The Girl Next Door (2007) Review
Written by: Constantce
There are so many things like I like about horror movies. They scare me, they make me laugh, they disturb me, they sometimes disgust me, and they make me squirm and squeal with fear and delight. The most important element for me is that horror is escapism. Life can be downright hell (I’ve been through a lot), but horror helps me expunge all the negativities of reality through a cathartic experience. This is why it feels strange writing a review of The Girl Next Door for HorrorMovies.ca. While it does satisfy some of the qualities of horror, The Girl Next Door is not meant at all as escapist. It is quite the opposite, forcing you to look into the faces of abusers and their victim, knowing all the while that this film is based on true events.
Jack Ketchum’s novel The Girl Next Door was inspired by events that transpired in the 60’s which were admittedly at times even worse than those depicted in the book. Reading this book was entertaining, but also horribly painful. There was a point when I threw the book across the room, walked to it, pausing to get a tissue and wipe away my tears, and then picked it up to read that same offensive passage again. I hoped and prayed that the film version would remain true to the story and the spirit, and boy, did it ever.
The Girl Next Door is one of the best book-to-film renditions I’ve ever seen. Meg (Blythe Auffarth) was positively beautiful and radiant. When the camera first showed her white tennis-shoed feet treading along the rocks, I gasped. She was sweet and tom-boyish, appealing and attractive, just like I pictured her. For a few moments, I thought she might somehow transcend the story that was coming, that she might run away before it would get too bad, that she would have the strength to fight off the inevitable. Sadly, that’s not the case, and it is important to know that going into the film.
This has been called a “feel bad” movie. There is no escape, no redemption, no overt heroism, no happy ending. So why would you want to watch something like this? I asked myself this question repeatedly over the last few weeks, and the answer was that I needed to. These things really happened. The movie was made in such a way as to educate and not to titillate. That is of the utmost importance here. This is not torture-porn, nor is it exploitation, even if the DVD cover does show the pretty face with a blindfold over her eyes. When Meg is stripped, the camera holds at her shoulders, where the bra-straps are being cut. It would have been so easy to pan down her breasts, but that is not what this movie is about. Instead, we see her crying, and we want to cry too. How could humans be capable of inflicting such pain? Children doing this, no less.
The children attackers are, of course, encouraged by Ruth Chandler (Blanche Baker), den-mother from hell, the guardian who seems determined to make Meg suffer for the mistakes Ruth made in youth. I wish I had a dollar for every time during the movie that I cursed her. She had such a power of influence over the children. It’s almost a downside to the obedient nature of children in the 50’s. Ruth said it was okay, so why shouldn’t they hit the girl? Why shouldn’t they cut her? Why shouldn’t they… She was naughty, after all, so Ruth said.
I highly recommend watching The Girl Next Door, but it’s kind of like planning a root canal. You know it’s going to hurt like a bitch, but you know you need to do it.