The Girl Next Door is one of those terribly uncomfortable movies. Uncomfortable for many reasons- bad acting at tense moments, horrible humiliation and torture scenes and just really really unwarranted acts of abuse that are all the more heinous because it really happened. Not to be confused with that awful movie with Emile Hirsch and Elisa Cuthbert, Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door is a movie that is at times more disturbing than Hostel or even Deadgirl will ever be.
Taking place in the 1950's, The Girl Next Door is about a boy named David who meets a nice (but insanely old looking) girl named Meg who tells him that she is staying with her Aunt who happens to live next door to David. David feigns interest in Meg and after subsequent hanging outs with Meg's cousins, David finds that her Aunt Ruth is one messed up woman. Meg is often humiliated in front of her cousins and their friends. Her younger sister who wears leg braces, gets spanked with a paddle, and Meg is even one day tied up in the basement stripped nude and tortured into confessing secrets. Things don't stop there of course but I'll save the real awfulness for later.
The movie is based on the real life murder case of Slyvia Likens who was tortured and later beaten to death by Gertrude Baniszewski, her son and daughter and some neighborhood kids. It sounds so unbelievable but the story is a true one- and a horrible and disgusting one at that. While this movie undoubtedly changed several things it still captures the entire wrong feeling that reading about the actual event warrants. The biggest concern being the kids who participated and watched torture and murder happen.
To me, the most frightening and off putting thing about this movie was the children's reaction and excitement to join in. We are talking 10-12 year old boys AND even some girls at one point- meeting together and watching a girl get raped in a basement. David is apparently the only one with a conscious and it's just so bothersome that it drives me insane. I know that that whole situation shows the amount of control the Aunt had over the others- and how those in abusive situations learn to shut their mouths and be glad that it's not them- but it still was just....so strange to me. This of course makes the whole movie insanely horrifying- and Aunt Ruth only adds to that experience.
This woman...is a freak. She's oddly obsessed with femininity yet more than happy to have her sons rape their cousin- but then is at the same time hesitant to let her other son rape her after because it would be incest- you know sloppy seconds after a brother is MORE incestual than having sex with your cousin...whatever. She loves torturing her niece for pointless things that don't make any sense and at one point even cuts the words "fuck me" into her stomach. The whole thing is really gruesome and awful- and one of the most intriguing things about it- is a lot of the violence isn't even shown on the screen, which almost makes it worse. This movie could have easily gone the torture porn direction but it respectively did not- thank goodness. The last scene of torture is a perfect example of this- and it's really what we don't see that gets us the most.
I guess my feelings about this movie are turned sour by the fact that I simply cannot fathom why something wasn't done sooner. I know that makes the whole true story thing all the more frightening- but it really boggles my mind. It like Salo- shows that people in positions of power are one of the most terrifying things of all. There is no real reason why Aunt Ruth was such an utter psychopath- and there is no reason why her sons and the neighborhood kids were so eager to be involved. At times I wish this movie was a little truer to the actual story but I have heard that An American Crime, also based on this true event- is much closer to what actually happened.
I think I ended up not liking how the film began, thought Meg was way too old looking, and hated some of the really bad acting. The younger sister for example, pretty bad and even one of the sons...but I can't remember which. I didn't hate the movie, but I felt it was lacking an extra burst of something. Being based on such an awful true crime I think the movie could have really created something groundbreaking. I'll have to see An American Crime to see how that one manages to tell the story so I'll get back to you.
Overall the film just ends up being so sick and twisted that it almost made me look away out of respect for the actress playing Meg- it was that humiliating. I'm not sure why they decided to make the movie take place in the 50s when it really took place in 1965 or how the boys acting in this movie could even remotely pull off the fact that they were excited about rape and torture but it happened- and it was pretty damn shocking. I'd be interested to hear some other takes on the film, and as it just became available on Netflix instant watch you should all see it- but be wary of the uncomfortableness you will suffer.
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