Gregory Wilson’s The Girl Next Door


Among the shocking revelations awaiting the viewer of Gregory Wilson’s The Girl Next Door: Beneath the 1950’s seemingly placid exterior of Ozzie and Harriet normalcy, there were—brace yourself!— sinister undercurrents at work. Case in point: sour-souled suburban divorcee Ruth Chandler (Blanche Baker) gains popularity with local adolescents by handing out beers, but things really get hopping in her basement when she offers up her 14-year-old adopted charge, Meg (Blythe Auffarth, in the film’s only faintly credible performance), as a repository for every imaginable abuse, up to and including blowtorch clitorectomy. An obligatory yank at sociological import comes through Ruth referring to “fellow travelers,” as the burgeoning torture-snuff genre receives another tediously grim entry, this one showing off like a kid who’s just learned how to cuss (none of the rough stuff here is quite as wince-inducing as watching a cast of stiff line-readers smack at the screenplay’s copious “God-damn”s). The source is a Jack Ketchum novel, itself inspired by the 1965 slaying of teenaged Sylvia Likens (also the subject of the upcoming An American Crime), but any resonance from that real-life atrocity gets smothered by a script that interlaces clichéd dialogue so tightly as to block out any glint of recognizable human behavior.