Young Meg and Susan are left in the care of Aunt Ruth after an accident takes the lives of their parents. Starting off seemingly well, the household needs time to adjust as these two girls are injected suddenly into a family full of boys and their mother. As the summer passes on it becomes apparent that Aunt Ruth has some issues. Mainly, she has a strong disliking of Meg and Susan.
Soon the Chandler household transforms into a den of torture and depravity as Ruth works to bend Meg to her will. The neighborhood boys see what is going on but relish in the chance to watch and take advantage of the poor defenseless girl. Based on the Jack Ketchum novel that in turn was based loosely on real life events, "The Girl Next Door" is a disturbing tale of torture.
So let's kick this off on the right foot. This is a disturbing flick. It will make you uncomfortable and perhaps will leave you feeling dirty for having watched it. For this review, we're going to kick the moral issues to the wayside for a bit. We will get to them eventually though, not to worry.
From a pure 'film' standpoint, "The Girl Next Door" is actually a highly engrossing movie. Well made, well shot, well acted, overall a top notch flick. For starters; the acting. Aunt Ruth, played by Blanche Baker, is portrayed in a superb and chilling way that sucks you in to believing... nay... knowing... that this lady is unhinged. There are problems with this woman, no question about it. From her interaction with her own boys and the neighborhood boys, Baker plays this roll so spot on it's chilling.
Starting off she seems somewhat stern with her nieces; but hey, her house, her rules, right? As the movie plays out and you see her tirades start to increase, the way she lets all the neighborhood boys drink beer in her house, and the way she enacts her punishment, we become increasingly disturbed as she starts to unravel.
Even young Meg and David are both played well by new fresh faced actors. Meg is the embodiment of sweet and innocent and lends to us feeling even more mortified that somebody would do something like this to her. David stands out even further as we can see his moral dilemmas as he works through what he must do. He knows the things that are happening next door are not right; but what can he as a kid do about it?
Even the minor roles of the other children in the movie are engrossing as well as you see their ambivalence to what their mother is doing. "It seems pretty extreme but hey, it's mom. Who are we to question her?" The writing in "Girl Next Door" is top notch, and the movie follows along with the book nearly scene for scene. All of this ties together to give us an engrossing movie that leaves you on the edge of your seat and wondering just how bad it's going to get.
So, here comes the moral issues.
In today's age of critics yelling out the word 'torture porn' at the sign of anybody chained up in a basement, "The Girl Next Door" comes along as a poster child for the anti movement. Yes, the movie is graphic and hard to watch, especially in the final twenty minutes or so. That's not to say though that this is "Torture Porn" in the sense that anybody trying to condemn the horror genre would hope.
This is not senseless violence going on here. In fact, something very similar to this happened for real. Many would say that this is not a story to be told; I myself would say this is a story that needs to be told for the sake of the girl that went through this, and to show truly how big of a monster her aunt really was.
"The Girl Next Door" is a good movie. As I stated above it is well shot, well acted, and well written. It is also an engrossing movie. It is definitely going to be unsetlling though, just be prepared.