© Universal Pictures International Germany GmbH

The Boy Next Door
U.S.A. 2015

Opening 19 Mar 2015

Directed by: Rob Cohen
Writing credits: Barbara Curry
Principal actors: Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman, Kristin Chenoweth, Ian Nelson, John Corbett

Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez) is a popular English teacher at John Monroe High School and mother of Kevin (Ian Nelson). She is separated from her husband Garrett (John Corbett), although they communicate and care for Kevin in an adult manner. Her best friend is Vicky (Kristin Chenoweth), the school principal and colleague. They complement each other: Vicky is prone to outlandishness, but more in touch with reality; Claire works on an even keel but is dangerously trusting. Next door lives Mr. Sandborn, an elderly man in a wheelchair. His good-looking nephew Noah (Ryan Guzman) has moved in to assist him. That’s the situation: nice, helpful Americans in a friendly, tree-lined neighborhood. Naturally, this serene atmosphere serves to make us blind to the dangers. Noah stares from his upstairs bedroom into Claire’s house. He makes friends with Kevin, as a wannabe big brother with an ulterior motive. Noah sits in Claire’s English class, claiming to be of high school age. He quotes Elizabethan literature to her. She is impressed – so much so that she succumbs to his seduction. She immediately regrets this mistake; after all, she is an adult and his teacher and an upholder of moral obligations.

The tension builds. This is a horror movie after all, and it holds our attention one hundred percent, especially with the excellent scary music (Nathan Barr, Randy Edelman) which keeps us alert for danger. What is behind such remarks as “a woman like you should be cherished,” “I am not a mean-time girl,” “heroes protect the one you love – I protect the people I love”? The pace quickens; there is stalking, blackmail, and rejection. Jennifer Lopez and Ryan Guzman are perfect counterparts, warily circling each other, while we hold our breath in anticipation. This is a good basic thriller and throughout we wonder: how does Lopez manage to remain so beautiful after a long career as an actress? (Becky Tan)

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