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Anchor Bay presents
"Don't worry, man. We're gone."
DVD ReviewThe Boys Next Door, Bo Richards (Charlie Sheen) and Roy Alston (Maxwell Caulfield), are a pair of young men, newly (and barely) graduated from suburban high school. Contemplating a lifetime of dead-end factory employment, the boys decide to take a vacation to Los Angeles with Bo's two-hundred-dollar graduation present. Roy's simmering rage and Bo's unconcealed lust make for an explosive combination in the city, where they embark on a weekend spree of assault and murder. A quasi-romantic interlude with New Age girl Angie (Patti D'Arbanville) enables detectives Mark Woods (Christopher McDonald) and Ed Hanley (Hank Garrett) to close in on the dangerous kids in the primer-coated Plymouth Roadrunner.
Director Penelope Spheeris displayed an affinity for the inarticulate alienation of youth in Suburbia and her Decline of Western Civilization films, and she handles the violent misadventures of Bo and Roy with a tone that sympathizes but does not condone. The film's violence is over-the-top but never cartoonish, and the protagonists' dark deeds are balanced by an odd sense of fish-out-of-water humor, as they encounter gay bars, punk rockers and other urban novelties. Maxwell Caulfield portrays the handsome but increasingly out-of-control Roy with a hair-trigger intensity that works surprisingly well, while Charlie Sheen's Bo is the quintessential catalyst and bystander, vicariously enjoying Roy's misdeeds; his mild objections do nothing to discourage his aggressive friend's outbursts.
Unfortunately, the script by Glenn Morgan and James Wong doesn't really take us anywhere. A promising beginning soon gives way to formulaic exploitation: violent youths on the rampage versus "crime does not pay" cops. Bo and Roy are "stupid invincibles," so completely oblivious to the potential consequences of their actions that no drama can be generated; the increasing level of police interest becomes nothing more than a "B" story, and their victims are as soulless as the landscape they inhabit. A credits segment featuring brief profiles of notorious serial killers promises an intimate look at the incoherent psychosis of the breed, but the film never delivers. The Boys Next Door resembles nothing so much as a 1980s version of the 1950s "teen gang" genre—stylish and well-acted, but empty-headed.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: D+
Image Transfer Review: Anchor Bay presents The Boys Next Door in its original 1.85:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio, with an anamorphic transfer. The source print is quite clean with just a few flecks here and there. The low-budget film suffers from unstable light levels, shallow depth-of-field and middling shadow detail, but the digital transfer appears to capture the image accurately with no distracting artifacts or excessive edge enhancement.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The Boys Next Door retains its original monophonic audio, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 format for ProLogic decoding to the center speaker. The film's limited budget impacts its audio quality, with dialogue slightly muddy and distorted throughout and some "live" noise and rustling in several scenes. Low-end bass is present but on the weak side, and the punk/metal soundtrack selections by The Cramps, Great White, Code Blue, and Iggy Pop suffer for it. I'm sure the digital transfer is not at fault, but this disc's soundtrack is not a strong point.
Audio Transfer Grade: C-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Penelope Spheeris, star Maxwell Caulfield
Extras Review: The Boys Next Door on DVD features 23 text-menu chapter stops and a handful of standard supplements:
An Anchor Bay trademark of late, the disc features well-written, lengthy biographies of Penelope Spheeris, Charlie Sheen and Maxwell Caulfield, along with filmographies. Unlike those found on many major studio discs, these bios don't hesitate to mention career missteps, personal problems and other downbeat aspects of their subjects' lives, making for informative and interesting reading.
The original theatrical trailer betrays the project's exploitation origins at Roger Corman's New World Pictures, with clips from the film accompanied by excruciatingly serious narration that seems to date from the glory years of Juvenile Delinquent pictures: "It's the latest style in madness!" ... "Barely old enough to vote!"
Director Penelope Spheeris and star Maxwell Caulfield contribute a running commentary track. Their remarks are somewhat intermittent, punctuated by periods of silence, and the commentary volume is significantly lower than that of the "background" film audio, making for distracting listening. Caulfield's remarks are intelligent and often humorous, but the most interesting comments come from Spheeris, who relates her battles with the MPAA over the film's violence while also admitting that she would not want to make this film today. Not as engrossing as the best commentaries I've heard, but fans of the film will appreciate the additional material.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsThe Boys Next Door is a well-executed but ultimately banal story of two disaffected youths on a murderous rampage. Anchor Bay's DVD features a solid transfer and some worthwhile supplements, but director Penelope Spheeris has done better, more honest work, elsewhere.
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