The Girl Next Door

Director: Gregory Wilson (2007)
Starring: William Atherton, Blythe Auffarth, Blanche Baker, Daniel Manche
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

No, not that one. No stranger to bondage or Captivity though she might be, Elisha Cuthbert is nowhere to be found in this adaptation of Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door. Jack Ketchum is maybe my favourite horror novelist of all time. It's always good to see a little recognition in adaptations such as this, Offspring, The Lost and the forthcoming The Woman.

That said, I find The Girl Next Door to be the hardest of his books to read. It's emotionally exhausting, a little too realistic and just bloody heartbreaking. There's a scene in which one of the boys makes their victim eat a poo. Scat is one of the few things I find hard to stomach (no pun intended) in my horror movies, so I'm glad they cut that bit from this adaptation. The physical torture has been toned down some, but the movie is every bit as hard-going as the book.

Sweet girl next door Meg is held captive in her abusive aunt's basement, mentally and physically tortured by both aunt Ruth and the neighborhood contingent of horrible boys. Exception to the rule is David, who is sweet on Meg and unsure of the morality of torturing her so. Eh, I would have thought it a fairly black-and-white moral dilemma, but then I guess most little boys are stupid in the head. David is so traumatised by what he sees that he grows up to be William Atherton from off've Ghostbusters and Die Hard. I suppose seeing such sights is bound to turn a guy into a professional asshole.

The problem with adapting the work of an author like Jack Ketchum is that his work is so powerful and insidious and gross (THEY FORCE-FEED HER A POO), that it rarely makes for a very nice movie. The Girl Next Door is thoroughly unpleasant and quite upsetting. You'll want to leap through your television screen and beat those shit kids and shit woman senseless. You'll want to slap little David for not intervening sooner. His procrastination hurts the film some; it's hard to sympathise with a character who takes such a long time to make such an obviously right decision. But I suppose his procrastinating is necessary for the plot to go on as it does.

The Girl Next Door does not make for cheerful viewing. It's bleak and depressing and nihilistic and Blythe Auffarth, as Meg, is just too adorably nice. This is horror at its raw and bleakest - this, like so much of Ketchum's work, explores the lengths to which human depravity is capable. If The Girl Next Door didn't depress you enough already, well... did I mention that it's based on a true story? For shame, humanity :'-(


  1. This one was probably hard to adapt because of all the moral dilemma going on inside David's head. Reading the book, you hate David and think he's a retarded little shit, but on some human-depravity level you can understand why he keeps going back to that house and why he never tells anyone about Meg. There's also stuff about kids following orders, not being able to stand up to grown-ups, etc. I think it's a fascinating book. The movie was well adapted and was just as hard to watch as the book was to read. Blythe Auffarth is a terrific and heart breaking little actress.

  2. This is the only horror movie that has made me cry. It's devastating. I haven't tracked down the book yet, and now I'm not sure I want to. I posted a brief review of this film which I'll reiterate a bit here. I'm not sure it's possible to actually "like" this movie. I appreciated its power and the skill with which it was made, but it is so bleak and horrible that I can't actually like it. Definitely not for the faint of heart.