Chainsaw Cheerleader Reviews: The Girl Next Door (2007)
Directed by: Gregory Wilson
Screenplay by: Daniel Farrands and Philip Nutman
Cast: Daniel Manche, Blanche Baker, Blythe Auffarth, Madeline Taylor
Genre: Horror, Psychological Thriller
Have you ever watched a film and upon finishing it asked yourself why in the world did I just watch that? Not because it was awful but because the film contained scenes that are now forever seared into your brain. The Girl Next Door is one such film.
The Girl Next Door was first penned as a novel before it was a screen play. Written by Jack Ketchum, The Girl Next Door is based on a true story about the torture and murder of Sylvia Likens. Though the screen play differs in some areas with concerns to the novel, it still captures the brutality of the worse case of child abuse of that era. While the names of the victims and perpetrators have been changed and the more degrading acts of abuse have not been included, The Girl Next Door fully embraces the events that Sylvia Likens was subject to.
Set in New Jersey during the 1950’s, two adolescent girls (Meg and Susan) were sent to live with their Aunt Ruth and her three children after the death of their parents. Over the summer, the oldest of the two girls is singled out to receive the majority of the punishment that will be handed out at the orders of the aunt. Aunt Ruth is a bitter woman who blames her failed relationships with men on other women and proclaims that most women are whores or sluts often do to her decline in beauty as she ages. It is not the fact that she is bitter that makes her torture her niece it is because she is psychopath that is bitter. Aunt Ruth constructs a mental and emotional hold over her three young boys and other children from their neighborhood. She prays on their innocence and warps their minds to force them to believe as she does. As many predators do, she provides an environment that welcomes the children by allowing them to drink beer, look or watch pornography, and discusses with them inappropriate sexual aspects of the human body. These actions have convinced the children that because a parent says these types of things that it is okay for them to believe them as well. This type of brain washing sets the stage for the rest of the movie. Blanche Baker, who plays Aunt Ruth, is brilliant. Her capability to play such pure evil and make it look almost effortless is beyond description.
Meg, being the older of the two, is quickly subjected to the evil of this family. It first comes in the manner of name calling. She is called weak and fat. The name calling morphs into physical abuse and the denial of food. After Meg reaches out to the police, who dismiss her claims, she is thrown into the basement where she is tied and hung from the rafters. Meg is then tortured by her aunt, cousins, and neighborhood children. At times the torture is implied or shot from another angle so the viewer does not see the point of contact. For example, when Meg is raped by her cousin as his mother watches and instructs him how to do so, the scene is shot from underneath the mattress peering up from a hole in it. At this angle, the viewer only sees Megs empty emotionless face and her cousin on top of her. Another example of this is after Meg has been raped the camera shots from her point of view as the boys turn her over and their mother uses a blow torch to burn Meg’s clitoris. This form of torture is heavily implied and not seen. The viewer sees the aunt between Megs legs and as she applies the blow torch the scene quickly moves on as Meg’s screams fade in the distance.
Meg makes two attempts to escape from her aunt’s home but it captured each time. She is captured because each time she tries to leave she tries to rescue her sister as well. Meg’s sister, Susan, is also subject to abuse. It is later revealed that Aunt Ruth is molesting the little girl. That is the driving factor behind Meg’s reason why she would not leave her sister behind.
Out of the many children that torture Meg, it is one child named Davy that sees the error in their actions. Davy refuses to participate and often aids Meg while others are not looking. Knowing what is happening to Meg, Davy does not tell his parents out of fear of what might happen to her and after having a conversation with his father about whether it is right to hit a woman or not. Davy comes to his father and asks him if it is ever okay to hit a woman. His father replies that it is never okay but sometimes they deserve it. The father claims that a man can only take so much nagging before he has the right to shut her up. It is this advise that confuses Davy and helps him justify not telling his parents about the abuse. The film uses Davy as a means to or an excuse to allow scenes be shot in certain places or allow certain information to be known. It is often Davy that takes the viewer into the aunt’s house and it is Davy that is often present when Meg reveals important information. Davy is not the main character and the film is not about him. This brutal event can only be seen as the main character because everything is about it. Every character and their actions are about the torture and murder of this child.
I have seen a lot of horror movies and none have left an impression as The Girl Next Door has. The rape and torture scenes are so well filmed that the viewer does not have to see these things take place to be completely aware that they have happened. The director, Gregory Wilson, crafted this film so well that the viewer is repulsed by the events visually without even seeing most of what is taking place. The Girl Next Door is the second film from Gregory Wilson. Having shot only one film before this, Mr. Wilson captured these revolting actions while telling a well-written story. Unlike many horror films, The Girl Next Door is not just about the torture. It is about the people, the attitude of the 1950’s, and what we are willing to do to each other.
The subject matter of this film is hard to watch. Every pore in your body screams out how wrong this is and certain scenes make you question why you are watching this film. Despite all of this, The Girl Next Door is really a great movie. It is well-written and paced perfectly. Each scene is shot in a manner that is brutally honest, embracing each character for who and what they are. The acting is done wonderfully. The majority of the cast members are children and these children act well beyond their years.
Often reality is far scarier than fiction. Though not scary in a more traditional horror movie sense, The Girl Next Door has been the only horror movie that I have watched this year that has made my jaw drop. I highly recommend this film. My only word of advice to anyone who wishes to watch this film is to be aware of what you are about to watch. If you have second thoughts then you should reconsider watching The Girl Next Door or like me, you will have the scene were the aunt takes a blow torch to Meg’s clitoris burned into your brain for at least all of that evening.
The Girl Next Door receives 4 psychotic aunts out of 5