Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Boys Next Door (Penelope Spheeris, 1985)

When the two protagonists at the centre of The Boys Next Door started discussing where they would like to go after they're done crashing their high school graduation party, I must admit, I got a little nervous. Throwing around names like, Las Vegas and Phoenix, I didn't like where this conversation was going; I wasn't really in the mood to watch a film where Maxwell Caulfield and Charlie Sheen tool around the desert to the sounds of Great White. My stress, however, began to melt away almost immediately when one of them--Charlie, I think--mentions driving to Los Angeles. Even though the city as it sits right now has no appeal to me, the Los Angeles featured in this film–the neon-adorned, sleazy as fuck, new wave/punk rock mecca that was the L.A. of 1984-85–is very appealing. I'm sorry to interrupt your love affair with mid-1980s Los Angeles, but is it okay if I ask myself a quick question? Sure, go ahead. How could they [Maxwell and Charlie] crash the party if it was for their graduating class? Why, that's simple, the alluring Moon Unit Zappa didn't invite them. Oh, and before you make a comment regarding my sanity, yes, I called Moon Unit Zappa "alluring," you got a problem with that? It's totally cool if you do happen to have a problem with that; it's a free country after all. I just want to put it out there that I am pro-Moon Zappa. More on the alluring Miss Zappa in a minute. Let's talking about unnecessarily heavy-handed opening of the film, shall we? Aw, man, do we have to? Yes, we do. If you want to come across as a normal film critic, you need to touch on the aspects of certain films that rubbed you the wrong way. And judging by the annoyed look on your face as you watched the opening of The Boys Next Door, a film directed by Penelope Spheeris, it's safe to say you had some issues with it.


Come on, dude, can't I just write about Patti D'Arbanville's lacy pantyhose? You can do that; in fact, I can't wait for you to do that. But not until you tell everyone what your problem was with the opening credits sequence. Okay, fine. I didn't like how they used the names of real life serial killers to set up the story. And? And, well, I thought it was a tad tasteless. Isn't "tasteless" your middle name? It is. But still, I thought it was kind of exploitative. I understand why they did it, they wanted to give the film gravitas. But it didn't really suit the tone of the rest film. Which is, don't get me wrong, pretty dark in places. I just thought, well, enough about that.


Despite their conventional good looks, seniors Roy Alston (Maxwell Caulfield) and Bo Richards (Charlie Sheen) seem like outcasts at their small town high school. Looking as if they had just walked off the set of Grease, or, in Maxwell Caulfield's case, Grease 2, Roy and Bo seem out of place in their plain white t-shirt and blue jean ensembles. Actually, I wouldn't use the word "ensemble" around them if I were you, as their attitude regarding the social changes that have occurred over the past twenty years seem mostly negative.


Pivoting her left leg in a manner that will surly send all the boys into a leg-appreciating tizzy/tailspin, Bonnie (Dawn Schneider), the senior class's resident blonde hottie, knows exactly what she's doing as she signs yearbooks in full view of the entire school.


If only Bonnie was a as good at remembering the names of her classmates as she was leg pivoting while signing yearbooks. What does that mean? She calls Bo, "Bob." Oh, I see. Anyway, as the alluring Moon Unit Zappa is telling Bo he's not invited to the big graduation party happening tonight at Joe's house, Roy is talking to a recruiter for The Marines. He doesn't enlist, but you're going to wish–well, at least some of the residents of Los Angeles are going to wish–the recruiter was a little more persuasive by the time this film is over.


You can sort of see that Roy ain't hooked up right during the scene with the recruiter; he basically tells him he wants to kill people. However, the part where he stares blankly at his classmates at Joe's party was when it became clear to me that there's something definitely wrong with Roy; the way the camera lingers on his face is chilling.


On the other hand, the part where the alluring Moon Unit Zappa says, "Excuse me, I think I'm going to be nauseous," while "I Ain't Nuthin' But a Gorehound" by The Cramps plays in the background, was anything but chilling, it was downright awesome. It was right then I decided that I wanted more Moon Unit Zappa in my life. In a misguided attempt to rectify this lack of Moon Unit Zappa in my life, I played Frank Zappa's "Valley Girl." Unfortunately, I couldn't get through ten seconds of it. That being said, the search for Moon Unit Zappa-related content continues unabated; wish me luck.


You mean to say that Moon Unit Zappa isn't going to Los Angeles with Bo and Roy? Ugh, like, gag me with a spoon. Moon Unit Zappa wouldn't be caught dead with these two losers. But you know who is going to L.A. with Bo and Roy? That's right, Joe's tiny dog Bon Bon. After causing a scene at the party (Roy pees in the pool and Bo asks Bonnie if she ingests seminal fluid when she performs head), Bo and Roy grab Bon Bon, hop in their grey [unpainted] 1973 Plymouth Satellite, and head to Los Angeles for a weekend of fun.


Supposedly set to start work at a factory come Monday morning, Bo and Roy see this adventure as one last blow out before becoming a couple of cogs in the wheel of industry. Renaming Bon Bon, "Boner the Barbarian," they're just about to enter the greater Los Angeles area when Roy tells Bo about this "stuff inside me." Call it rage, call them anger issues, Roy displays some of this "stuff" when he nearly kills an Iranian gas station attendant over two bucks worth of gas and a few packs of gum.


As Bo and a shirtless (yes!) Roy relax in their motel room, Detective Woods (Christopher McDonald) and Detective Hanley (Hank Garrett) investigate the crime scene they had a hand in creating.


