The Boys Next Door MA 15+
Penelope Spheeris’s visionary polemic against toxic masculinity – decades before the concept was popularised – stars Charlie Sheen and Maxwell Caulfield as the titular boys: young, white, resentful and deadly.
On the eve of their graduation, disaffected teens Roy and Bo take a road trip to LA. What begins as one last weekend of fun before settling into a small-town life of drudgery turns into an off-the-rails rampage, as the otherwise unassuming ‘boys next door’ descend into homicidal sociopathy.
Following on from Suburbia (MIFF 2019) and her groundbreaking documentary The Decline of Western Civilisation, The Boys Next Door takes Spheeris’s early ‘80s studies of reckless youth to their (ill)logical endpoint. She begins this fictional tale with a montage of notorious murderers, underlining the film’s central thesis: that those we demonise as monsters frequently pass for average people. Sheen and Caulfield are chilling as the kind of men we might today call Incels but for a subtle thread of suppressed homoeroticism, which the boys channel into an armour of violent machismo, homophobia and misogyny. Written by Glen Morgan and James Wong (who would go on to pen some of the most memorable episodes of The X-Files), and driven by a punk and metal soundtrack featuring the likes of Iggy Pop, Great White, Code Blue and The Cramps, The Boys Next Door is arguably more relevant today than when it was released in 1985.
“A very well made, disorienting movie about inarticulated despair and utter hopelessness … Spheeris has some kind of special gift for dealing with outsiders in a way that invites both our interest and concern, without for a minute romanticizing them.” – The New York Times