Thursday, January 18, 2007

Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door

One of the most disturbing books I have ever read (and we know that's saying something) has been turned into a film. Dallas Mayr, AKA Jack Ketchum, wrote a fictional account of the gruesome 1965 killing of Sylvia Likens. What makes the story -- both the true story and Ketchum's novel -- so stunning is the nature of the crime: she had been horribly beaten and mutilated over months by a gaggle of neighborhood kids supervised by the woman at whose house Sylvia and her sister were boarded by their carny parents. It still stands as Indiana's most shocking crime.

Ketchum's novel is remarkable for its beauty as well as its horror; he captures a lost time of innocent childhood that falls slowly but inexorably into unimaginable degredation. The typical reaction to unthinkable events like this is to stop at the question "how?" Through the young main character, the reader falls down that particularly terrifying rabbit hole, too. I've known so many people who read it and said that they wished they could stop reading it, but couldn't. The awful banality of evil -- that it might take only an unexpected opportunity to bring it out -- is the real chilling heart of the tale.

It promises to be a harrowing film. The script by Phil Nutman and Dan Farrands has been pronounced by Ketchum to be superb, and it's produced by Andrew van den Houten ("Little Mary"). It's hard to believe that they don't have a distributor yet, though they may be in at Tribeca (fingers crossed). If you're interested in seeing this on the big screen, help spread the buzz! You can read more at Fangoria


Unknown said...

OK, now I really need to read The Girl Next Door...!

But I'd always considered this to be "Indiana's most shocking crime."

Anonymous said...

Some explain to me the "When it rains, it pours" phenomenon!! It seems An American Crime tells the Sylvia Likens story as well. It is scheduled for Sundance 2007.

C. Margery Kempe said...

Yup -- and it will no doubt get a big push from star Catherine Keener which is a shame, because I doubt it will capture the same verisimilitude this fictional version does. They always reshape the "real" story in these based on reality tales -- why not have the version written by a real writer rather than a committee?