Three years after starring in Grease 2, Maxwell Caulfield starred in another (albeit far different) film about teenage delinquents, 1985’s The Boys Next Door. Directed by Penelope Spheeris (who also did Suburbia, another film about wayward youth), The Boys Next Door is a frequently harrowing film about a road trip gone very wrong.
The film opens with a series of black-and-white photographs of real-life serial killers, so you know what you’re about to get yourself into before the main action even begins. Caulfield plays Roy, a not-very-smart teenager who lives in an industrial town in the southwest. With his generally bad attitude and violent temper, Roy is one of the least popular kids at the local high school. In fact, his only friend appears to be Bo (Charlie Sheen). Bo is just as stupid as Roy but he’s not as violent. Bo’s problem is that he’s a follower, the type who is incapable of making his own decisions. If Roy says, “Let’s beat the Hell out of someone,” Bo is going to agree because … well, why not?
When Roy and Bo graduate from high school, they don’t have much more to look forward to than a life of working in a factory. After an angry Roy violently lashes out at a graduation party, he decides that he and Bo should get out of town. Fortunately, Bo has received $200 as a graduation gift. Roy and Bo decide to use that money to take a trip to Los Angeles.
On the way to L.A., it quickly becomes obvious that Roy is more than just an angry kid. When he and Bo rob a gas station, Roy savagely beats the attendant. When they get to Los Angeles, all Roy can talk about is how much he hates the city and everyone who lives in it. Roy is especially vocal about how much he hates anyone who he perceives as being gay…
Of course, even as Roy is loudly expressing every homophobic thought that pops into his tiny mind, it’s hard not to notice that he seems to be rather obsessed with Bo. In fact, he is so obsessed with Bo that he basically kills anyone who shows the least bit of interest in Bo. Paranoid that Bo is going to abandon him, Roy is willing to do anything to keep that from happening.
The Boys Next Door is one of those films that really took me by surprise. It may start and look like your typical low-budget thriller but The Boys Next Door ultimately reveals itself to be a disturbingly plausible portrait of a sociopath. The film suggests that, as individuals, both Roy and Bo are somewhat laughable but, as a team, they’re deadly. It’s no wonder that Roy is so insistent that Bo always stay with him because, without Bo around, Roy wouldn’t have any motivation to do anything. Everything that Roy does — from theft to murder — is largely to impress Bo. Unfortunately, Bo is too stupid to understand what’s going on in his friend’s head.
Especially when compared to some of the other performances that they are known for, both Sheen and Caulfield do surprisingly good work as the two murderers. Penelope Spheeris wisely directs the film as if it were a documentary and the end result is a harrowing film that deserves to be far better known.