A video release of a 1994 made-for-cable movie, NEXT DOOR is a disturbing look at class warfare and intellectual snobbery.
Matt Coler (James Woods) and his wife Karen (Kate Capshaw) are college professors who live in the suburbs while awaiting faculty housing. Next door, butcher Lenny Benedetti (Randy Quaid) and his wife Marci (Lucinda Jenney) epitomize the blue-collar lifestyle the Colers look down their noses at.
The Benedettis are loud and raucous, make love in the backyard, and have an obsession with lawn watering. When Lenny's incessant watering kills Karen's azaleas, a friendly discussion over the situation escalates into full-scale war. Matt ruins Lenny's patio furniture, Lenny floods Matt's car, and
so on. Matt tries to call a truce, but Lenny continues harassing the Colers. After their dog is poisoned, the Colers become frightened and call the police. The cops find no evidence against Lenny and urge the two families to bury the hatchet. The feud spreads to involve the children, and when
Matt's son (Miles Feulner) beats up Lenny's son (Billy L. Sullivan), Lenny retaliates by attacking Matt. He later attempts to rape Karen while she is home alone. Matt goes to Lenny's workplace and publicly threatens him, also revealing that Lenny has been laid off. That night Lenny breaks into
Matt's home and terrorizes the family, attacking Matt and molesting Karen. To defend his family, Matt desperately fights his bigger, stronger opponent. The bloody battle ends with Lenny being set ablaze by Matt, who tells police that Lenny went too far.
Barney Cohen's script is an amalgam of black comedy, suspense, and social commentary, but NEXT DOOR is never as funny, frightening, or incisive as it is unsettling. As the savagery escalates, the film's tone becomes increasingly uneasy, the filmmakers' message obscured by such disturbing scenes as
Lenny swallowing Matt's car keys in one gulp. Rather than challenging social snobbery, NEXT DOOR may actually reinforce it. When the Colers get to know the neighbors they once snubbed, they learn Lenny is not uneducated and unrefined but highly intelligent and psychotically competitive. And while
the Colers gain insight about themselves and their social prejudices, the lessons are lost on Lenny, who, despite his high IQ, hates college professors and thinks "words are turds." (Graphic violence, nudity, sexual situations, adult situations, profanity.)
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