Today’s Sunday Streaming pick is PENELOPE SPHEERIS’ THE BOYS NEXT DOOR! How can you say no to both a psycho killing spree road movie and a sleazy L.A. circa 1985 flick all in one? This is a movie that I once caught on late night cable a zillion years ago and it left a permanent mark on my brain. I found it really compelling and impossible to turn off and yet I never wanted to watch it again because it disturbed me. I should lie and tell you that I was disturbed by the vicious misogynistic, racist, homophobic killings that pepper the film or even that I took offense to an old lady being conked on the head with a beer bottle but the sad truth is, I was rattled by the fact that a little dog is kidnapped and left on a beach far away from home!
The ”boys” of the title are Roy (a post-GREASE 2 MAXWELL CAULFIELD) and Bo (a pre-PLATOON CHARLIE SHEEN). Rebels without a conscious, the two have just graduated high school and have only soulless factory work to look forward to. SHEEN is the ghost of his father in BADLANDS and CAUFIELD does his best American sociopath by dropping his accent and lumbering around like an inhabitant of THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU. Ignored by their parents and scorned by their peers, you can’t blame these two for stealing a car and searching for greener pastures. Unfortunately for many, they are unable to outdrive the lit wick of the explosive rage they have against the world that’s not their oyster. It’s not long before innocent drunk cougars (PATTI D’ARBANVILLE) and optimistic gay dudes are being beaten to death for inviting the wolves in tight sheep clothing home.
THE BOYS NEXT DOOR is built to unnerve, it opens with news clippings reminding us how harmless appearing the most savage serial killers are. Like many films focusing on those who break against society the audience may find themselves torn between being mortified by their escalating deeds and oddly pulling for them not to get caught. SPHEERIS keeps things from getting too heavy by throwing in a cop that we can relate to (CAULFIELD’s GREASE 2 co-star CHRISTOPHER McDONALD) and by drumming up energy with a lively soundtrack. Roy and Bo’s actions aren’t nearly as fascinating as their complicated relationship but how deep you want to dive into that psychological tar pit is up to you. I’m thinking for many seeing 1985 captured in a bottle complete with a MOON UNIT ZAPPA appearance should be enough.