I'm not lying either. Remember that one time when I read a book and was all excited about it? It wasn't too long ago when I felt like sitting down and actually reading a book was something that I had trouble doing. Now however, I'm flying through books left and right and loving every minute of it.
A few weeks ago I decided to buck up and purchase Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door. After I had seen the movie fairly soon after beginning my blog, I couldn't ignore all the comments about the book. This was of course during a time when books and I did not get along and so the moment passed. The Kindle however opened up that door to.....the Girl Next Door.
If you've seen The Girl Next Door then you know how horrible, brutal and disturbing it is. You know how it takes the real life torture and murder of Sylvia Likens and morphs it into a somehow even more terrifying story. The book on which the film is adapted from however---is worse. Much, much worse. When I first watched The Girl Next Door, I was filled with this overbearing sense of anger. How on earth could these kids stand there and let that happen? How could they participate in it willingly and gleefully? It just didn't seem to make sense to me and I think a part of me resented the film because of it (Despite however much of those incidences were true in the real case).
The book filled me with even more anger however because it brings you even closer--much, MUCH closer than you would like to be anyways, to the psyche of the participants. In fact, I think there's still a part of me that does not truly like the book and film still because of this. I don't care how many times I've read up on the Milgram experiments--there is NO possible way that none of those children did not feel any sort of conscious or desire to tell someone what was happening. It is this anger and this unbelievability however that makes both The Girl Next Door so terrifying.
An American Crime is also based on the Sylvia Likens case but with a decidedly more accurate depiction of events. It is in no way as disturbing as The Girl Next Door, but due to the repeated actions of the children it still manages to repulse you all the same. I'm not entirely familiar with the exact case of Sylvia Likens, but one thing that is quite obviously different between the two films is the apologetic nature of Gertrude and Ruth respectively. In the Girl Next Door, Ruth is depicted as nothing less than evil. Her mental fragility is touched upon more than once and she never ever seems to talk herself down or to apologize.
An American Crime however has Gertrude suffering from at most a bad cough, and depicts her at many moments breaking down, crying and apologizing to Sylvia stating that it's for her own good. Even the ending shot of Gertrude in prison with a vision of a brittle Sylvia in her cell shows Gertrude on the cusp of saying, "I'm Sorry". Hopefully I'm not alone in saying that this rubs me the wrong way. It felt like the film was trying to turn Gertrude's character into a bit of a sympathetic case---a minuscule one but still that feeling seemed to be there.
The film also does a terrible job of completely tricking you into a false sense of hope. One that if you know the story will anger you and cause mass confusion. This alternate escape route of Sylvia is both bothersome and cruel and seems pointless in the grand scheme of things. Ultimately, while An American Crime stays truer to the actual events and trial of Gertrude, it is Ketchum's Girl Next Door that manages to stick with us longer. It is important to note however, that both films handle that whole implied nature of torture well--that is to say they both somehow do it in a respectful manner. A manner that does not in any way, shape or form, resemble something in the "torture porn" subgenre and for that I suppose I can't hate it.
Still though, I can't help but feel that my life would be somehow brighter had I never discovered The Girl Next Door and An American Crime. Now I'll never be able to erase those feelings of anger and disgust. Bah.