By Brett Mullins
Directed by Gregory Wilson
The Girl Next Door is the film adaptation of Jack Ketchum’s novel of the same name. It is an interpretative look at the case of Sylvia Likens, a girl who was tortured to death by the woman she was staying with and other various neighborhood children.
After a fatal automobile accident, Meg and her sister are sent to live with their only remaining family: Ruth Chandler, their Aunt, and her three boys. Ruth appears to become increasingly deranged and violent toward Meg and her sister, creating an atmosphere where her boys have free range with their actions toward the girls. Ruth allows the boys to tie Meg up in the basement and subject her to rape and other harsh forms of punishment.
The fact that this is based on a true story leaves a sickening feeling lingering throughout the film, even though it is not especially brutal or gory; though, it does have its moments. Much of the violence is depicted off camera with many cut away and reaction shots.
The acting in this film is average at best. Many of the characters seem to be one dimensional, though it is implied again and again that this is a guilded time where characters are two faced. This is the attribute that hinders the film the most: its lack of character development. From the beginning, the evil characters are evil; the good characters are good. This is not without exception; however, this is a general rule for the film. Though we sympathize with Meg’s torture in the end, it is not the result of a complex relationship established between the audience and her character; it is an emotional response to a innocent young girl being unjustly violated.
Note: An American Crime is a biographical film on Sylvia Likens and is a much better film. Watch it instead!