The Girl Next Door | Chicago Reader

The Girl Next Door

Adapted from a horror novel by Jack Ketchum, this low-budget exploitationer fictionalizes the story of Sylvia Likens, a 16-year-old Indiana girl who was imprisoned and tortured to death in 1965 by the woman caring for her and her sister. The killer invited neighborhood children to join in the fun, which has lent the story its sociological staying power, and Blanche Baker gives a strong performance as the sadistic woman, who bullies the kids with a combination of false camaraderie and sexual candor. Though director Gregory Wilson calls this a “coming-of-age film,” it never rises above the level of shock and revulsion. Note: A second, ostensibly factual movie version of the Likens case—An American Crime, starring Catherine Keener and Ellen Page—premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival and is currently stuck in distribution limbo. R, 91 min.

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