Jack Ketchum's "The Girl Next Door"

The Girl Next Door
8/10/2010

This movie is based on the book of the same name by Jack Ketchum; which is also based on a true story. Not to be confused with the teen sex comedy of the same name from 2004. This film was made a few years later and although it does have teens and sex, the story lines are worlds apart.

This is the true story of two sisters who were orphaned back in the late 1950’s when their parents were killed in a car accident. Meg is the older sister at about 15 and her sister Susan is about 10 or 11. Susan is also a recovering polio survivor and has to wear leg braces. These girls taken in (or pushed upon) by Aunt Ruth a popular neighborhood spinster. All of the neighborhood boys hang out at Ruth’s, they range in age from about 8-15, she gives then beer lets them smoke and so much worse.

The story is told through flashback by David, the one boy who sought to save the girls from the evils that happen in the basement of Ruth’s house. David and Meg meet on a few occasions and strike up a nice friendship, but when Meg tells him that that she and her sister are not being fed, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Ruth is brutally strict to the girls and purposely humiliates Meg in front of the boys. Things rapidly escalate, when Meg goes to the police about the abuse. Meg is then tied up in the basement and stripped naked with everybody present. Ruth rants to the boys her slanted views of young women, but tells them not to touch her. This doesn’t last long.

This movie works on so many levels; it’s a brutal psychological horror film, an intense character study, and a coming of age story. Ruth is obviously severely disturbed, but doesn’t know it. David feels powerless to stop Ruth and the other boys. Susan is abused, but not beaten; she is also forced to watch as her sister is tortured by the boys. This movie goes to the darkest places you can imagine. Some scenes are just as brutal to the audience as they are to Meg. David plans an escape attempt for the sisters but that too is snuffed out by Ruth. Can this story have a “happy” ending? Doubt it. It is an intensely heart wrenching film that will stay with you for days. Like most movies that claim to be “true stories”, parts were probably embellished and made more dramatic but the core story is still disturbing beyond belief.