Have you ever watched a film that made you feel so helpless? A film that triggered your emotions of anger, hatred and melancholy multaneously?
Those were the very feelings director Gregory Wilson intended to radiate to his audience in his adaptation of Jack Ketchum’s novel The Girl Next Door.
Published in 1989, Ketchum’s loosely based story of the actual murder of Sylvia Likens in Indianapolis in 1965 was brought to life with such powerful imagery and compelling acting. Although not necessarily deemed a horror film, The Girl Next Door (2007) is sure to fright and pack an emotional punch with its realistic tone.
The film’s opening sequence introduces David Moran, a successful Wall Street bunessman, narrating his story about the tragedy he witnessed as a young boy. His career successes and elegant lifestyle does not blind the anguish that has forever been branded into his mind. The pain of living with the fact that he did not save his friend, his first love, from the abuse and cruelty from her sadistic, merciless aunt.
The film trantions to 1958, and after the death of their parents, Meg and her ster Susan were left to live with their alcoholic, feministic aunt Ruth. David meets the pretty, good-natured Meg who now lives next door and learned what love at first ght finally felt like. But at the same token, David would later be faced with the torment that will forever be dragged around with him.
As the film continues, Ruth and her brainwashed, aggresve kids progresvely abuse Meg and Susan. Beginning with hurtful verbal attacks, Ruth declares that Meg is a slut and flaunts her filthy attributes (although she is the complete oppote of that notion). Then turning to phycal violence, Ruth and her malevolent children take out their aggreson upon the sters for no apparent reason by slapping, spanking and hitting in front of the young eyes of neighborhood kids who constently spend time at the household drinking an occaonal beer as aunt Ruth insts they do so. But after Meg attempts to get the police involved, Ruth retaliates to the extreme by having her bound, gagged and blindfolded in the dark, dreary cellar.
Like most storylines, the final third of the film is the most powerful here. The excruciating pain of Meg’s arms being pulled from ropes on either de, being stripped of her clothes and her dignity, being branded with a hot needle into her torso and being raped by a younger coun are all due to the sadistic intentions of Ruth. David is Meg’s only savior, but the feelings of fear and helplessness only hold him back.
The finale manifests a set of mixed feelings. Although there is a sense of hope for the unfortunate characters in a short sequence, it doesn’t outweigh the burdens placed upon them throughout the film and the post-trauma that David will forever live with. Thus, the film’s opening sequence as David resuscitates a stranger on the street as an attempt to redeem what he had lost during his childhood (although it was a poorly acted attempt and wrong approach to carrying out CPR).
Nearly every implication of violence, rape and torture is captured here with on-screen imagery. Wilson holds no limits in preventing any hindering of the viewer’s emotions. Each progresve sequence of adverty Meg and Susan face is so charismatic through the characters’ roles that it’s as if you imagine a loved one in a milar tuation and your feelings are enraged toward the multiple antagonists.
The Girl Next Door is not an easy film to watch. The acting is superior and the sentimental value that Wilson intended to emit is executed successfully. Granted, each individual who views this film may have a different angle of handling its realism. But no matter your perspective, The Girl Next Door will be sure to spark a sense of affection you never felt before.