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Jack ketchum's The Girl Next Door Film Review

Updated on August 11, 2014
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Introduction

This is a really well-done film that is based off of the wonderful novel with the same title from Jack Ketchum. This whole movie follows David Moran,a twelve year old boy, who was living a typical childhood summer until a car accident brings Meg and Susan Loughlin into his life by moving in with Ruth Candler and her children next door. Ruth is Meg and Susan's aunt.

David also is friends with the neighbors, including going to their house all the time, and believing that the family is perfect so when Meg starts showing signs of being abused he is quick to dismiss the possibility that Ruth Chandler and her children are abusing Meg. meanwhile, his friends starts opening up curiosity to the woman's body leaving David feeling a mixture of conflicting feelings for Meg as he starts watching the abuse (but not participating).

By the time David opens his eyes on who his neighbors really are, everything has escalated so much that he has no choice but to put himself in danger in order to try to save Meg and Susan's lives.

Characters


Blythe Auffarth...Meg Loughlin

Blanche Baker....Ruth Chandler

Kevin Chamberlin....Officer Jennings

Dean Faulkenberry....Kenny

Benjamin Ross Kaplan....Donny Chandler (as Ben Kaplan)

Spenser Leigh....Denise Crocker

Daniel Manche....David Moran

Graham Patrick Martin...Willie Chandler Jr.

Michael Nardella...Tony

Grant Show...Mr. Moran

Madeline Taylor...Susan Loughlin (as Maddie Taylor)

Austin Williams...Ralphie 'Woofer' Chandler

Michael Zegen...Eddie

David and Meg-main characters
David and Meg-main characters | Source

Based Off Of A Real Case

Although not a carbon copy. the writer of this story was inspired to write this story due to the Sylvia Liken's case back in the 60's. Sylvia Likens was only sixteen years old when her family left her and her sister with a seemingly nice family. However Sylvia and her sister was soon to become victims of abuse. although the worst was done to Sylvia.

Sylvia found herself facing an cruelty that many would not want to think about.Used as a punching bag, had scrawling hot water poured on her, forced to put a coke bottle inside of her, and had the words 'I'm a prostitute and proud of it,' cut and burnt into her stomach were just a few of the tortures she had to suffer. She died from a mixture of dehydration, starvation, and bleeding in the brain due to multiple head injuries.

There is some similarities between the cases including:

  • Both Sylvia and Meg were trapped in basements
  • Both had neighborhood kids join in the abuse
  • both were abused by the caretaker of the house
  • Both started to get abused due to lies of one of the children in the house
  • Both Ruth and Gertrude (killer of sylvia) had signs of failing health
  • Both Ruth and Gertrude raised children by herself
  • Susan and Jenny (sylvia's sister) both were on clutches. Susan had broken bones due to car accident, and Jenny had polio
  • Both Meg and Sylvia had words cut and burnt into their stomachs as a form of punishment
  • Both Meg and Sylvia were pushed down the stairs of the basement for fun of neighborhood kids.

There are also differences through including:

  • Gertrude lived and died many years after Sylvia died while Ruth died soon after Meg
  • Meg was sexually abused when in real life Sylvia still was found to be a virgin
  • David did not exist in real life, there was nobody trying to help Sylvia
  • Gertrude never touched Jenny sexually while Ruth touched Susan
  • Meg was trapped in a bomb shelter while Sylvia was just in the basement.

What Worked

The acting was quite impressive given the fact that children were involved in a lot of scenes. Daniel did a great job playing David who goes through series of emotions when it comes to Meg and Susan and all of the abuse that is going on. He acted just like how any kid in that situation would act. Trying to fight against the feeling of power to see Meg so defenseless, guilt for not doing anything, and then after he realized that this would probably lead to death, fell into feelings of depression, anxiety, fear.

One of the greatest scenes was actually him crying to his sleeping mom, begging her to help him, begging her to stop everything. It showed how defenseless he felt.

Blythe also did an amazing job as her role as Meg, the abused victim. She made it so conceiving that it hurt just watching. Her character also was one of the stronger characters. She stood up for herself, she reported abuse, she talked back to Ruth which for a child in the 60's that's something remarkable. It is also what makes it worse when the abuse escalates from just hitting and punching to stripping her of her clothes and just leaving her like that as if to mock all the stretch that she had shown in the past.

However is it Blanche who played Ruth that really shined. She had such a grace to her that you wouldn't think she could hurt a fly. Even as she told the children want to do in terms of abusing Meg, she had this weird grace to her that really made her seem so much more like a sociopath because she had barely any emotions. It's hard to really explain.


some of Ruth's children and neighboring kids.
some of Ruth's children and neighboring kids. | Source

What Doesn't Work

There is some problems with the sound, parts of the movie their mouths don't match the voices, It only happens in two parts but it can be distracting. Also many people do not like the fact that during the scenes where Meg is naked, children are on the scene so there is some people are mad about it even if the children were filmed before or after Meg was actually on set. Another disappointment was for me the end. It was a good ending but it felt so rushed and after reading the book's ending, it feels like the audience got ripped off. I can understand that the book's ending is a lot sadder and has a lot more scenes in it that can be hard for audiences to watch but the book was so emotionally draining that by the end it ends you just want to cry. I felt like that was missing at the end of this movie even through I really felt disturbed and traumatized for about a week after the movie and then immediately bought the book thinking that a particular scene would be described in the book because it wasn't in the movie.

Ruth, the mastermind of the abuse
Ruth, the mastermind of the abuse | Source
An American Crime
An American Crime | Source
The Girl Next Door
The Girl Next Door | Source

The Girl Next Door Versus An American Crime

Sadly since there is so many similarities that many people compare this movie to An American Crime which is based also on the Sylvia Liken's case. The difference is that An American Crime is supposed to be the case itself, so it follows the case a lot more strict while The Girl Next door is a fictional story that the case inspired. However in many fanmade videoes, they combine both of the movies to make tributes because both fail to show the magnitude of what Sylvia went through.

An American Crime was edited so more children can watch, so some of the abuse was taken away. Also they changed one of the major players in Sylvia getting abused by making her into a nice person which for those who know the case was really mad at the fact that they made someone who was plan evil into a nice person because the director thought that there was too many bad people in Sylvia's life.

So this leads to an issue where people compare the two all the time even if the two are completely different movies.

Warnings

  • Nudity is not that bad however you do see a full frontal and back shot of a naked woman so 5 out of 10
  • Violence is high, there are two scenes in particular that is some of the worst abuse ever. One includes a blow torch and a particular little spot on the body...enough said 10/10
  • There is a lot of cursing: children cuss, adult cuss, its just everywhere 9/10
  • There is also scenes of a rape although not detailed but still can be a trigger 8/10

In Conclusion

This is a great movie that takes a strong-willed person to watch. It can get disturbing at times however there is also this great sense of strength and strong characters that will keep a person watching throughout the whole movie. For those who watch it, there is always a debate and feeling of rage and sadness.


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