Starring Maxwell Caulfield, Charlie Sheen, Christopher McDonald
Directed by Penelope Spheeris
Distributed by Severin Films
Director Penelope Spheeris is most widely known for her evergreen contribution to pop culture, Wayne’s World (1992), but many might not know her skills were so well suited to Mike Myers’ oddball outsider comedy because of the eccentric characters she covered early in her career. Spheeris’ first film, The Decline of Western Civilization (1981), was an unfiltered look at punks in the L.A. music scene that dovetailed nicely into her feature film debut, Suburbia (1984), which plays like a scripted version of the same material. Brash, violent youth were her currency and so The Boys Next Door (1985) feels like a natural progression of those narratives – albeit taken to extremes.
Roy (Maxwell Caulfield) and Bo (Charlie Sheen) are a couple of burnout hooligans fresh out of high school who decide to ditch their working class town and head off to Los Angeles, where they only want to party and get laid. Well, that’s all Bo wants… Roy’s proclivities hew toward more savage acts. One of the first things the guys do in town is assault and rob a gas station clerk when he, according to Bo (who is wrong), rips off their fuel money. Bo steals a bunch of chewing gum; Roy nearly beats the man to death. This act gets the attention of the cops, who are able to obtain a description of both boys, approximate ages, even the make and color of the car… but Los Angeles is a big city and Roy’s bloodlust is beginning to overflow in a city where he feels the rules don’t apply to either one of them.
Isn’t it funny how Charlie Sheen is the less fucked up of these two miscreants? Maxwell Caulfield is absolutely searing here, delivering a performance marked with such disregard for human life and apathy it could work as a prequel to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986). As he says in the film there’s ugliness inside this kid and he can’t do anything but give in to his murderous impulses without so much as a second thought. He couldn’t get laid if he paid for it – not that he would because why spend money when a gun can do the talking for you? Caulfield is shredded, looking like the kind of guy women and men would lust after, but his abrasive personality prevents anyone from even getting close, except for Bo. Caulfield doesn’t play Roy as an absolute; this guy knows he has a problem but he is absolutely powerless to deny his unquenchable need to dominate and kill. Roy’s also a raging homophobe and although Spheeris never directly touches upon the topic I wouldn’t be surprised to learn he’s possibly closeted and that self-loathing has him seething.
And then there’s Bo, played admirably by Sheen. Bo is the quintessential “bro” in the sense he’s always there for his dude, Roy, no matter what (and Roy gives him plenty of “whats”). These two knuckleheads share a baseline penchant for anti-social behavior, casual destruction, and general mischief… but where they diverge is the endgame. Bo is the textbook definition of sexually frustrated, making lewd passes at women and consistently proving he has no game. He often doesn’t approve of Roy’s methods but he isn’t terribly interested in stopping him either because the only thing on his mind is getting laid. Once he comes to the realization Roy is a monster who will stop at nothing – maybe even killing his best friend – that’s when Bo’s inner conflict emerges and he’s forced to make some Big Boy decisions.
Don’t think Caulfield and Sheen are the only two actors selling this thing. Spheeris has done a fantastic job of cultivating a cast of true characters, populating Boys with people who not only look like they belong in the L.A. scene but act like it, too. The styles, the dialogue, the situations… everything seen feels organic to the area. Spheeris gives her film a cinema vérité vibe that grounds it in reality, maybe too much since in recent years the director herself has practically disowned the film for being too dark. But it is because of that darkness it has endured and continues to work well as portend of what could be when the floodgates of a damaged mind are opened.
Also worth noting: this was written by Glen Morgan and James Wong, two names that ought to be very familiar to fans of The X-Files (1993-2002) among other genre properties. This was their first joint screenplay to be produced.
Severin Films touts a new 4K scan for the 1.85:1 1080p presentation and the results are a huge upgrade over the old Anchor Bay DVD. Bear in mind, the film was shot on 35mm and it maintains the gritty/filthy aesthetic of Spheeris’ earlier works. But under that heavy sheen (no pun) of grain is a refined image with superior definition, better color saturation, and clearer evidence of fine detail to further pull viewers into Spheeris’ L.A. I thought the black levels became a bit hazy when the action shifts to night; contrast could have been tighter. Still, this is a killer image that will no doubt stoke fans who have been dealing with that old DVD for so long.
There’s only one audio option: an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track and it deftly balances dialogue alongside a litany of raw punk rock and metal source music. Spheeris’ early days primed her to create a powerful soundtrack to this feature and the song choices here are in-your-face and aggressive – just like the “boys”. Subtitles are available in English.
- BRAND NEW 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM FROM THE ORIGINAL CAMERA NEGATIVE
- 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)
Harsh, unflinching, and evocative “The Boys Next Door” is a cautionary tale of where unchecked mental issues and aggression can lead. Caulfield and Sheen lead a commendable cast and Spheeris’ direction dives deep into every ugly facet of the leads’ personalities. Severin Films has done a stellar job bringing this criminally underrated film to HD home video.