In 1965, teenager Sylvia Likens was tortured and killed by her guardian, Gertrude Baniszewski. This case led to Jack Ketchum’s 1989 novel “The Girl Next Door” which depicts those events loosely. In 2007, a horror film adaptation was made based on the book; a strange amalgamation of repressive themes, exploitation, and young romance.
The movie follows an older man named David who is reminiscing about his life in the 50s. Two young girls moved next door to him when he was a young boy. One of the girls is named Meg. They develop a fast friendship. It turns out that both of these girls lost their parents in a car accident and are now living with their Aunt Ruth. Ruth hates the girls, especially Meg. She finds horrible ways to make the girl’s lives hell, all the while encouraging other kids around the neighborhood to do the same. What will happen to Meg and her sister if this abuse continues?
The acting is really what sets this movie apart. Meg, played by Blythe Auffarth, does an amazing job playing the friendly, yet vulnerable Meg. On the other end of the spectrum, Blanche Baker plays Aunt Ruth incredibly well and is downright chilling at times. She is controlling and methodical in just about everything she does. It’s an almost devious and animalistic performance at times.
The setting of 1958 is supposed to give it the feel of repression. I guess it’s supposed to make you understand why these boys kept these happenings secret for so long. I find that a wee harder to swallow. Some of the things the boys witnessed were things that would warp their minds. I highly doubt they could have kept their mouths shut for long seeing some things that would have made Dr. Mengele giggle.
The movie falls flat due to so much exploitative violence. Not that the real story wasn’t awful enough, but this was just gratuitous. I mean how much abuse can a young body take? It ends with a strange explosion of happenings which is rather unbelievable. Despite that fail it at least tries to end on a good note which is rare for modern horror movies.
“The Girl Next Door” is not a bad film. The acting is decent and the story is worthwhile. The only problem is that it’s got an excessive amount of torture gore weighing it down. It’s worth checking out on Netflix if you are looking for something different. The movie certainly is creepy knowing the true aspects of the story.