Saturday, January 26, 2013

Netflix Reviews: Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door

Based on the best-selling book by author Jack Ketchum, The Girl Next Door is a fictionalized account of the death of Sylvia Likens, an innocent Indiana teen who was systematically tortured, raped, and mudered by a suburban divorcee and a group of neighborhood children in 1965.

After losing their parents in a car accident, Meg Laughlin (Blythe Auffarth) and her sister Susan (Madeline Taylor) are sent to live in Indiana with their aunt Ruth Chandler (Blanche Baker) and her three sons, Willie (Graham Patrick Martin), Donny (Benjamin Ross Kaplan), and Ralphie (Austin Williams). Once they arrive in the neighborhood, Meg quickly befriends David Moran (Daniel Manche), the boy living next door. As time passes, it becomes clear that Ruth seems to harbor a strange grudge against Meg, and it isn't long before events in the Chandler house begin to take an disturbing turn.

The Girl Next Door is one of those films that after watching it, I literally felt exhausted and horrible. Now, usually that would lead one to conclude that I hated the film and that it was terrible. However, that couldn't be further from the truth. Actually, I think this is a very dark film that uses an actual event as a metaphor for the darkness hidden within us all and how people can justify any action, even if the action is detestable and downright evil.

It's a film that doesn't shy away from the brutal aspects of this story, but doesn't glorify them either. Each shot is placed perfectly to present just enough to show how disturbing these acts are, but never enough that you would start to become desensitized to it all. Instead of showing the actions in great detail (which would have been impossible anyway because of the age of some of the actors), we focus on the painful expressions of the victim and the delighted faces of those victimizing her, letting the audience visualize everything happening and no doubt picturing it worse then anything they could actually show.

The acting in the film is just as great. Baker does a fantastic job, making Ruth an utterly terrifying character with an eerily calm demeanor. Auffarth is equally fantastic, playing Meg as a believable teenage girl, making the horrible things that happen to her even more horrific.

In all honesty, my words simply can't do this film justice. It's a well-written, well-acted horror film that is truly shocking that I probably will never watch again because I'm not sure I want to experience those feelings again.

I suggest seeing it if you have a strong constitution, like shocking horror films that give you an interesting glimpse at society and the minds of truly depraved people, and want to experience one of the best horror films of the past decade. I'd say skip it if you are disturbed easily and don't like horror films.

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