Back to School Part II #17: The Boys Next Door (dir by Penelope Spheeris)


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.

The Things You Find On Netflix: XOXO (dir by Christopher Louie)


I just watched XOXO, the latest Netflix original film and what can I say?  Well, I better figure out something to say because otherwise, this is going to be an extremely short review.

XOXO is the latest attempt to capture the American EDM scene on film and, if nothing else, it’s better than We Are Your Friends.  In the style of Richard Linklater, the film takes place over one night at the XOXO Music Festival (which should not be confused with the real-life annual festival that takes place in Portland) and follows the adventures of several different characters, all of whom are linked together by their love of a track called All I Ever Wanted.  In real-life, All I Ever Wanted is the work of Michael Brun.  In XOXO, it’s the work of a YouTube sensation named Ethan Shaw.

Krystal (Sara Hyland) comes to XOXO specifically so she can meet Jordan, a boy that she has previously only talked to online.  Despite having never met him face-to-face, Krystal is convinced that she is in love with Jordan and she wants to hear All I Ever Wanted with him by her side.  While her friends run off without her, Krystal wanders around the festival, trying to meet up with the continually elusive Jordan.

(Should I mention that Jordan was also the name of the online predator who attempted to molest Emma in the first episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation?  I guess I might as well…)

And then there’s Neil (Chris D’Elia).  Neil is old.  Neil is burned out, almost as if he spent two years co-starring in a sitcom with Whitney Cummings.  Despite having rented a party bus to take people to the festival, Neil claims that he hates the whole scene.  Neil, it turns out, is still stuck in the 90s.  Is it possible that, after making a lot of cynical comments and wandering around looking glum, Neil will eventually start to dance and get caught up in the redemptive spirit of PLUR?  (If you already know what PLUR stands for, you’ll probably enjoy XOXO more than someone who doesn’t.)

Shannie (Hayley Kiyoko) and Ray (Colin Woodell) are attending their final festival together.  Shannie will soon be moving away and she and Ray are going to have to try to do the dreaded long distance thing.  When they lose their tickets and then discover that the festival is sold out, they don’t riot like everyone else.  Instead, they duck into the sewers and try to sneak into the festival.  Of course, they get lost along the way but that gives them a chance to talk about their relationship.  Shannie and Ray didn’t get as much screentime as some of the characters but I liked them.  I related to their relationship and you know what?  I also would have found a way to sneak into the concert and hear All I Ever Wanted too.

DJ Avilo (Ryan Hansen), who is hopefully not meant to be a stand-in for the real DJ Avilo, is a superstar but he’s also a jerk.  He and his manager (LaMonica Garrett) are notorious for cheating up-and-coming young artists.  Fortunately, Avilo does get punched in the face at one point.  He deserves it.

And finally, there’s Ethan Shaw (Graham Phillips)!  Ethan has suddenly been given a chance to perform at XOXO but he only has 8 hours to get there and get prepared to perform!  Will Ethan make it and, once he arrives, will he be tricked by Avilo?  Ethan, of course, is an idealist whereas Avilo brags about how he just views everyone in the audience as being a dollar sign.  But, Avilo also says that he can make Ethan a star.  It doesn’t help that Ethan’s current manager, Tariq (Brett DelBuono) shows up late for the festival and is then kissed by a random girl who just happens to have a tap of LSD on her tongue.  While Tariq trips, Ethan struggles to maintain his integrity.

XOXO has been getting a lot of negative reviews but I actually kind of liked it.  It’s not a great film by any means but it does a good job of portraying an admittedly exaggerated version of American EDM culture.  (If you go to the film’s imdb page, you can find all the usual dismissive comments from Europeans bitching about American and western culture.  Any film that pisses off a snooty European can’t be all bad.)  The film’s totally predictable but the cast is pretty and the music’s great and really, isn’t that all that really matters?

As one character says, “I created this festival because I like to dance.  Dancing is important.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Music Video of the Day: Goody Two Shoes by Adam Ant (1982, dir. Mike Mansfield & Adam Ant)

It’s my birthday today so I chose to spotlight Goody Two Shoes by Adam Ant. Among other ties to the song, I too am a goody two shoes. It also happens to fall in line with the last two music videos I did as something that is so much fun to sing along to while you watch it.

One of the most interesting things to me about this video is the use of repeated actions throughout it. It matches the lyrics and title, but it also fits with theories I have read for why temporal overlaps exist in early films. They say that perhaps it wasn’t a mistake, but a double your pleasure, double your fun thing. I know I enjoy seeing Adam dive across the table, then multiple times across the bed with actor Caroline Munro lying in it.

Munro has been in numerous things, but is probably best known for The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). Of course all things are connected, so it turns out actor and music video director Daniel Kleinman who is this video also happened to direct the music video for Sheryl Crow’s song for the Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) made two decades later.

We also get a cameo from the Jailhouse Rock (1957) set and a clever use of a mirror, which doubles the image. The Jailhouse Rock set can also double as a copy of every set used in an early cinema film called Peeping Tom that was remade endless times. The butler even turns out to be a peeping tom. We also get an iris shot of Adam that is repeated with the shot through the keyhole near the end.

There’s a bunch of interesting stuff going on in this video.

Since it is my birthday, let’s amp it up, and triple our fun with two more performances/music videos for Goody Two Shoes.

Enjoy all three!