Jennifer Lopez stars in The Boy Next Door

For some reason, when I heard the title and that it was a Jennifer Lopez movie, I thought it was a romantic comedy (which seems like such a quaint genre now). Turns out this is another genre from the same era – the thriller. I was immediately interested. Thrillers are few and far between these days and I love the idea of them so I went to check it out.

The story is fairly simple – Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez), recently separated from her husband, lives with her son Kevin (Ian Nelson) in a quiet suburb. She’s smart, pretty and an all-round good mom. Her son is a sweet kid and the worst thing in her life at the moment is the pain that her cheating husband wrought. The house next door is inhabited by a sweet old gentleman called Mr. Sandborn. The ‘boy’ in the title of the movie is Mr. Sandborn’s grandson Noah (Ryan Guzman), who moves in to help when his grandfather is due for surgery. Noah is clean-cut, good looking, polite, eager to help, and earnest. He quickly forms a bond with Kevin and a slightly different one with Kevin’s mother. Claire is confused and lonely and one ill-advised steamy encounter with Noah turns her life on its head. From there on, it’s one nightmare after the other as the boy next door turns out to be an obsessive psycho who will do everything it takes to be with Claire.

It seems like pretty standard stuff, but there are a few things that make this a thriller anything but quaint. When things get violent, they don’t hold back. In the big climactic fight sequence, there’s one moment of attack (trust me you’ll know it) that is more at home in a horror film than in a family-in-peril thriller. I don’t know if that’s courtesy the producers – Blumhouse Productions, the people behind Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Ouija and The Purge – but it was awesome! Certainly served to shake up those who thought they knew exactly where each punch was going to land. Ryan Guzman is a throwback to the wholesome but ridiculously hot guys that populated the films in the 80s and 90s. He plays a good pretty boy but he also plays a psycho with full commitment, which is impressive. On a different actress Claire’s character could have come off as arch and even comical but Ms. Lopez employs a comfortable-in-her-skin-sexiness that few people–that are not movie stars–possess. Finally, the steamy encounter that sets things off was really quite…elaborate.

Final Analysis: If you’re a fan of cheap and cheerful thrillers from when the genre was huge, you’ll like this one. It’s not film school material like, say, Hitchcock’s films were, but it’s fun.

My advice: Check it out for sure, and prepare for that moment in the big finale fight sequence – it’s not for the faint of heart.