The Girl Next Door (2007)

7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Pretty strong cast, horrific tale

Real story is horrific enough that you didn't need to fictionalize it

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Girl Next Door

Studio:  Modernciné

Genre(s):  Horror/Drama

Release Date(s):  October 3, 2007

MPAA Rating:  R


Remember that summer where you tortured a girl to death? Childhood memories…

It is 1958, and a young girl named Meg Loughlin (Blythe Auffarth) and her sister Susan (Madeline Taylor) have been forced to move with their aunt Ruth Chandler (Blance Baker) and their cousins after an accident kills their parents.  Their neighbor David Moran (Daniel Manche) finds himself in love with Meg but discovers Ruth’s view of Meg and her sister are quite different.  To Ruth, Meg is everything that is wrong with the world, and she needs to pay.

Directed by Gregory M. Wilson, The Girl Next Door is sometimes called Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door to prevent it from being confused with the teen comedy of the same name from 2004.  The movie is based on Ketchum’s 1989 novel which is based on true events.  The movie received mixed reviews but proudly touted Stephen King’s endorsement of the movie.


Not a feel good movie….

I am from Indianapolis and was interested in The Girl Next Door because of my interest in the real case which was chronicled in the real life book House of Evil:  The Indiana Torture Slaying by John Dean.  The story is loosely based on the torture and murder of a young girl named Sylvia Likens by a woman named Gertrude Baniszewski and neighborhood children in Indianapolis in 1965.  Unlike the movie, Likens had no savior, but like the Meg character died after months of abuse…with a back story like this, there isn’t much need to fictionalize it.


Noting like some beer and torture…

The movie streamlines much of the events that occurred to Sylvia Likens and despite the ruthless nature of the film, softens them.  The story plays out like a Saw film but there is that nugget of realism in the movie which makes it even more horrific than a standard horror film.  You know how the movie is going to end so it is hard to be surprised…you just have to squirm and watch.  The real horror in the film is that the kids are brought in as torturers which was also a real aspect of the case and provides a loss of innocence storyline for the film.

The acting for the movie is a mish-mash.  Blanche Baker is the “star” as the evil Ruth Chandler.  Sometimes she’s great…cold, calculating, and scary, but other times, she’s a bit too comedic and Mommie Dearest for the role.  Almost all the kids do pull off their roles.  Blythe Auffarth is shiny and bright as Meg (who is obviously older than the real character), but she does have a youthful look and smile to her.  Daniel Manche is good as the boy trying to do something about the situation and is played by William Atherton as an adult.


Mom’s chastity lessons are a little out of the norm

Visually the movie benefits from limited locations and sets.  It is set in 1958, and it doesn’t have a hard time making it feel like 1958.  The real story took place in a much poorer and less affluent area of Indianapolis, and the film puts the movie in a shinier ’50s world to increase the horror that could be occurring in contrast with people’s perceptions of the ’50s.

The Girl Next Door is a dark, dark horror film that does induce squirming.  In this sense, it succeeds.  It fails in that it isn’t enjoyable to watch because of this horror and also simplifies one of the worse cases of child abuse by turning horrible, real events into unnecessary fiction.  A second film about the actual case called An American Crime was being shot around the time The Girl Next Door with a bigger budget and cast and was released on Showtime in 2008 after premiering at Sundance in 2007.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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