Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door (2007)

DailyView: Day 287, Movie 404

Every once in a while, you come across a movie that leaves a pit in your stomach. A film that is disturbing and painful to watch, dealing with an area of life that is so shockingly cruel and evil that it is difficult to comprehend how another living, breathing person could commit such a heinous series of crimes against another person. Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door is that kind of movie.

We start the film with an adult David Moran (William Atherton), who had tried to save the life of a hit-and-run victim, reflecting back on his teen years in 1958 and on his first crush, Meg Loughlin (Blythe Auffarth). Meg and her sister Susan (Madeline Taylor), who was just badly injured in the same car crash that claimed their parents’ lives, had to come and stay with their Aunt Ruth Chandler (Blanche Baker), and her sons, Willie (Graham Patrick Martin), Ralphie (Austin Williams), and Donny (Benjamin Ross Kaplan).

Aunt Ruth immediately began to torment Meg and her sister. David (Daniel Manche) was conflicted about what was happening and was not sure what he could do to help. Things get worse as Ruth whips Susan for Meg’s perceived improprieties.

After Meg tried to go to police officer Lyle Jennings (Kevin Chamberlain) for assistance, Ruth had her tied up in the basement, while her boys watched. The abuse grew worse until, after an escape attempt by Meg, Ruth took the torture to a different level.

This was a movie that absolutely ripped out my heart and kicked me in the stomach. It was such a disturbing and anguish-inducing group of scenes that horrified me and caused me to feel empty inside. It is worse yet when considering that this movie is based on a true story, the murder of Sylvia Marie Likens in 1965. The film adapted the novel of the same name by Jack Ketchum.

It is an uncomfortable movie. It is a painful movie. It will make you mad. It will make you sick. It is hard to watch. I can absolutely see how this would be a divisive movie for an audience, but I think it is important to shine a light on the darkness because the darkness exists. We can’t put our head in the sand and pretend that these horrors are not out there. They are.

Is this movie entertaining? I do not think that is the way to describe it. It is an extremely effective horror film. It is, again, not a film I want to watch again any time soon. I still think it is filled with powerful performances, especially from Daniel Manche and Blythe Auffarth, and a story that we may not want to hear, but that we must see.

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