The Girl Next Door - one step too far?
So in light of a recent thread concerning this movie as well as An American Crime, both based on the incredibly disturbing real-life torture and murder of Sylvia Likens, I decided to check out Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door, which I had actually never heard of before, out of sheer curiosity.
Now, the film itself is really quite bad - terrible acting, poorly written screenplay and overall just a general blandness to it all which really renders all the horrors a lot less disturbing than even just sitting and THINKING about the real-life atrocities that befell Sylvia Likens. That said, the movie DID disturb me in one important aspect - its utter abuse of the child actors that appear in it.
Aside from the fact that a movie like this has zero commercial potential - this is far worse than the over-the-top, cartoon-like revenge fantasies Saw or Hostel movies, because this is true under-your-skin brutality and nothing good comes out of it - I really have no idea how this movie was even made in the first place. I mean, what kind of producer reads this script and says "oh, no problem, we can get child actors to do all of these things."
Most teen rauch comedies like American Pie cast actors who are slightly over the age of consent, usually around 19-20, who look younger than they are in order to play high school students in situations involving nudity, sex, alcohol and many other elements that would have child labour officials in a riot had under-age actors been involved. And when you DO use child actors, perhaps because your lewd material requires pre-pubescent characters, steps are usually taken to ensure that these children aren't exposed to things probably way beyond their maturity level: I know, for instance, that in Gregg Araki's film Mysterious Skin, which tells of and even depicts pedophilia, the child actors had separate scripts from the rest of the cast and the film was shot in such a way that they really had no idea what it was really about. Similarly, I remember reading that Stanley Kubrick was especially protective of the young actor who played Danny, and made sure to avoid exposing him to the true, horrific nature of the film he was acting in, by filming his scenes separately and then editing them together - this is despite the fact that many horror movies in the past have featured child actors doing horrific things: look no further than The Exorcist.
But really, I felt that The Girl Next Door crossed every possible line of child decency, and I'd like to see conflicting evidence proving that these young child actors were NOT exposed to these materials. Just to prove my point: Among many others, the film includes a scene featuring the folowing:
- A medium-close up shot of 16-year-old actor Graham Patrick Martin on top of actress Blythe Auffarth, thrusting, with the rest of the actors in-frame and watching the event, among them 14-year-old Benjamin Ross Kaplan, 11-year-old Austin Williams, and 11-year-old Madeline Taylor.
- The reverse angle, this time a long shot: We see 16-year-old Graham Patrick Martin, shirtless, get up from on top of Blythe Auffarth who is lying (tied) fully nude on a bed, and pull up his pants. The rest of the actors are visible in the shot, from behind, having just watched the spectacle.
- Medium-close up of 14-year-old actor Benjamin Ross Kaplan, who turns to his mother (who, in the film, is the one who took the girl in and began her torture) and asks her, "Mom, I want to fuck her! Can I fuck her?" To which the mother replies, with Benjamin Ross Kaplan still in frame so there's no way they could have done this in editing so that he couldn't hear the line: "Well, your two brothers just had her, and I feel that if you go swimming around in their junk it would be like incest!" To which the young actor continues to insist that he "Wants to fuck her".
The film includes numerous scenes in which these young 11 and 14 year old actors are in the presence of a fully nude Blythe Auffarth, who herself is 20 years old so at least not under-age but still perhaps young to expose herself in this kind of way. I mean... what kind of parent would read this script and ALLOW their children to participate in something like this? And it's not even for a good cause, because the movie itself is pretty bad overall and just schlocky horror! Also, I believe, according to child labour laws the parent has to be present on-set at all times; seriously, what kind of parent, witnessing the set-ups their young kids are participating in, would allow them to do so? I was shocked to say the least, not from the events depicted in the film but from the fact that these very young, under-age child actors actually participated in these things! These kids are probably fucked up for life now!!!