The Girl Next Door - a review

This is about the 2007 American horror movie, not the 2004 comedy.

This film well and truly slipped under the radar. It certainly came and went with little box-office attention or any other kind of high-profile notice. It's based on a book by American author Jack Ketchum, which itself is derived from the real-life case of Sylvia Likens. In fact, The Girl Next Door has little to do with American cinema and more to do with the extreme in-your-face horror of French films like Martyrs.

Essentially, it follows the last days of Meg Loughlin (Blythe Auffarth) who comes to some American town with little sister Susan, who has a walking disability and wears leg braces. Almost immediately, she forms a friendship with David, a neighbour. Almost as immediately, she is picked on by her sadistic auntie Ruth (Blanche Baker) for a variety of punitive reasons, mainly imagined. One day, after Meg speaks to the police, she is tied up in the cellar by Ruth and her terror begins.

meg and david

Terror sums it up. Meg is subjected to one vile kind of degradation after the other, including being stripped naked in front of a bunch of boys, strung up by ropes so her arms and shoulders hurt and having her skin cut open. Not long after, a few of the neighbourhood kids are invited by the psychopathic Ruth to come down and join in.

Why? Because Meg is apparently a slut and a whore and had the "audacity" to hit out when one of the kids fondled her breasts. And for that particular indiscretion, her little sister Susan is degraded and given a spank by Ruth. Keeping in mind Susan is disabled.

meg and ruth

Meg never sees the light of day again. Throughout her horrid ordeal, David stands by her, or tries to. Sometimes during all this, he is damned by his inaction and as the narration states, it's a thing that's haunted him throughout his days to the present.

Eventually, Ruth carves profanities on Meg's stomach with a hot needle and mutilates her vagina with a blowtorch. At the end, David kills Ruth with one of Susan's crutches and the police arrive. Meg succumbs to her wounds with David by her side.

meg and david

The film is flawed. There's virtually no character development at all and you don't know any more about Meg at the end of the film than you do at the beginning. Ruth is a sick psycho from the start, and it's unclear why this may be. What made her this way? Her husband leaving her? Some other traumatic experience? Or is that just how she rolls? You get hints that she resents Meg's beauty and youth, but this angle is never fully explored. She just goes off the deep end with insufficient explanation.

Meg is no teenage girl either as it's clear that a 20-something actress is playing her, and sure enough Blythe Auffarth was about 22-23 during the filming. Alas, Auffarth's acting is a touch on the wooden side and apart from Ruth who is well-played by Baker, this is a fault you can level at each of the players. In their defence, most of them are kids. 

In summary, it's a decent film, but they could have spent less time on the exploitative scenes with Meg in the basement and more on character; what motivates each of them. There's not a whole lot of dramatic fire either, and most of the time I felt like I was watching some kind of low-key television film.

meg in the loungeroom