I finally had my annual nightmare-inducing film from Fantastic Fest this year after seeing Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door. It's not a horror film in the traditional sense, but rather an odd combination of family drama and scenes of physical torture -- like a Lifetime movie directed by Eli Roth. The movie is adapted from the 1989 Ketchum novel, which was based on the real-life story of Sylvia Likens. Likens' story was also told in An American Crime, which premiered at Sundance this year.
The Girl Next Door is set in "innocent" 1950s small-town America, structured as a long flashback of David, a guy currently in his fifties. When young David (Daniel Manche) was on the verge of adolescence, two girl cousins moved in with the Chandlers next door, a family of several boys and their divorced mom Ruth (Blanche Baker). The girls lost their parents in a car accident, and the younger one, Susan, wears leg braces and uses crutches. Ruth was always considered a "cool" mom because she let the boys drink beer and talked about sexual matters. Now she starts bullying her nieces in a minor way, slowly advancing to higher and nastier levels of abuse especially targeted at teenager Meg (Blythe Auffarth).