Genre: Horror / Thriller
aka: Jack Ketchum’s Evil
Director: Gregory Wilson
Starring: William Atherton, Blythe Auffarth, Blanche Baker, Kevin Chamberlin, Dean Faulkenberry
In this town murder became the neighborhood game
This story is set in 1958 and told by a wall street broker in his fifties named David Moran. Moran tells a story from his childhood that would haunt him for the rest of his life. Back when he was a young kid he met a girl named Meg, who was now living together with her little sister Susan at their Aunt Ruth’s house ever since their parents had died in a car accident.
David quickly took a liking to Meg, but would also soon find out that the house she and her sister is now living in is not safe. Aunt Ruth turns out to be a demented and sadistic woman who decide to take all her anger out on the two teenage girls, and she has no qualms letting her teenage sons get in on the torture and humiliation.
The Girl Next Door is based on a novel by Jack Ketchum, which is again loosely based on the real life crimes that became the death of a young girl named Sylvia Likens in the summer of 1965. As if these real life events weren’t tragic enough, the filmmakers behind this project decided to amp up the torture and added some of the more disturbing acts that I have seen lately.
What makes it work is that the violence and humiliation feels very real and it’s just pure evil. There is nothing good to be found within the heart of Aunt Ruth and I have to question if upbringings alone can create such vile piece of trash as her kids are portrayed as in this story. The only “hero” of sorts in this film is the David character, but even he doesn’t do enough to help the poor girls.
Meg is absolutely doomed from the start and it’s hard to not to feel for the poor girl. The very cute Blythe Auffarth doesn’t get a lot of help developing the Meg character, but her sensitive and soft looks alone are enough for us to wish she didn’t have to go through what she did. The rest of the acting is ok, this does not come off as a high budget film but it does have a lot of screen time dedicated to child actors without them ending up making the film bad.
I would have liked it if they had stretched the time of the film to flesh out the characters a bit more, which in turn would have made all the torture even more effective. It would have been nice to see some of the kids also question their actions as even a ten year old should know that what they are doing to this girl is just not okay, regardless of what their mother says.
They also missed an opportunity to make the audience feel even more sick as they didn’t spend that much time on the Susan character. Meg did “willingly” make them treat her like shit so they would let her sister alone, but if they had done more to Susan and perhaps even killed her in front of Meg then the suffering would have been even stronger for her (and the viewer).
There are parts of the film that makes you question the story and logic of how this could go on without anyone noticing or giving a shit, especially when even the neighborhood kids are invited in on the torture festivities. All the bloody kids in this city can’t be spawns of Satan, can they? But if you are willing to look past some of its flaws then The Girl Next Door is destined to shock and disturb you in a way we aren’t used to seeing these days. It works in the same way that the old shocking exploitation films such as I Spit on Your Grave worked, by trying to portray realistic violence without overdoing it. For me it definitely worked and I would recommend this if you are after an uncomfortable experience.