Gregory Wilson, USA, 2007, 91 min.
The Girl Next Door is based on the notorious horror novel by Jack Ketchum. The film took advantage of that notoriety, arriving in the mist much discussion of the tough and brutal subject matter.
It’s the story of a mother who mentally and physically abuses her foster-daughter, locking her in the basement and having the neighborhood kids take turns doing horrible things to her. It’s tough to think about, and the film doesn’t shy away from putting you right in the midst of this horrible situation.
But there are many problems. I give low-budget films a lot of leeway, because making a film outside the studio system is hard and usually done for better reasons than making money. But the performances were noticeably fake, taking me out of the film many times.
And I usually don’t compare books to films. They are each their own unique form of expression with different methods for tapping into your emotions and creating stories. But what the book had, that was lacking from the film, was the one thing that elevates the story into something more than torture-porn.
The book gets inside the head of the narrator and helps explain how seemingly normal children could be sucked into a experience like this. How a single adult and the perceived authority to do something, can make them fall prey to their base desires. In the film, the evil acts come across as being perpetrated by evil children and the good children are the only one with a conscious.
It’s black and white, and the opportunity to explore the grey area isn’t taken. It turns the film into standard horror, and doesn’t touch or what I thought was the most intriguing part of the story.