I would love to tell you more about the detective subplot, but this woman just walked by wearing a blue zebra-print bikini.


Where was I? Oh, yeah, I remember. Getting trouble wherever they go, Bo and Roy unleash the ire of three women after Roy hits an old lady in the head with a beer bottle while hanging out at Venice Beach. The part where one of the irate women rides on the hood of their car for an extended period of time reminded me of that movie with Kurt Russell–you know, that one that begins with "Death" and ends with "Proof."


After taking a break at the La Brea Tar Pits, Bo and Roy hit the streets of Hollywood. Engaging in behaviour that was, and still might be, typical of suburbanites, Bo and Roy yell at people (a wondrous collection of authentic-looking punks and freaks) as they cruise up and down the strip. I loved it when one of the punks tells them to go back to the Valley. You loved that, eh? Wait until Bo and Roy come across Christina Beck (Suburbia) walking down the street with a friend. What happens? C'mon, tell me. Are you ready? Yeah, man, let's go! She tells Bo to eat her fuck. You mean? Yep, she says, "Eat my fuck!" But isn't that the line Rose McGowan says so memorably in The Doom Generation? That's the one. Oh, man, this changes everything. You see, I thought Gregg Araki was the one who came up with that line. And judging from what I just saw, he clearly didn't. Boy, this is awkward.


I don't think it diminishes the impact of the iconic line uttered by Rose McGowan, but it does lessen its standing as one of the greatest lines ever to be hurled in the general direction of the Asian guy from 21 Jump Street somewhat. Either way, Charlie Sheen's confused query after being told to eat Christina Beck's fuck, "What exactly does 'eat my fuck' mean," is classic. I would say, besides his cameo in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, that that particular line reading is Charlie Sheen's finest moment ever to be captured on film.


Enjoy the frivolity while you can, because it's going to get dark. Oh, sure, the darkness is lightened a tad when Bo and Roy watch street performers, the gorgeous Pinkietessa (The Blitz Club), Texacala Jones (Dr. Caligari), Maggie Ehring (Twisted Roots) and Tequila Mockingbird (she plays the wall tongue in Dr. Caligari), do their thing. But mark my words, the boys in The Boys Next Door are done fooling around.


It doesn't matter if they're hanging out at a gay bar in West Hollywood, stalking a yuppie couple, or spending time with a hippie barfly in lacy pantyhose (Pattie D'Arbanville), Bo and Roy leave a trail of death and destruction wherever they go. Or, I should say, Roy leaves a trail of death and destruction. Not to imply that Bo is some sort of innocent bystander, far from it, he's just as culpable. It's just that Roy is clearly the more deranged of the two. God, I'm starting to sound like Bo's lawyer. Anyway, featuring an excellent performance by Maxwell Caulfield, scenes of violence that were actually difficult to watch, Moon Unit Zappa, and a great location, The Boys Next Door is a definite hidden gem; "hidden" because I had never heard of it up until now.


10 comments:

  1. Technically, I think GG Allin invented "Eat my fuck" by naming his 1984 album thus, although he spelled it "Fuc".

    You're not alone on Moon Zappa, I think she's quite a pleasant sight as well.

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  3. One of his best albums too I might add, just look at the track list, Hard Candy Cock, I Wanna Fuck Your Brains Out, Fuckin' the Dog, Cock on the Loose, Clit Licker, Blow Jobs amongst others...

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  4. The whole "Eat my fuck! - What does Eat my Fuck mean" exchange was first heard in Spheeris' first film, THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION, by members of the band Fear.

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  5. Yet another piece of the eat my fuck puzzle falls into place.

    Thank for info, fellas, very enlightening...eat my fuck-wise.

    Oh, and "Clit Licker" sounds like a real toe-tapper.

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  6. Right after I posted that first comment I actually read the Wikipedia article on Allin’s EMF album where it mentioned the inspiration behind the title could have come from that moment in The Decline of Western Civilization that L. Rob Hubb mentioned.

    The more I think about it, and yes, I really have nothing better going on at the moment, I'm fairly certain the Marquis de Sade used the phrase or a variation of it in many of his writings.

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  7. I can't believe haven't seen The Decline of Western Civilization. The scene where fans yell "eat my fuck" at a Fear gig sounds like it's worth the price of admission alone.

    I'm sure there are Paleolithic cave paintings in France that feature the phrase. ;)

    And to think, before the month began, I thought Gregg Araki invented eat my fuck. Colour me less ignorant.

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  8. "Decline of the Western Civilization" is essential.

    This films looks very disturbing. When Chris Rock said in "Bigger and Blacker" that he was "scared of young white boys. If you are white and under 21, I'm heading for the hills. What's with these white kids shooting up the schools? They don't even wait till 3:30! Killing people in the morning, that ain't right!" Of course he said that back in '99, I think. Yep, deranged American white boys with easy access to fire-arms.

    I don't understand how Penelope Spheeris went from making punk documentaries and stuff like this to SNL fluff.

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  9. Crazy. I just checked yr tumblr. I'm listening to YAPOOS: 「大天使のように」(Like an Arch-Angel), and this picture of Togawa Jun was taken from that tour. http://radioactivelingerie.tumblr.com/post/66043722988

    I'm seeing her live tomorrow evening. Am already getting all excited about it.

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  10. What's even weirder is that I've seen "Decline of the Western Civilization II The Metal Years."

    I have a bit of a soft spot for Wayne's World. :D

    re: Togawa Jun - What a kooky coincidence.

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