Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Girl Next Door (2007)

This film was based on Jack Ketchum's novel "The Girl Next Door", which in turn was based on the true child abuse/murder case of Gertrude Baniszewski.

The general plot is that are orphaned and sent to live with their Auntie Ruth (Blanche Baker), who has a lot of sons and more than a few screws loose. The older of the sisters, Meg (Blythe Auffarth), becomes the primary target for Ruth's twisted rage. But Ruth is not without assistance in the torture of the pretty teenager. She enlists the help of her sons and some of their friends. The story itself is told from the point of view of a neighboring boy David (Daniel Manche) who initially befriends Meg and then witnesses her horrible fate.

As to be expected, the story takes little scraps from the actual events it was based on and runs right out of the ball park. I'm not making light of child abuse here, but there is such a thing as going a bit too far and making it wholly unbelievable. Perhaps it's because I'm familiar wit the Baniszewski case, or perhaps because the film started off being very powerful and then crossed the line into absurdity in the last twenty minutes.

This is not a standard horror film. It is a drama about horrible things. What isn't shown does not decrease the sheer horror of the situation, and I'm pleased they weren't going for visual shock value here.

I'm on the fence about the motive for Auntie Ruth. We don't really find out exactly what started her down the path of sadism or set her sights on Meg. There is a lot of mention of beer, but no remorse demonstrated by anyone after any particularly eventful night of drinking. The character herself seems to change her mind on points that you would expect her to be a stickler on. How she went from strictly forbidding any of the boys to touch Meg to staging a neighborhood gang bang with the poor girl is puzzling.

The cruelty displayed by the children is unsettling, more so because anyone who has lived past age ten can understand how cruel children can be even without parental consent and encouragement.

Overall, it wasn't a bad film but not the best I've seen that was based on the actual events.

Film information: The Girl Next Door

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