Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door Review

Movie: Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door
By: Fish
Date: April 6, 2011

You Think You Know About Pain?

Horror has come a very long way and because of that, has lost much of the horror it is supposed to leave you feeling. Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door (Gregory Wilson, Philip Nutman, Daniel Farrands) brings that sick to your stomach feeling back full throttle.

& so it begins

The film takes place in the summer of the 1958. Two young girls are sent to live with their Aunt and cousins after their parents die in a traffic accident. Meg and Susan are 16 and 10 and seem to be relatively happy children given the circumstances at hand. Meg meets young David at a creek behind their neighborhood. They learn a little about each other including the fact that they are now neighbors and that her cousins are his friends.


This movie is rated R for sadistic torture and sexual abuse, nudity, language and strong sexual dialogue - all involving children, and the IMDB plot summary starts with, “Warning, the following plot description, due to the content of the movie, is not for the squeamish.” This is not your average horror flick.



None of this lasts long, however, as their aunt, Ruth, slowly becomes horribly abusive to the sisters with the help of her young sons ranging in approximate age of 8 to 17. Ruth begins by mentally torturing Meg, calling her a slut for painting a watercolor for her new friend David, prohibiting her from eating so she won’t get too fat, making her watch her spank her young, crippled sister, taking her mother’s wedding ring from her and talking down to her with every chance she gets.

mental anguish

Meg tried to remedy the situation herself when it becomes clear no one is going to take care of this for her. The boys had cornered her, and were tickling her when the youngest of them feels her up. Out of instinct, she slaps the boy and runs out of the room. When Ruth comes to investigate, the crew tells her it was not instigated and that Meg had just hit the boy for no reason. Ruth then finds Susan hiding in the closet and proceeds to spank her bare-bottom in front of the boys because Meg wasn’t there to receive her punishment. Meg then comes rushing upstairs and is held by her cousins, weeping and begging Ruth to stop. When it’s over, Ruth rips her mother’s wedding ring from around her neck and leaves the pair of sisters to their tears. Her friend, David, quietly witnesses the entire episode. This is only the start of something horrible.


let's play a game

A series of events leads to the boys playing a game of confession that they play every summer with their friends. The rules & premise are simple: someone is blindfolded and subjected to something uncomfortable until they confess their sins. They take this one step further with Meg. They stand her on three books in their basement and tie her arms up and spread, blindfold her and tell her to confess her sins. With every failure to obey, the remove one book until none remain and resort to stripping her. David walks in near the middle and is stunned. They act like nothing is wrong and continue to ask her questions. She is eventually stripped naked and threatened with rape. When there is still no confession they leave her there overnight as the boys go to their rooms to talk on how much pain she must be in.

the plan

Later, David devises an escape plan for Meg. He tells her where to go, how to get there and assures her it will be better if she comes alone, that they will come back for Susan once they got help. After all, things weren’t that bad for the little girl, right?



There is a steady progression in terror leading up to the single most brutal scene in a film I have ever witnessed, and I have seen many grand and painful scenes. Meg is nearly on her death bed, she lays quiet on a dirty mattress and takes the blows she is given like a champ. The scene shows Ruth, David, her cousins, three neighborhood girls and I believe a random boy or two. Ruth gives her eldest son permission to rape the girl, and when he finishes, everyone gathers ‘round to watch Ruth torch her vagina with what appears to be a make-shift butane blow torch. The girl screams.

he tried, yes?

David tries to run for help, is caught, bound and left in the basement with Meg and Susan. The boy sets up a trap to bring Ruth to the basement, bludgeons her to death and beats one of the boys until the police arrive. David then goes to lay with Meg and begins to cry. Meg tells him not to, and asks him for a favor: to retrieve her mother’s ring from Ruth’s pocket. When he places it in her hand, she thanks him and dies. Susan confesses that she believes it all to be her fault, that Meg could have escaped if she hadn’t tried to retrieve her from upstairs during her previous escape attempt. She tells him that Meg was infuriated when she told her that Ruth had been molesting her and made her bleed.



There are several fallacies in the film that are not in the book nor did they happen in real life. For starters, an iron was said to be used to burn Meg, but they nixed it because it seemed illogical that they would have electrical outlets in the basement of an old house in that era. Ruth also did not die the way she was depicted to. She was pushed down the stairs.

true to the genre

I’m certain that with most horror fans, it takes a whole hell of a lot to make you want to avert your eyes and the same is true with me. This film had me sitting jaw dropped, hand over mouth, head shaking disturbed the first time I sat through it. The beauty in this is that even though it is repulsive, even though it may be properly classified as torture porn, even though it was based on a true story and some argue that this should have never made it to film, it is exceedingly well done. This film does not miss a beat, and when the fact that it's based on a true story is taken into consideration, it single handedly redeems all of the horrible horror manufactured and spit out within the last decade or so.

final thoughts

The screenplay was superbly written, the acting expertly executed, the directing something to take note of and the final piece is a force to be respected and applauded. I have nothing but respect and admiration for everyone involved in this movie. Watching it twice (once for pleasure, once for this review) was more than enough for me yet I will always say it is tops, right next to Halloween.

special thanks

Special thanks to Philip Nutman for educating me so well on the background of this story, and for answering my many questions on the film and screenplay. You’re a brilliant man, sir.



Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door


Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door


Gregory Wilson






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