Like some demented cross between a Norman Rockwell painting and an Eli Roth film, The Girl Next Door flaunts the dark side of suburbia while selling itself as an examination of our social mores. The film was adapted from Jack Ketchum’s novel of the same name, which in turn found its inspiration in the 1965 death of 16-year-old Sylvia Likens, who—for three months—was endlessly tortured by her guardian Gertrude Baniszewski in ways too sick and horrifying to recount here (at Baniszewski’s trial, the prosecution described her actions as “the most terrible crime ever committed in the state of Indiana”). Here, Sylvia and Gertrude are Meg Loughlin (Blythe Auffarth) and Ruth Chandler (Blanche Baker), respectively, the young girl forced to stay with “Auntie Ruth” after her parents died in an automobile accident. Baker embodies Ruth as the biggest bitch to ever walk the face of the earth—a cigarette perpetually hangs out of her rotten, haggard face, while the young Meg becomes both a physical and metaphorical punching bag for her seemingly depthless self-loathing. Ruth recruits her equally sick sons and several neighborhood children—among them David (Daniel Manche), seemingly the only one among them to have a conscience—to beat, berate, burn, and rape the imprisoned girl, who spends a good half of the film tied from Ruth’s basement ceiling in a sickening Christ pose. Director Gregory Wilson seemingly doesn’t trust the story to be engrossing enough on its own, instead littering the proceedings with numerous thriller-esque touches (who’s that exhaling tobacco fumes just out of frame?) that only serve to render the traumatic happenings totally shrill. Watching the film is illuminating as to the horror seemingly average people are capable of—more so than any of the poseur bullshit from Hostel: Part II, for sure—but its representations are so far removed from reality as to feel like anything more than an exploitation of tragedy. Ultimately, the film is deeply disturbing in all the wrong ways.
- 91 min
- Gregory Wilson
- Daniel Farrands, Philip Nutman
- Blythe Auffarth, Daniel Manche, Blanche Baker, Graham Patrick Martin, Benjamin Ross Kaplan, Austin Williams, William Atherton, Kevin Chamberlin
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: