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The Girl Next Door

A movie directed by Gregory Wilson

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4 ½ Stars: A Harrowing Look at the Destruction of Innocence

  • Dec 25, 2008

THE GIRL NEXT DOOR is a film based on Jack Ketchum's novel, which is based on true events. I've seen a lot of horror films in my time, and I have to say that the scariest ones are always the ones that hit close to home. When you read the newspaper, watch the news, you sometimes see and hear things that are almost unbelievable that humanity can sink into such aberrations. This film borders around the line between exploitation and voyeurism, but believe me, "The Girl Next Door is a realistic, disturbing and genuine journey into one girl's personal hell.

Synopsis derived from the dvd back cover:
In a quiet suburban town in the summer of 1958, two recently orphaned sisters are placed in the care of their mentally unstable Aunt Ruth (Blanche Baker). But Ruth's depraved sense of will soon lead to unspeakable acts of abuse and torture that involve her three young sons, the neighborhood kids, and one 12-year old boy whose life will be changed forever.

People may say that some stories don't need to be told and I agree with them. "The Girl Next door" is arguably something that should have been left on the shelf. However, those who deny such stories also naively deny the twisted reality of life sometimes. This film is sort of a "coming of age" piece with a very dark, edgy premise that plays like a morality drama. In viewing this film, the viewer has to get pass the disturbingly graphic images to be able to appreciate its subtext, otherwise one will think that it is an exploitation flick with minors involved. Being based on a true story, the viewer has to keep in mind that this case did happen, and may POSSIBLY happen again somewhere.

The viewer has to pay special attention to the film's themes in order to understand why director Gregory Wilson opted to make this disturbing film. "The Girl Next door" is a tale of unfulfilled love, the moral responsibilities of adults, helplessness of children, and for people to be sensitive to what's going on. All these themes revolve around the film's main premise; abuse and the violence against women. The film is an emotion-driven film, no, it doesn't play on the graphic images and torture as much as the tiresome Eli Roth torture flicks. The film-makers knew what they were doing when they shot this film. They paid extra attention to the needed emotions inherent when one experiences such an ordeal. Meg, a pretty, innocent young girl is the victim. She loses all that she holds dear to humiliation, abuse and torture. Meg's sister is a victim of her own helplessness and fear. David is a young boy is sort of a victim also. He loses his innocence and up to his days as an adult, (as shown in the film's beginning and the climax) he still wishes that he could have done something to save Meg. David is a victim of his own conscience. Even Ruth's three boys are victims in their own way. They are victims of Ruth's twisted upbringing and philosophies on life and women. What is truly almost unbelievable is that the neighborhood kids are insensitive to Meg's plight, in fact, they seem to enjoy it. People may argue that some kids don't know what abuse is, thank goodness, my parents brought me up to be able to identify such things. Also, in this situation, "birds of the same feather flock together..."

The true instigator of the children's ordeal is Aunt Ruth; played by Blanche Baker. The actress makes an outstanding performance. Baker's portrayal as the main antagonist is realistic, disturbing and creepy in her own way. I've read somewhere before that the most dangerous psychopaths are those who think they are noble and serving a just cause. Such is the case with Aunt Ruth. Aunt Ruth preaches her mad, twisted indignation to her children (and to David) with convincing fervor that I couldn't blame them into buying into what she's saying. Another intense human horror is revealed: children do try to emulate their elders.

Now, I haven't read the novel and I'm pretty sure the book will have more answers. The film isn't perfect, some characters aren't fleshed out and "happy" people will no doubt have a lot of difficulty connecting to its story line. Also, David's parents are a bit one-dimensional and felt like they were minor plot devices to emphasize David's tortured conscience. The film however, does a lot more things right than wrong. I rather thought that it was very ingenious for the screenplay to show David as an adult haunted with his past nightmare, and how he has never forgotten his childhood friend; Meg. That up to this day, he wants to do something good to another being even at the price of his own life.

"The Girl Next Door" is not a film for everyone. Controversial and disturbing to its core, the film will no doubt offend a lot of viewers but if you look at the subtle messages instead of the graphic scenes, viewers will learn to appreciate what the film's premise is all about. This film is an unrelenting look at human horror that will stay with the viewer for a long time to come. Forget monsters, vampires, demons and werewolves, the scariest thing may just be occurring right next door...

Recommended timidly. The film is of such disturbing nature that only the most timid recommendation may be given. [4 ½ stars]

Dvd cover

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July 15, 2010
Yes sir this right here is one of the best ones out for sure, man this had some crazy stuff in it. Chris reviewed the book to this as well over on Amazon.
May 30, 2009
I had been wanting to see this film for the longest time but was almost afraid to. I loved the Ketchum book & feared that the film simply wouldn't do it any justice. Surprise! This was a great film & I was amazed at how well it captured the essence of Ketchum's novel. Yes, definitely read the book. Highly recommended. Great review by the way!
May 31, 2009
heck yeh, bro! I really enjoyed this movie, but I'm not sure whether I can give it a solid rec seeing as how its premise is sooo disturbing. I haven't read the novel, but good to know the film does it justice.
June 02, 2009
Yeah, the book is still better than the movie but the film is pretty damned close in capturing Ketchum's disturbing overtones. Let me know if you read the book. Thumbs up bro!
More The Girl Next Door reviews
review by . July 03, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: extremely disturbing but true account, Baker was terrifying     Cons: ...     The Bottom Line:   "Hallelujah, hallelujah  God bless the child who suffers"  ~Shania Twain     Today I had the unfortunate experience of watching The Girl Next Door which was adapted to screen by Daniel Farrands & Philip Nutman from the book by Jack Ketchum. This is a surrealistic take on a coming of age movie like Stand …
review by . February 11, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Talk about being numb to your seat. Even though I've been warned I was still angered by it. I never cuss and fuss so much towards a film in my life. As a parent I was totally appalled of all the actions that took place towards the sisters. Just because your (Ruth) life ended up bad doesn't mean you can take it upon a child. She's lucky I didn't bump into her in the streets but fortunately enough she got what she deserves. In the beginning of this film, it revolves around David (played as an adult …
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About this movie


Based on the novel by acclaimed author Jack Ketchum,The Girl Next Doordraws its nerve-wracking power from a real-life horror show--the torture of Sylvia Likens and her sister by Gertrude Baniszewski and her offspring in the mid-1960s (the case also serves as the basis for the filmAn American Crime). Here, the Likens character is a recently orphaned teen (Blythe Auffarth) taken in by Ruth Chandler (Blanche Baker), a single mother who plies her adolescent sons and their friends with alcohol and lax supervision. Ruth takes an almost instant disliking to the bright young girl and her sister (who is afflicted with polio) and mounts a campaign of mental and physical abuse upon them; her sons quickly fall into step behind their mother, and a neighborhood friend (Daniel Manche) struggles with his own participation in the atrocities. As true crime thrillers go,The Girl Next Doorsucceeds on many fronts: Baker and Auffarth give impressive performances, and the violence, though harrowing, is never offered as exploitation. Director Gregory Wilson also keeps the pace brisk and breathtaking as the torture escalates; however, he is less capable in the expositional scenes, and the script by Daniel Farrands and Philip Nutman has a leaden ring at times (which undoes the efforts of the younger cast). Still, it's challenging fare for strong-hearted horror and suspense fans. The DVD includes two sets of commentary: one by Wilson, producer Andrew van den Houten, and cinematographer/co-producer...
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Director: Gregory Wilson
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Release Date: 17 October 2008 (Italy)
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Daniel Farrands, Philip Nutman
Runtime: 91 min
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