Saturday, July 14, 2012

Torturing a Teenage Girl (Or How I Spent My Summer Vacation)

How do you sit and watch a film like The Girl Next Door?  You most likely know what it is about going into it (a young girl is held captive by her aunt and cousins and then tortured and sexually assaulted, often while her younger sister is forced to watch – based on a true story, by the way).  If you read the book, you have an even better idea of what you are in for before the first frame of film hits your eyes.  Are you expecting to enjoy it?  Are you expecting to be repulsed?  Are you expecting to be turned on?

This is a rough film.  Any film where a teenage girl gets her clitoris burned off with a blow torch is going to be unpleasant to watch.  If you aren’t some deviant, you feel for the girl.  You feel for the boy who is trying to do the right thing.  You don’t wish for bad to happen, but you don’t turn away, either.  This was done deliberately in the book.  Author Jack Ketchum wanted the readers to be implicated in the crimes, too, and it worked.  You kept turning pages, though you didn’t want to.  You kept reading, and with this film you keep watching.

To call the film “good” or “bad” misses the point.  It really can’t be judged in such a way.  It is a competent film that does its job.  Is it worth watching?  Of course.  It won’t make you feel good, though.  You won’t turn it off with a spring in your step.  In fact, you may sit numb for a while, mentally digesting that which should not be digested. 

I could go on about moral problems and how to deal with them.  How do you do the right thing when everyone around you is doing wrong?  That’s what this film asks.  That’s too easy, though.  I’d rather ask: How can you sit and watch this?  What is going through your head when you are watching a young girl stripped naked?  What do you think when you see her parched lips?  Would you take a turn with her, swimming in your brother’s sloppy seconds?  Maybe not, but you are watching.  You can’t take your eyes off the screen.  You can’t look away.  What are you thinking?  That’s what I want to know.  Me?  What was I thinking?  Nothing out of the ordinary, really.  My faith in humanity is pretty low.  This movie only reinforced those thoughts.  People, when given the chance, will revert to animals.  They will string you up and have their way with you.  There’s no honor in it.  There’s not even shame.  They are beneath such things.  They don’t know they exist.  The groupthink is too strong.  The will to hurt and punish unhindered clouds all vision.  It takes a special type of movie to convey that in a meaningful way, and this one does it.  I’d advise you to stay away, but by now you’ve already made your choice.  What, however, did you choose?

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I did not receive this film to review.  Clicking on a link earns me some cash and may make you a deviant.


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