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The Girl Next Door (2007)

DVD Cover (Anchor Bay)
Director:
Gregory Wilson Gregory Wilson
Starring:
William Atherton William Atherton
Blythe Auffarth Blythe Auffarth
Blanche Baker Blanche Baker
Kevin Chamberlin Kevin Chamberlin
Dean Faulkenberry Dean Faulkenberry
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7.1 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Docudrama, Horror, Sadistic Horror, True Crime
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Review by Chad
Added: January 10, 2008
Being such a huge horror geek, it's hard to find anything that really affects me in any way. Call me desensitized if you will, but the simple fact is that there's just not much out there that really strikes a nerve anymore. Cannibal was the last film that got any sort of reaction out of me, but other than that... I really can't think of anything save for when I was a kid watching splatter-flicks for the first time. Tonight's film, however, has found a spot on that short little list not because of the actual on-screen violence, but because of the fact that it's (loosely) based on a true story. Oh, and the fact that the subject matter is incredibly disturbing certainly helped in that regard as well.

Our film takes place during the fifties in the household of Ruth Chandler (Blanche Baker), a lady who just so happens to be the "cool mom" of the neighborhood. We all knew someone like her: she lets her kids do whatever they want, she talks to them like they're adults, and she even lets them drink and smoke cigarettes even though they're a few years shy of their teenage years. Not only do her own children enjoy this freedom, but the other kids in the neighborhood make a habit of stopping by as well, and one of these kids is little David Moran (Daniel Manche). David enjoys the freedom as much as the next guy, but when two sisters - Meg (Blythe Auffarth) and Susan (Madeline Taylor) - are sent to live with Ruth after their parents die in a horrible car accident, things start to get a little out of control.

You see, Ruth isn't all there in the head, as if the fact that she lets these kids drink in her household didn't clue you in to this fact. She's also not very fond of these two girls living in her house, a fact that she makes abundantly clear on a daily basis by beating and humiliating them in the cruelest ways possible. Meg didn't quite hold on to her glass cup firmly enough while Ruth slapped the shit out of her? Well, that means she'll have to be tied up in the basement and stripped nude in front of all of the neighborhood children. She paints a picture for David, the one boy who doesn't take pleasure in the torture? Well, that obviously means that she's a slut, so Ruth... well, it gets pretty graphic, so I'll let you viewers use your imagination before picking up your own copy of the film.

Now, you'll note that I repeatedly mentioned that this film is graphic and disturbing, but this is not to say that it's something along the lines of Hostel as the actual visual side of things is pretty tame in comparison. You won't see anyone being hung upside down and bleeding, you won't see any decapitations, and you won't see any blowtorches to the face (but there are blowtorches used here, as a matter of fact), so if that's the sort of thing that you're looking for, you'll be disappointed with this one. No, this is not the direction that the filmmakers chose to take, as the things we see here are of a much more subtle nature. Watching the hell that Meg goes through is bad enough, but seeing these things being done to her by both an uncaring woman who is supposed to be her guardian as well as young children is just downright painful to sit through at times. This is the effect that Children of the Corn obviously went for, but the boys responsible for this one showed everyone how it's supposed to be done.

Speaking of those children, wow... some of these kids are almost certainly going to be attending a counseling session or two (or twenty) after their involvement here. One could easily say that the filmmakers used smart editing techniques to film these scenes and that the children were never exposed to the actual material at hand, and while that may be true for select scenes, there were times when you know that these kids were on set watching these actions play out. As if that wasn't disturbing enough, just try to sit through the scene in which an eleven-year-old is given a spanking: we only hear this beating taking place, but the camera zooms in on the panties that have been pulled down to this young girl's ankles the entire time it's going on. It's scenes like this that are the most repulsive, and for a filmmaker to get a reaction out of me in this day and age, well... I'm not entirely sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, but it's certainly an accomplishment nonetheless.

I was also a huge fan of the performances turned in, as I felt that just about everyone involved did a damned fine job with their material. Some of the lesser characters played by the children weren't exactly award-winners, but when one considers that these kids ranged in age from ten to fifteen, some allowances have to be made. None of them were bad enough to kill any of the scenes that they were in, and when dealing with child actors, isn't that the best you can hope for?

Blanche Baker, on the other hand, steals the show with her performance as the wicked stepmother; this woman made Ruth a character that the audience wanted to see killed, while Blythe Auffarth made the character of Meg one that the audience could sympathize with from the first scene onwards. I was especially pleased with her performance as I feel that it's much harder to get the audience to truly feel for a character than it is to get us hating one, but the filmmakers here did a stellar job on both accounts.

By this point in the review, do I really need to come right out and tell you to pick it up? It's a powerful film, and it's also one that will stick with you long after the credits have rolled. They just don't make them like this enough anymore. 10/10.
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Crispy #1: Crispy - added 01/10/2008, 02:28 AM
Information on the true story for whoever's interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvia_Likens Likens was the girl who was tortured and killed. Ruth's real life counterpart was named Gertrude Baniszewsk.
cky2kendall #2: cky2kendall - added 01/17/2008, 09:47 PM
I remember reading about this movie on a forum elsewhere, and just from what I've heard I cant bring myself to watch it. Anything based off a real thing that actually happens usually gets to me, but when you add kids to that mix, that's me done.
Cryptorchild #3: Cryptorchild - added 01/17/2008, 10:13 PM
First off I;m a HUGE Jack Ketchum fan. The Girl Next Door was the first book of his that I read. And let me tell you, it is the ONLY book that I have ever been effected by. It's so hard to read and not feel something, whether its digust, hate, or guilt. The book will fuck you up. The movie's not quite as strong but the two go hand in hand. The movie is hard to watch, it's real and it's right in your face. It's a horrible story but it's based on truth which makes it that much more unnerving.
Tristan #4: Tristan - added 08/18/2008, 06:38 PM
Surprised I haven't commented on this one yet. Fantastically disturbing film. Watched it today for the first time since it's release, and it was still just as dark. 10/10
George Snow #5: George Snow - added 08/27/2008, 03:12 PM
I haven't seen this. But, I hated the Lost which is Ketchem. However, there is a Showtime movie titled "An American Crime" which stars Ellen Page as the girl locked in the basement. She's fantastic as always.
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