Trigger warning: This blog post contains disturbing information, including abuse, violence against children and true crime facts.
The Girl Next Door, released in 2007, is not for the faint of heart. It shouldn’t be confused with the romantic comedy by the same name either, which was released in 2004. Directed by Gregory Wilson and written by Daniel Farrands and Philip Nutman, the plot of The Girl Next Door is based on Jack Ketchum’s novel by the same title. Ketchum based his novel on the murder of Sylvia Likens which took place in Indianapolis, Indiana. The film follows two recently orphaned girls, Meg and Susan, who are placed in the care of their aunt, Ruth, who’s deranged and becomes increasingly sadistic. One day, Meg befriends a boy in the neighbourhood, David, which triggers a series of rationalized abuse and torture involving many people in the community. The story is told by David as an adult which was an artistic choice of Ketchum because he was too disturbed to tell the story from another perspective. For more screen facts on The Girl Next Door, continue reading below.
Challenges with Filming
Films like these are captivating to watch for the horror and thriller fanatic. However, many forget filming can be traumatic for the actors and actresses, especially when they are young like in The Girl Next Door. Fortunately, this is something people are becoming cognizant of today, but was overlooked in the late 2000s.
“The most wearing scene? All the scenes in which I am hung up and blindfolded,” Blythe Auffarth said, the actress who played the difficult role of Meg. “It’s extremely humiliating and it’s a little bit scary being so without control. It’s scary being helpless and it’s humiliating hanging and dangling there, and it’s even more petrifying to have your senses taken away from you. I actually was blindfolded and I couldn’t see, and so you’re relying on your ability to hear and also trust those around you and the ways in which they deal with you. … That wasn’t anything that was acting – that was pure torture, no pun intended.”
Jack Ketchum, the author of the original novel, makes an appearance in the film. He’s the carnival ticket taker near the beginning of the movie.
“Indiana’s Most Terrible Crime”
Every place in the world has experienced devastation in their community. For Indiana, the murder of Sylvia Likens is widely viewed as the state’s worst crime of all time. It is often referred to as “the most sadistic” and an “awful crime” by local authorities.
There are many reasons for this aside from the abuse and torture itself. Other people in the neighbourhood were involved and had the opportunity to get help, but didn’t exercise it. Neighbours even overheard disturbing events, but didn’t report them because “it wasn’t their business or place to intrude on someone else’s household.”
Since this crime occurred, an organization called Sylvia’s Child Advocacy Center was formed. Their goal is to help children who have no place to go after experiencing child abuse or maltreatement.
Watching this film, you may find it hard to comprehend or even unrealistic. But that’s precisely what makes Jack Ketchum and Gregory Wilson’s interpretation so interesting. It’s actually an accurate depiction of what happened to Sylvia Likens. The Girl Next Door also speaks to the dangers of groupthink and toxic masculinity which are compelling and relevant themes in modern day.