DEFINITELY NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH THE 2004 COMEDY OF THE SAME NAME
Jack Ketchum’s “The Girl Next Door”
Review by Kerr Seth Lordygan
I watched this film a couple weeks ago and I have thought about it every day since. Such an occurrence hasn’t happened to me before (well, except maybe for “Trick or Treat” (1986), but that was a different thing altogether). Before you read further, I recommend you watch the film now, prior to drawing any conclusions about what you’re about to see, based on any trailers or reviews. I watched it without knowing what I was in for and I do think it affected me all the more as a result. I thought I may have been in for a senseless slasher film. I was dead wrong. So watch it now, then come back!
Based on actual events, this excessively disturbing film takes place in 1958, although the events it was based on occurred about a decade later, and, while similar, were still much different from how they were portrayed in the film. The change of decades increases the level of discomfort for viewers, since we tend to look at the 50’s as very family-friendly times. But what is magically evil about this film is its naturalistic build-up from awkward to inexcusably and shockingly repugnant (regarding subject matter, not film quality).
Blanche Baker plays Auntie Ruth, a single mom of three boys who takes in nieces Meg (Blythe Auffarth) and Susie (Madeline Taylor) after their parents die suddenly. Davey (Daniel Manche) is the boy next door who develops a dangerous crush on Meg, a crush that leads him into unthinkable horror.
Baker’s performance is nothing less than stellar. I can’t recall the last time I felt so impinged upon by a character in a film. This is further evidence that the Academy does not acknowledge amazing talent in consideration for the Oscars unless it is from a film that is well known. Under Gregory Wilson’s fine direction, Baker takes an incredibly vulgar character and drives it directly into our souls with subtlety. It takes an extremely talented and professional actor to find what to “like” about such a character in order to portray her so truthfully. I will be looking out for more of her work often. Blythe Auffarth also masterfully plays the teenage niece, the victim of Ruth’s loathing. The film offers, too, a small cameo by Grant Show (“Melrose Place,” “Private Practice”). Would be nice to see more of him.
Wilson took this spectacle of disgust and turned it into something so realistic that one simply cannot shrug it. Go ahead, I dare you to try. I watch many, many dark, disturbing films, but most don’t even come close to this masterpiece of fear. It is difficult to watch. And if there is any other reason to do so, I’m not sure what it would be.
“Jack Ketchum’s ‘The Girl Next Door'” is available on DVD and Blu-Ray.