The most pleasurably ludicrous highlight of The Boy Next Door comes half an hour in, before the sex and murders and something's-in-the-mirror-behind-her! jolts that stud the film like Flavor Crystals. The high school English teacher played by Jennifer Lopez is dazzled by a gift from the handsome student (Ryan Guzman) who's moved in one house over: a gilt-edged copy of The Iliad, dating from what looks like the late 1800s. Lopez gushes: “A first edition!"
Too bad that scene's so much more bonkers than the one in which the neighbor boy finally treats her to another oral epic. Steel yourself for shuddering breaths, flashes of bra, carefully framed glimpses of the top of Guzman's ass, and what is for me a new one: Here's the first erotic thriller that gets around the issue of the starlet's no-nudity clause by just putting the man's hands on her breasts, shot after shot -- he touches them not like he's enjoying them, but like they're the lenses of some damned paparazzo's camera.
What matters, though, is that this is the rare by-the-numbers studio thriller that at least gets the numbers right. The twists come when you expect them, and many stirred an anticipatory laugh from the crowd at my screening: Oh, shit, he's in the house!< Wolfish Guzman plays wittily upon our fears of the underdeveloped empathy of overdeveloped young men. Built like Tatum but smiling like a shifty Franco, he smears the distinction between Boy Scout and alpha sociopath. And Lopez isn't believable as a teacher, but she's an effectively vengeful movie star.