There's very little doubt that The Boy Next Door is a terrible movie. But it is so cheerfully overt about it that it offers the very real possibility that everybody involved in making not only knew just how terrible it was, but in fact that they might actually have signed specifically because of that fact. We've all seen the ads, I hope and pray, where a sexually predatory high school student played by Ryan Guzman, (who looks every millisecond of the 26 years he had spent on this earth at the time of filming) leeringly talks about how much he likes "your mom's cookies"; that's not just a snarky laugh line that an in-on-the-joke trailer editor decided to foreground, that's the level that the entire film resides at. Sadly, there are no lines quite as punch-you-in-the-face as that elsewhere in the screenplay, but the overall level of ripe camp promised by that moment? Oh, the film teems with it.

The plot: Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez) teaches classic literature to gifted high school students in southern California, and she is in a misery. As related in a flagrantly impossible opening montage that uses confusing mismatches of sound and image in a manner that might be regarded as artistic by a moderately gifted film school freshman, Claire is in the midst of a hell of a marital crisis, precipitated by her husband, Garrett (John Corbett), having an affair with one of the women who works at his company's headquarters up in San Francisco. She smells like cookies, was apparently the line in an accidentally-discovered love letter that pushed Claire over the edge. And by the way, if you end up seeing The Boy Next Door, just accept that the next time you eat cookies, you'll be thinking of vaginas. The film wants it that way, and there's nothing wrong with it.

Throwing the bastard out - but not so far that, months later, they're not cautiously feeling out the shape of possibly reconciling - Claire only has left a 16-year-old son, Kevin (Ian Nelson), and a catty best friend and boss, Vicky (Kristen Chenoweth), whose overly mascaraed face and loud way of talking give the impression that she has a blood alcohol level in the double digits. But life, overall, isn't so terrible, especially when the old cancer-ridden man next door (Jack Wallace) welcomes his nephew into the house for their mutual benefit. This is Noah Sandborn (Guzman), who is in high school, though the film stops itself cold to make sure we completely, absolutely understand that he's of legal age, owing to how he dropped out for a couple of years, in the most anti-dramatic scene about the legal bedrock of an adult/adolescent sexual coupling since the bizarre Romeo & Juliet laws scene from Transfomers: Age of Extinction.

For, you see, as much as Noah is interested in being the mentor and stable male figure in Kevin's life (the film's refusal to capitalise on the avalanche of hints it drops in the early going that Kevin has a crush on Noah is a tragic failure to up the stakes to ever further heights of tawdriness), what he really wants is to make sweet love to Claire, as anyone might, given Lopez's terrifyingly perfect, unaging body and face. And, one night, after some of the most ridiculous innuendo ("Those kinds of shoes are for a woman trying to be sexy. DOT DOT DOT. You donโ€™t need to try." And trust me, you can absolutely hear that "dot dot dot" in Guzman's line delivery), they go right on ahead and make that love, and director Rob Cohen eagerly plunges in, framing it with all nudity-free filthiness - hands in panties, hands on boobs, protracted male butt shots - of the storied height of the erotic thriller in the early 1990s. It's hard to say whether it's more arousingly smutty or unrelentingly silly, but it's a whole lot of both.

Of course, it turns out that Noah is a crazy, sexually obsessed stalker psycho, and he spends the rest of the movie Glenn Closing in on Claire's life, eventually going full-on slasher movie crazy in a finale that takes place in a burning barn. A barn which the film, with only eight real characters to choose from, places under the ownership of Vicky, despite her seeming to be as much of an agriculturalist as the stars of Sex and the City. And in so doing, it also ramps the gore up from "none whatsoever" to "Lucio Fulci", going totally batshit for ten straight minutes before ending almost the exact second that the primary conflict is over. The Boy Next Door has, perhaps, heard of denouements, but it does not give a shit for them.

Cohen has the good sense to direct this all with snazzy pacing and the shameless sense of building dread of a cheap horror film, while writer Barbara Curry feeds all the characters a steady supply of hokey pronouncements to speak as they tromp through her scenario that has already become implausible by the 30 minute mark and keeps getting bigger and bigger from there, including overwrought car crashes and a full-on Se7en-style crazyperson lair before it even hits the third act. Given everything, it's difficult to say what "good acting" might even look like here, though the cast is, at any rate, providing exactly the right kind of action. Lopez flutters and gasps and looks bestruck; Guzman smolders and flairs his pecs and stares with lust and madness poring out of him, totally refusing to contain his hamminess; Corbett is pleasant, boring, and dad-like. As vessels for a very overcooked, very unmodulated set of emotional states, the leads are perfect, and though I can't imagine these parts being challenging for an actor of even the slightest talent, that doesn't mean that one can't do a good job with them, even so.

It's crap, of course: utterly arbitrary (Claire passes by so many chances to shut the whole thing down that one must assume that she secretly likes it), cut with a minimum of cohesiveness in favor of a maximum of startling shots, even when we don't really need to be startled, and it has absolutely no insight into the human condition (unless "teen boys will go to any lengths for sex" is an insight). But it's a blast: entertaining as any trashy thriller could hope to be, and hilarious as any bad movie in a long time. Is it intentional? Maybe. I don't care. I just know that I had a hell of a time watching it, and if this is the kind of movie year we can expect from 2015, I'm all for it.

3/10