Blu-ray Review: The Boys Next Door (1985)

 

Serial killers have long been the subject of much fascination to us normal folk, but in recent years with shows like Mindhunter and Ted Bundy’s newfound popularity, these social outcasts are being studied and analysed like never before. The Boys Next Door, seemingly innocent title relates to two high school graduates enjoying their last weekend of freedom in Los Angeles which later evolves into an impromptu killing spree.

Charlie Sheen and Maxwell Caulfield star as our adolescent pair, Bo and Roy; two young men with little to no ambition, reflected by their very unceremoniously final days of school filled with awkward exchanges and parting glances. I found these scenes slightly triggering as I didn’t take well to this social climate and often fell victim to its cruelty.

Nevertheless, director Penelope Spheeris (Wayne’s World) establishes the leads well, enabling us to feel a degree of sympathy for them as their adult lives are more or less mapped out and it’s what neither of them really want. Roy’s simmering rage, which has been building his whole life, spills over in Tinseltown, shifting the film’s tone from a post-high-school romp to something extremely dark; from a standpoint of screen violence, social anxieties and repressed sexuality. While marketing is geared toward the perceived surface normality of history’s most notorious serial killers, seen during the opening credits and on the film’s cover design, I don’t think it’s 100% comparable to the story. Granted, what leads Roy to make that leap comes from a similar place, but he and Bo’s weekend is a crime spree which they know deep down, how it’s going to end. Sheen and Caulfield are both solid as the film’s antiheroes, and while it’s easy to see why Sheen’s star was rising, I think The Boys Next Door really does belong to Caulfield. He hasn’t enjoyed the same level of success as his co-star, quite the opposite in fact, but he’s the true star. Roy’s decline is heartbreaking and horrifying at the same time.

VIDEO AND AUDIO

High on contrast and colour saturation, The Boys Next Door, comes sourced from an impressive 4K restoration produced by Severin Films, who released the cult classic back in simpler times, 2019. I’m sure some will take issue with the amount of grain and digital noise present throughout the 1.85:1 image, especially during night scenes, but I love how the dial’s been turned right up on this factor. It suits the film’s grimy nature and the L.A. street life of the mid-80s, complete with a vibrant neon hue. Details on the disc’s audio aren’t clear, but it’s one of the loudest DTS-HD tracks I’ve heard in a long time, with an amplified effect much like the picture. English subtitles are included, and the release is region B encoded.

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • Audio commentary with director Penelope Spheeris and actor Maxwell Caulfield
  • Blind Rage: Interview with Stephen Thrower, author of Nightmare USA
  • Both Sides of the Law: Interview with actors Maxwell Caulfield and Christopher McDonald
  • Give Us Your Money: Interviews with street band performers Texacala Jones and Tequila Mockingbird
  • Caveman Day: Cinemaniacs interview with director Penelope Spheeris and actor Maxwell Caulfield
  • Tales from the End Zone: Interview with actor Kenneth Cortland
  • The Psychotronic Tourist – The Boys Next Door
  • Alternate Opening Title Sequence & Extended Scenes (Silent)
  • Trailer
  • Limited edition booklet: Includes Living with the Boys Next Door by John Towlson and AssassiNation: Cold-blooded Rebels and the Death of the American Dream by Rich Johnson

Bonus material on this single-disc release is primarily ported from a previous U.S Blu-ray release but provide in-depth discussion of the film’s making-of process and legacy from those who worked on it. Star Maxwell Caufield appears in two interviews shot four years apart, first with director Penelope Spheeris in 2015, and in another with fellow actor and friend Christopher McDonald in 2019. Both sit-downs are insightful, and casual, more like discussions among old friends rather than mapped-out interviews. Despite having a minor role in the film, Kenneth Cortland shows that there really are “no small parts” and delivers a different perspective on making the movie in comparison to his big-name co-stars, as well as going into detail about its reputation among gay audiences. For something different, The Psychotronic Tourist is a modern exploration of the movie’s locations in L.A complete with historical background on each place visited. 101’s Film’s booklet deserves a shoutout, not only does it provide interesting commentary on the film, but it has a creative layout and design, modelling itself after an issue of Newsweek, and thus making a cool collector’s item!

The Boys Next Door is available now on Blu-ray in the United Kingdom from 101 Films, part of their Black Label under number 022. I’ve being covering releases from the highly dedicated distributor for almost a year and this one ranks as my favourite next to Hell Night.

THE BOYS NEXT DOOR
(1985, dir: Penelope Spheeris)

★★★★

 

direct blu-ray screen captures

 

 

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