Based on the Jack Ketchum novel of the same name, The Girl Next Door follows the unspeakable torture and abuses committed on a teenage girl in the care of her aunt...and the boys who witness and fail to report the crime.
A young woman's quest for revenge against the people who kidnapped and tormented her as a child leads her and a friend, who is also a victim of child abuse, on a terrifying journey into a living hell of depravity.
After having online chat room chats for three weeks, "Thonggrrrl14" convinces "Lensman319" to meet in person in a public place, they being up front that they are a fourteen year old girl and thirty-two year old man respectively. They are indeed precocious fourteen year old Hayley Stark and thirty-two year old photographer Jeff Kohlver. Their interactions, including their meeting, are laced with indirect sexual innuendo, most specifically on Hayley's part, although Jeff is clear also in an indirect manner that he does not have sex with minors. Regardless, Hayley is further able to convince Jeff to continue their face-to-face at his place. There, both Hayley and Jeff's true intentions come to light, their meeting which was no accident on either side, and the intentions which may be incompatible and have serious and deadly consequences.Written by
Well. That was disturbing. Though it is not one to recommend for "Family Night," Hard Candy offers an intriguing one-time viewing thanks to the effectiveness of its two-man show approach. Let's make that a one-man, one-girl show. I don't need a rash of emails reminding me of my chauvinism.
What the filmmakers have done is said, "Hey, Patrick Wilson! Ellen Page! We're placing the two of you in a restricted space and putting the entire movie on your shoulders. Best of luck!" Granted, I'm paraphrasing, but this is no exaggeration. There are a total of five people in the movie, and only Wilson and Page are given more than five minutes of screen time. Given this challenge, the two thespians more than hold their own.
I don't know if Wilson should take this as a compliment, but he's very convincing as a dangerously innocent-seeming pedophile. What makes him so creepy is his charm. He's a smooth, suave sexual predator. Most young girls are smart enough to do wind sprints the moment they see a dirty, unkempt man who looks to be carrying more diseases than Paris Hilton.
But Wilson is a good-looking, successful photographer. He can't be bad, right? "You look older than you are, and you certainly act older than you are," he tells Hayley, perfectly manipulating her young, fragile emotions. And hey, he can't be dangerous. After all, he obviously has the most innocent of intentions! Why else would he reassure her that he's aware of the legal boundaries? She's puddy in his hands.
This all starts quietly enough, but once they get to his house gears are shifted and everything goes haywire. That's all I'm revealing regarding the story, but I do have to give kudos to Ms. Page who turns in an impressive performance. I did feel she was a bit too precocious and world-wise at times, but she still does a great job showcasing a wide range of emotions of this potential young victim.
Despite the interesting concept of the two-person show, it clearly has its limitations. At 103 minutes this is just way too long. After a while it becomes too obvious that certain scenes and lines of dialogue are, like most songs on recent Rolling Stones albums, inserted for no other reason than to serve as filler. The worst example being a scene involving Sandra Oh's neighbor character. The only purpose it serves is to deliver a little faux drama. That subplot is dropped faster than Britney Spears' baby, never to be heard from again.
Hard Candy refuses to send you prancing home with a smile on your face or a song in your heart, but if nothing else it serves as a strong warning that you should probably pay close attention to who your kids are communicating with online. At least warn them that sometimes the person they least suspect could be the one to be most wary of.
A quick word of warning to all you guys: there is one particular scene where what we perceive is happening will absolutely make you squirm in your seat. You'll most likely watch it through squinted eyes. I haven't felt that uncomfortable at the theater since the My Own Private Idaho fiasco. I suggest you be prepared.
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