serial killers or about teens with problems. One thing it does try to convey is the fact that killers are everywhere, and can even be…the boys next door. The film follows Bo (Sheen) and Roy (Caulfield) from their last day of High School to their trip to Los Angeles (a six hour trip according to them, though we never find out where they’re from).
The small town in which Bo and Roy live has it’s share of all sorts of people. Roy and Bo aren’t well off, and they’re not particularly liked by their classmates. Essentially all they have is each other. Resembling street punks as opposed to fresh faced high schoolers, Bo and Roy make their own fun as they cruise around in Roy’s stripped-down Road Runner. In many senses of the word, life for them is beginning and also ending. They’re about to graduate from High School, but come the following Monday they aren’t matriculating to college like the rest of their classmates. When the new week starts, they are off to the factory to work where Roy (moreso than Bo) sees his life going down the tubes and life in a factory isn’t that appealing to him in the least. Bo has a bit more than Roy, he has some family that cares about him whereas Roy has a father who doesn’t even speak to him. So it’s natural to assume that Roy’s aggression is far greater than that of Bo. After crashing a party of their peers and stealing a dog, the two decide to head off to Los Angeles. They see it as one last bit of excitement before their life “officially” ends in a few days. It’s also then that Roy confesses to Bo that he has some emotional problems. “You know how you felt when your car got broken into and there was nothing you could do about it” Roy asks. “Yeah, I was so mad I could have killed that guy!” Bo exclaims. “That’s how I feel all the time” remarks Roy. A bit of a roundabout way of telling, but it’s then that Bo realizes that Roy has a bit more than teen angst. It’s when the arrive in Los Angeles that the adventure begins…
Things start out innocent enough. A mix up at a gas station leads to the beating of an attendant by Roy. Bo joins in as well, but it’s clear that they’re on a path that has a very bad ending. We’re also introduced to some of the policemen that start following the incidents. A very young Christopher McDonald stars as Detective Mark Woods who is hot on their trail. As the two spend more time in Los Angeles, mainly trying to find some women to have sex with, it becomes more apparent that more bad things are going to happen. Whether it’s throwing beer bottles at old ladies (actually, the scene is pretty funny) to killing people in cold blood simply because of their sexual orientation or because they appear to be a “happy couple”, The Boys Next Door is very shocking at times. We see the rage in Bo and Roy’s faces, though Bo seems to want to forget everything and get out, Roy is the embodiment of evil. Not only does he have no remorse, he wants to keep doing it more and more. While The Boys Next Door may not hit as hard as it does now as it did back then, it’s still a very realistic look at what we’re capable of.
Video: How does it look?
Anchor Bay has given this film it’s first widescreen presentation (aside from the upcoming Widescreen VHS) and the picture is 16:9 enhanced in it’s 1.85:1 ratio. While this film may not ever look like newer movies and show every bit of detail, it’s not a bad-looking transfer. The budget was low, and a majority of the film was shot at night, but it’s really not that bad. It’s average, but I got my old VHS copy (one of the few I still have) and compared the two and the difference is really night and day. Fleshtones seem to be a bit washed out, but the edge enhancement is minimal and even though the entire film has a “gritty” texture to it, I’ve seen a lot worse from this time frame. Thank you Anchor Bay for taking yet another mid 80’s movie and giving it the visual treatment that it deserves.
Audio: How does it sound?
Unlike the video, there’s not a lot you can do with the original mono track. The soundtrack is plagued with the dry, broken off tunes of the mid 80’s. Guitar rock, mostly. Dialogue is clean at times, but tends to get washed out with some of the other effects (I mean there’s only so much information you can present clearly in only one channel, right?). The track serves it’s purpose, but then again, this isn’t the type of movie you rent or buy for the audio presentation.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Again, I was impressed by some of the extras included on the disc. Though not a “Special Edition” the disc does feature a commentary track by Director Penelope Spheeris and actor Maxwell Caulfield. Spheeris tells of her roots from Roger Corman and is quick to notice how inexperienced she was in many scenes. “Yep…bad directing right there”. I found it funny that she says things like that, but then again, I would half way expect it. Maxwell Caulfield is a nice touch as well (he’s British, evidently), and seems content that he got the part that was originally intended for Nicolas Cage of all people (what ever happened to him)? Overall, it’s a nice track and one you’ll want to listen to if you’re a fan of the movie. In addition, there are some pretty in depth cast bios and a trailer presented in anamorphic widescreen. Not a bad disc at all.