By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jan 26, 2015 at 5:46 AM

As a gender-swapped sexy stalker thriller in the vein of "Fatal Attraction," "The Boy Next Door" is about as dead in the water as Michael Douglas’ infamous pet bunny. The number of thrills, chills or surprises lands somewhere between 2002’s long-forgotten "Swimfan" and a below-average Lifetime movie, and things are already long gone by the time it starts using a confused, wheelchair-bound Stan Lee lookalike for a cheap jump scare.

However, as a tawdry slab of silly, giggle-inducing camp, "The Boy Next Door" scores more laughs than most intentional comedies. There’s entertainment to be found here – cue the cookie-related innuendos – just never particularly of the variety the filmmakers were going for.

The trash filmmaking starts early, as the movie’s backstory comes unnecessarily delivered via some stiff, wooden lines clearly added in post to some hacked up deleted scenes. It’s not exactly the history of Westeros it has to lay out, either. High school literature teacher Claire (Jennifer Lopez) is dangling to her marriage by a thread after her husband (John Corbett) cheats on her. Her sassy best friend (Kristin Chenoweth, who – between this and "Strange Magic" – is having a weekend to forget) encourages her to lose the schmuck, but for the sake of her family, she’s refusing to quit just yet.

Her last stand gets a little weak in the knees, however, when she’s introduced biceps first to Noah (Ryan Guzman of the last two "Step Up" films), the studly new 30-year-old high school senior living next door. It’s not just the Abercrombie & Fitch looks that have Claire looking across the yard from her window, fanning herself and wearing a whole line of bafflingly slinky nightgowns. The dude is handy around the house, a kind mentor to her awkward asthmatic son Kevin (Ian Nelson) and a superfan of Homer. He even gets her a first edition copy of "The Iliad" … though considering it’s not written in Greek on crumbling papyrus, it’s safe to assume screenwriter Barbara Curry is playing a little fast and loose with the definition of "first edition."

But yeah, it’s mostly the Abercrombie & Fitch looks, and one lonely and desperate night, Claire gives in to their lusty flirtations. The next morning, she immediately tries to cut things off, but Noah – in amusingly quick and over-the-top fashion – turns out to be a creeper extraordinaire. He stalks her, hacks his way into her class, starts pitting impressionable little Kevin against his apologetic dad and threatens to post videos and photos of their tryst across her school. There’s only one way for this heated drama to end, and if you guessed in a cheesy random burning barn, then actually yeah, oddly enough; that’s exactly right.

Give Lopez credit for staying game in a role that involves cat-related jump scares and a scene where she briefly smells a half-eaten cookie for no particular reason (the movie has got a really weird cookie fetish thing going on). Also considering this is an erotic thriller, she looks absolutely terrific for someone about to head into the back half of her 40s. Any intimate scenes between her and the six-pack packing Guzman would have to work hard to not be a bit sexy.

But leave it to the director behind "xXx" and "Stealth" to try! Action hack Rob Cohen sometimes – such as during the big sex scene or a weirdly frantic kitchen sequence – seems to have no idea what to do with his camera, moving it around to look at … something, I guess. When he seems to have a handle on what to do … things aren’t much better. The attempts at tense thriller moments play flat, lifeless and cliché.

Meanwhile, multiple conversations are awkwardly blocked, featuring characters sticking around in conversations they shouldn’t be in. Lopez is stuck standing around when Kevin meets his cute sweetheart at a dance, and when he asks her out, Noah creeps in the background (what happens to her subplot is best left forgotten). Noah’s old uncle is stranded during the two lead’s first meeting. You can’t help but laugh at the awkwardness.

Then again, the whole script is filled with accidental comedy – not only the cookie-related come-ons. Noah’s slick, seductive line to get Claire over to his place? The ol’ "I can’t defrost my chicken" routine. He also arrives in her class – a supposedly creepy moment – by theatrically quoting Homer, impressing none of his giggling classmates (much less viewers). Lopez weirdly says "schmutz." And a screenwriter pro-tip: If the high school bully you’ve written spouts an elaborate insult involving Turner Classic Movies and "The Wiz," that draft's going to need some work.

When Curry’s script isn’t hilariously bad, it’s merely stiff and rote. Guzman’s Noah becomes so cartoonishly evil and obviously sleazy that he’s amusing than threatening, and the weak writing and direction constantly undercut any modicum of potential tension. As for any sexual tension, the big rendezvous is sufficiently steamy (and surprisingly earns its R-rating), but simply rubbing two attractive people on screen together like campfire kindling is bound to at least generate a spark or two, regardless of the bumbling craftsmanship involved.

After decades of women stuck playing the part of the sexed-up psychopath, it’s a nice change of pace to see the roles reversed for once. But that’s just about the only achievement to be found here. Other than that, it’s a predictable and utterly thrill-devoid thriller thankfully spiced up with some tremendously campy laughs. For fans of unintentional hilarity, "The Boy Next Door" will play like a dream. For anyone involved with the making of it, it probably plays closer to a nightmare. 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.