Intentional or not, it’s hard to imagine that there was another film released in UK cinemas last Friday in which sex was less sexy than in It Follows, a terrific lo-fi horror film that comes highly recommended by all accounts.
And yet, last Friday also saw the release of Rob Cohen’s The Boy Next Door, an erotic thriller that isn’t as sexually charged as it is accidentally hilarious. For all intents and purposes, the film plays like an episode of the How Did This Get Made podcast waiting to happen.
At the start, high school teacher Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez) is a single mum who’s mulling over whether or not she should get back together with her cheating ex-husband Garrett (John Corbett). Enter Noah, (Ryan Guzman) a dreamy teenager who’s handy around the house and gives his neighbour some much needed support with her troubled son Kevin (Ian Nelson).
Home alone one weekend, Claire gives into the sexual tension between them (such as it is) and they spend the night together. Immediately after this scene, she tells Noah that there’s no chance of their one night stand turning into anything more. His response is to bloody his knuckles by punching the bedroom wall, which tells you about how well this conscious uncoupling is going to go from his end.
What follows could be broadly described as a gender-flipped take on Fatal Attraction, with Noah trying to drive a wedge between Claire and her family and friends, but sadly, Ryan Guzman is no Glenn Close. It’s so derivative, bits of it could be compared to any number of erotic thrillers, the sub-genre which really generated heat through the 1990s from Basic Instinct onwards and took a cold shower some fourteen years later with 2006’s Basic Instinct 2.
Jennifer Lopez may not be Michael Douglas, (once described by our own Ryan Lambie as “the undisputed, bare-bottomed prince” of the genre) but then she’s not given a whole lot to work with here. Lopez has never quite lived up to the promise of her screen breakthrough in Steven Soderbergh’s Out Of Sight, but she really gives it her all here and she’s certainly not to blame for any lack of sexual charge.
From start to finish the script, by Barbara Curry, is something of a howler, but the clunky delivery by the actors feels like an oversight from the director. Lopez and Guzman generate a little heat between them early on, but Cohen (who is better known for action fare such as xXx and The Fast & The Furious) somehow makes the pivotal tumble look tacky and dispassionate before eagerly digging into psycho-thriller ridiculousness from there.
It’s not helped by an unfortunate predilection for sub-James Bond innuendo. “I love your mother’s cookies” is a particularly flaccid example, but Guzman delivers every one of these with implied malice and a cocky grin. Personally, I laughed out loud when Claire told Noah to stop stalking her and he sheepishly snarled back- “I can’t… I live next door.”
But we’re not championing this as a so-bad-it’s-good movie either, partly because that’s a label that comes with its own problems, but mostly because it takes until the hysterical final showdown to really liven up. Even then, after a film whose main unit of currency is the limp double entendre, it ends with a whimpered bon mot that would have been better left un-uttered, next to the overkill that precedes it.
To paraphrase an old saying, you can wait ages for one erotic thriller and then two come along in a row. But in the wake of the box office success enjoyed by 50 Shades Of Grey, also a Universal film, it almost looks like the studio have come to bury the genre rather than revive it.
Looking at both films, at least The Boy Next Door is more satisfying and less confused about its characters than 50 Shades, but Cohen and Curry aren’t lumbered with such terrible source material. Even if that only leaves them to blame for the more unintentionally comedic bits, it’s certainly better at doing what it says on the tin than the more troubled blockbuster equivalent. All of that said, this is strictly for schlock value only.
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