The Girl Next Door vs. An American Crime

Release Dates:

The Girl Next Door: October 3rd 2007

An American Crime: January 19th 2007

Plot Outline: Both films tell the horrifying true story of Sylvia Likens, a girl tortured to death by Gertrude Baniszewski, her children, and kids from the neighborhood in Indiana, 1965.

In The Girl Next Door, Slyvia Likens is played by Blythe Auffarth. In the film Slyvlia’s name is changed to Meg Loughlin. Meg and her sister, Susan Loughlin (Jenny Likens in reality) are left in the care of an aunt, Ruth (Gertrude Baniszewski in reality) and her three sons after their parents are killed in a car accident. The movie moves very quickly in revealing that something isn’t right in the household. Meg begs a neighborhood friend; David for food. She tells him that Ruth doesn’t let her eat and Meg has mysterious bruises on her body.

The situation quickly escalates; Meg is soon locked in the basement and tortured relentlessly by Ruth, her sons, and other kids from the neighborhood. She is starved, beaten, burned, branded, and raped. All the while Ruth is encouraging this behavior of the children. She even forces Meg’s sister Susan to harm Meg.

The Girl Next Door is dark and depressing. The music suits the mood. It moves quickly and is very explicit and heart wrenching. I suggest that viewers watch with caution. We actually see the children and Ruth torture Meg, we see her being beaten and burned, and we see her bruises. Meg (Auffarth) is in awful shape; she looks run down and on the brink of death. She actually looks like someone that has been tortured for months.

The acting for this type of intense, serious film was impressive. The actors all really got into the role and portrayed this film with the seriousness of the situation. I was especially impressed because a majority of the actors were children.

It is a very difficult film to watch but I recommend it because it is based on a true story. I think it’s a story that needs to be told.

Ellen page plays Sylvia Likens in An American Crime. Gertrude Baniszewski is played by Catherine Keener. Sylvia’s parents work for the circus and travel often this is why her parents were desperate to leave Sylvia and her sister with the mother of children that Sylvia and Jenny met at church. It is arranged that they would stay there as long Gertrude was paid 20 dollars a week.

The movie starts off very slowly. Nothing odd occurs until about an hour into the film. It takes much time to build the awkwardness and uncomfortable mood of living in the Baniszewski household. The slow pace is accompanied by upbeat fun music for the 60’s. This is not at all appropriate for the mood or tone of the film.

Everything is perfectly normal until Gertrude’s check doesn’t arrive on time. She takes out her anger and frustration on Sylvia and Jenny. She takes them to the basement and begins to beat them. After this the beatings continue often and for any sort of reason. Ruth has convinced herself that Sylvia is a whore and strongly disapproves. She says that Sylvia must be punished until she learns her lesson. She locks her in the basement and allows children from the neighborhood to come over whenever they want and do whatever they want to Sylvia.

This film is not nearly as violent or explicit. We know that Sylvia is being tortured but we do not often witness this. It is often implied by the camera work, music, and screams of Sylvia.

The Girl Next Door VS An American Crime

Overall I liked The Girl Next Door much more. The acting was much better and the mood and music were much more appropriate for the type of intense film that it is. Because all of the events were visible and quite evident it was more emotional and easier to feel for Sylvia on a much deeper level.

Each film contained some facts about the Likens case but overall, An American Crime was most like the actual story. I appreciated that it contained many facts from the actual case. In the beginning of the film it states that most of the film comes directly from the transcript of the court.


12 Responses to “The Girl Next Door vs. An American Crime”

  1. I’ve heard nothing but good things about The Girl Next Door. I love Ellen Page but not sure if that movie’s enough to get my interest. Again awesome comparisons, I really like this idea!

  2. Thanks 🙂

    The Girl Next Door was a lot better than An American Crime but An American Crime was much more accurate.
    It’s a toss up

  3. Just saw an American crime without any knowledge of the case or that it web existed. Good film, not great but it has set me up for what seems to be the more harrowing of the two, the girl next door. Still can’t believe that things like actually happen, that’s what makes it quite scary. Expecting good things from the girl next door, just hope of dosent shed a tear!

  4. i watched both films… and though i try not to let the small things affect me…. this alone was more than enough to damn near set me over the edge…. it has deffinatly impacted my view of life and then some…. about the films the differences where obvious both where relative to “what was told” in the court room… filling in the blanks if u have the stomach for it… go ahead.. i dont..

  5. Where can I see these movies?? I just read the book byJack Ketchum “the girl next door”. I would like to see the movies???anybody know where I can find them??? Thanks

  6. natalie Says:

    i watched an american crime first and i was fastened. i later watched the girl next door. i couldn’t really get into the movie because it was so different. instead of a mothers daughters beating her up the girl next door had neighborhood boys. and no one ever said that she was “raped” and they didn’t put the right wording on her stomach. they never made her naked! i was completely disappointed with the girl next door.

  7. I love watching movies based on a true story. But these movies are really very disturbing to watch and I can’t move on. I came to this forum searching for the movies and articles about the murder of Sylvia Marie Likens.

    If I were to be asked, I liked “An American Crime” more than “The Girl Next Door”. Though I watched “The Girl Next Door” first and later on “An American Crime”. I liked it more because it is really based on the true story and almost all of the facts are detailed in the story. Also, the setting, music and everything takes us back in that year (1965) though I was born in the 80’s. I felt nostalgic watching the movie as if I was part of every scene.

  8. I have not seen “The girl Next Door” but was wanting to. A few years ago I watched An American Crime then I allowed my pre-teen daughters to see it. It was a very educational film without seeing all the blood, actual abuse but the film implied it well enough. I will see the “Girl Next Door” movie but I cannot see how it would be anything like the real story except maybe the town. Going by what others have said about the movie with name change, rape, and boys doing the torturing. But I will watch the movie and get it out of my head that it is Sylvia’s story.

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