Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Girl Next Door (2007) - No Thanks.

I wish I could wholeheartedly recommend this film, as horror fans were urged by just about everyone to check this out.
I'm not saying it was a bad film.
I'm just saying I don't think it was as fantastic as it was made out to be.

The Girl Next Door
(2007) is based on a novel by the great Jack Ketchum. I have read (and enjoyed, however perverse that is) the book, as well as a number of his other works. However, when it came to putting the words to a screenplay, it lacks the excitement and sense of absolute dread that the book had.

Some backstory:
Both the movie and the book are (very loosely) based on true events that happened in 1965 in Indianapolis. Sylvia Likens and her sister were sent to live with their aunt because the parents were traveling carnival workers. The unstable aunt (Gertrude Baniszewski) took an instant disliking to Sylvia and proceeded to torture her in unspeakable ways. She involved and encouraged her children and kids in the neighborhood to be her accomplices, and handed out an endless string of horrific abuse. They kicked and punched her, burned her with cigarettes, made her strip in front of the other children, banished her to the basement with little to no food and water, tied her up, made her drink her own urine and vomit, and cut words into her skin with knives. She died of these injuries and malnutrition after several months. Neighbors had heard strange noises coming from the basement at various times but typically didn't want to get involved.

The movie (and book) deviate from the truth, elaborating on certain aspects of the abuse, and outright adding sexual abuse (which did not happen in the actual case) to pump up the torture-factor.

I was not at all thrilled with this film. Not because I didn't want to see the torture - I've seen it all - Saw, Hostel, Captivity, The Hills Have Eyes, etc... I guess it is the poor acting on pretty much everyone's part.
It was also extremely slow to start. I almost felt like I was watching an after-school special for the first 45 minutes. Setting up a story is one thing, but when you don't really have much to work with, you gotta get down to it, you know?

Maybe it is because this was based on a true story I could not get into the movie.
Things that happen in real life are almost always scarier than any movie could attempt to pull off.
After seeing the movie I wanted to learn all about the case, and after using Wikipedia ( to investigate, I really believe this book should not have been written and the movie should have been scrapped.
If Ketchum wanted to scare people, please invent something original, instead of elaborating on the ghastly truth. Nothing could ever be as horrific as the things mankind can do to one another.

There is a movie coming out soon called "An American Crime", which stars Ellen Page (Juno) and is based on the actual events. I can only assume this will be a MUCH better movie.
But as for The Girl Next Door?

Skip it.

1 comment:

daedia said...


I don´t know. I have to admit I really enjoyed the book AND the movie. Especially the acting of Blythe Auffarth as Meg was really impressive.

But I can understand your point after reading the wikkipedia article you linked to. For me theres a line between reality and movies and even if a movie (or book) opens with the famous "based on real events"-quote I take it with a grain of salt. You have to bend reality when producing something "entertaining" - so each time I read the quote I think "Yeah right..." and simply try to forget it.

You have to admit that the second half of the movie is really intense and scary (as was the book) and I liked the slow setup very much, because it had some kind of "stand by me"-feeling.

Well, i think we can discuss this further after tonights horroetc-episode. :)