Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Girl Next Door

       The Girl Next Door is a film about hidden horror in the suburbs during the supposedly more innocent tie of the mid-'60's. The film is based on the similarly titled novel by Jack Ketchum. The novel itself was inspired by the true life story of Sylvia Likens, a teenage girl who was held prisoner by her aunt, tortured, and murdered over a period of months in 1965. it is not a film for the easily disturbed.
       The story's main character is David. Sequences set in 2007 serve as bookend as the adult David reflects on how the experience affected him. David meets Meg, a young girl who has, along with her younger sister, are sent to live with a twisted woman named Ruth and her sons. Ruth allows the neighborhood kids to roam in freely through her house, smoke cigarettes, and drink beer. She belittles Meg and her sister while allowing her sons to bully them.
       David develops a crush on Meg immediately. While he comes and goes through Ruth’s house as the other other kids do, he becomes concerned by the increasing emotional abuse he sees Ruth and her sons inflict on Meg. After Meg reports Ruth to a cop for taking a necklace that was given to her by her mother, David comes to Ruth's house to find Meg tied up arms over head in the basement where she is subsequently stripped naked and left all night.
       So begins Meg's torment of continuously being tied up beaten, cut, burnt, and sexually assaulted. David suffers his own torment as he can do nothing but watch. Meg refuses David’s help in escaping out of fear of leaving her sister behind. Meg's torture escalates to the level of a mortal wound before David figures out a way to alert help. He ultimately cannot save Meg, but is forever compelled to do anything to alleviate his guilt as he grows older.
       The Girl Next Door is definitely a tough film to watch. I am curious who the target audience is supposed to be. There is no gore to speak of, but Meg’s torture is too gratuitous for a crime drama. The issue is further complicated by the sexual content. Blythe Auffarth, who plays Meg, was 22 at the time of filming, but she was playing a sixteen year old who is frequently nude, tortured, and sexually assaulted. The realization Meg is a minor only contributes to the discomfort.
       I do not think The Girl Next Door is a bad movie by any means. It is attempting to show the darker side of suburbia happening behind closed doors. It does so without resorting to the so called “torture porn' genre of horror movies like the Saw or Hostel series. For that I will give it credit. I am not sure I would consider The Girl Next Door entertaining, either. One viewing is going to be enough for me.
       Rating: *** (out of 5)                 

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