It’s been a really long time since there’s been a good obsessive stalker movie. They, for whatever reason, used to be all the rage in the ’90s. Fatal Attraction, Single White Female, whatever that one with Mark Wahlberg was called (it was called Fear, I’m just trying to pretend like I don’t remember it); In recent years, though, the subgenre seems to have fallen out of favor, except on Lifetime probably. Jennifer Lopez is actually no stranger to movies where she’s pursued by a crazy man and has to fight back. That movie was called Enough, made 13 years ago. Lopez is back in stalked mode for Rob Cohen’s new film The Boy Next Door. It’s been a really long time since there’s been a good obsessive stalker movie; that streak continues.
The Boy Next Door is one of that special breed of movies that suggests that all men are terrible and all women sort of want to be submissive. That kind of attitude is dangerous, especially in a movie like this. The 91-minute movie has been cut to pieces and re-shot, and it’s painfully obvious, it seems in a bid to give it an R rating, with nudity and swearing shoehorned in where possible. It’s never clear what the tone is, what the motivations of the characters are, or why anything happens in the order and time frame it does. But, I’m getting way ahead of myself.
Jennifer Lopez plays Claire Peterson, a mother to a teenage boy and a teacher at the local high school. She teaches “the classics,” which many people see as a waste of time. She’s estranged from her husband (John Corbett) because he’s been unfaithful and he’s been out of the picture for the past nine months, a period of time we see the tiniest snippets of in awkward flashbacks at the very beginning of the film. A very handsome young man named Noah (Ryan Guzman) moves in next door to live with and help take care of his infirm and elderly uncle. He quickly befriends Claire’s shy and EpiPen-carrying son (Ian Nelson) and shows him how to fix cars, shoot guns, and ask out girls. Claire is happy her son has a friend, and what a great guy! He likes the classics!
We find out in a single line of dialogue that Noah is 19 and wants to enroll in Claire’s high school because he missed a few years. This is very important because without it, what happens next would be statutory rape. After a horrible double date with a sexist asshole, orchestrated by Claire’s best friend and vice principal (Kristin Chenoweth), and while her son is on a camping trip with his father, Claire and Noah bond…and by bond I mean he basically forces himself on her, she says no SEVERAL TIMES, but then they end up having sex anyway. She’s obviously mortified the next morning and nips the thing in the bud, but Noah, it turns out, is not the kind of man to be ignored, Dan, and he begins exhibiting ever-creepier and violent behavior that could lead to, at best, Claire getting fired, and at worst everybody dying horrible deaths.
As I said, this movie is a clear hack-job; there are threads of story that begin, even have a middle, but then are never paid off, clearly a victim of the rampant editing. For instance, there’s a girl that the son likes; Noah convinces him to talk to her, then ask her out, then she suggests they go to the fall dance (which it’s alluded to was orchestrated by Noah), then they’re at the dance, then later, Claire sees Noah and this girl having sex in his room which is across from hers, and then that girl is never in the movie again. The son never learns what Noah did, Claire never mentions it; she’s literally just there to give the son something to do for half the movie. Also, yes it’d be frowned upon, but this kid is 19 years old, you said so yourself movie, so why would anybody knowing about this one night stand cause her to “lose everything” as the later scenes suggest. Clearly the movie was shot with him being 17 and they had to change it.
The movie’s R-rated nature also stands in weird contrast to the tone it seems the rest of the film was made in. People don’t swear much, but when they do, it’s the rough kind of swearing (a C-word is used at one point); the aforementioned scene of Noah and the girl having sex is really graphic, but that’s in contrast to the scene in which Noah and Claire have sex earlier where it seems great attention was paid to show every molecule of Jennifer Lopez’s breast except those which usually cause R ratings; and the violence really only picks up at the end of the movie, and then it gets to be like ’80s slasher movie gore. What exactly was happening here?
The writer is Barbara Curry, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney who worked with the Major Crimes Unit in L.A. for a number of years, or so her IMDb bio tells me. She’s only got one other writing credit, the still in post-production The Perfect Guy, which seems to be pretty much the exact same thing, with a seemingly great guy getting involved with a separated/divorced woman and learning that he’s actually a crazy person. That seems to be her niche.
The Boy Next Door is a movie that makes so little sense and the patchwork nature of the 91-minute cut is so obvious that I bet every audience member will think they dosed off and missed the scene that surely must have been there otherwise why would they have shown us this other scene. Still, because the movie is so poorly constructed and very over-dramatic (Noah goes from sweet guy to violent murderer VERY quickly) that I was entertained, especially toward the end. This is a marvel of bad editing and if that fascinates you, you might enjoy yourself; otherwise, I’d steer clear.