The Boy Next Door

To call The Boy Next Door an “erotic thriller” does a disservice to eroticism and thrillers. And probably quotation marks, somehow. This is a dull movie featuring a terrible lead performance that looks cheap and doesn’t for a second raise its level of suspense to a point where one can avoid yawning throughout its entire running time. It’s a poor-man’s version of 1996’s Fear, and Fear was already more or less a poor-man’s version of this story.

Jennifer Lopez stars as Claire Peterson, a high school literature teacher. She’s in the midst of a potential divorce from Garrett (John Corbett), and has a teenage son, Kevin (Ian Nelson). One day, a neighbor’s great-nephew, Noah (Ryan Guzman), moves in next door. He’s kind and really good with handiwork. He fixes her garage. He befriends Kevin almost instantly, despite them being a couple of years apart in age. One night, while Kevin and Garrett are out on a camping trip, Noah comes over. He seduces Claire. The next morning, Claire tells him that it was a mistake. As it turns out, Noah’s not exactly the most stable person in the world. So begins a middling stalker story.

And it’s very middling. It tries to slowly build up tension and atmosphere, which is at least something, but it does it so poorly that it’s more likely to bore people before the point at which it starts to get “exciting.” And about the only exciting point is literally the last scene, and it’s a scene you’ve probably seen hundreds of times before. People are tied up, the bad guy is going to kill them, but of course at least one of the knots isn’t perfect, or something.

If you’re here for eroticism, you’re at the wrong movie. Wait for Fifty Shades of Grey. There are two sex scenes in the film, and only one of them wants to be “sexy.” It really isn’t. It’s filmed with lots of close-ups, and lacks passion and interest. The second one is meant to be “creepy,” but it also fails at that. Almost every time The Boy Next Door wants to be something, it struggles to succeed. It’s so incredibly bland at every turn.

It’s actually quite difficult to hate The Boy Next Door because of how bland it is. There isn’t anything to like, that’s for sure, but it’s so dull and uninteresting that it can’t stir up any sort of emotions at all. You watch it, you stare at a screen for 90 minutes, and then you stop watching it and you’ve successfully killed 90 minutes, but gained absolutely nothing in the process. Still, it won’t anger or offend, so if you want the least interesting movie to watch, then I guess you could see this one.

I suppose that the film’s amateurish feel is one that you could begin to hate, but after a while it’s hard to continue caring. One scene has such horrible post-dubbing that you’d think it was a film made by high school students, and it’s a shame because that scene almost gets interesting right afterward, except you’re taken out by the poor dubbing that the scene loses any impact. The cinematography is ugly and makes the film look cheap, too (which it was; it only cost $4 million). And don’t get me started on its ham-fisted ancient Greek metaphors, which are thrown in so heavy-handedly that you wonder if it was written by someone for whom subtlety is a lost art. Or by someone who’s never written a screenplay before — which is actually the case, as the film’s writer, Barbara Curry, makes her screenwriting debut here.

And then there’s the acting/casting. Ryan Guzman looks closer to 30 than 20, and for some reason he’s continually paired on-screen with Ian Nelson, who actually is somewhat close to his character’s age. Neither actor is good. Jennifer Lopez, for whom many people will pay the ticket price, might have turned in a career-worst performance, which makes sense until you learn she was one of the film’s producers. One would think she would care more. Everyone else is expendable and won’t leave an impression.

The Boy Next Door does not deliver on any of its promises. It’s not erotic and it’s not thrilling. It won’t make your heart beat any faster. It won’t excite. About all that it will do is remind you that actors who are approaching 30 should not play teenagers, and that Jennifer Lopez is a much better actress than she shows in this film. Oh, and that poor cinematography and post-production work can take you out of a film, further ruining any impact it might have had. The Boy Next Door is bland and difficult to hate because it doesn’t really do anything worth talking about, but it’s not worth the 90 minutes it takes to watch. It’s a poor-man’s Fear, and that’s saying something.

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