There are plenty of times throughout the approximately 100-minute runtime of Girl Next that audience members will be asking themselves, audibly, “WTF?” Stick with it, as the strange, eerie horror flick, directed by Larry Wade Carrell written by Zeph E. Daniel, manages to tell an intense, harrowing story that is as hard to watch as it is utterly bizarre, in the best possible way, of course.
Lorian (Lacey Cofran) is going about her day when she’s kidnapped. The beautiful young woman wakes up in a countryside manor run by the unhinged and cruel Misha (Paula Marcenaro Solinger) and the sexually abusive and delusional Heinrich (Marcus Jean Pirae). These human traffickers don’t just take women off the streets and sell them off. No, they use mind control techniques and hallucinogenic drugs to transform these people into docile beings with nary a distinct personality called ‘Sofia dolls.’
But, Heinrich and Misha might have gotten more than they can handle in Lorian, as she puts up more of a fight than expected. When corrupt sheriff Maddox (Larry Wade Carrell) tries to have his way with Lorian, she injures him. Complicating the traffickers’ plans even further is Charlotte (Rachel Alig), their daughter (maybe?), who takes a liking to their latest victim. As such, she helps Lorian break the mind control and scheme a way to escape.
“…they transform these people into docile beings with nary a distinct personality called ‘Sofia dolls.'”
Due to the nature of the story, involving mind alterations on several levels, one might be confused by certain scenes or moments throughout Girl Next. Who is that invisible person? Is he/she/it/they real or brought on by the drugs? What is with the Necrobilly, and how does he factor into the ‘Sofia doll’ program? Many of the sequences gain a creepy but hypnotic air, as audiences work to pick the reality from the unreality at almost every turn. The film has shockingly high rewatchability because of these, as there’s no way to unpack it all after a single viewing.
Helping matters considerably is the entire cast, who all deliver idiosyncratic but lively and fully committed performances. Cofran is perfectly cast as the pretty, determined, manipulative (to say more would spoil a bit) Lorian. She ably grounds everything, as much as it can be anyway, so those watching always have a realistic, three-dimensional protagonist to root for. This is important due to the sheer grandiose style, and a different actor could have been swallowed whole by the risky, over-the-top style, but not her.
As the evil duo, Pirae and Solinger are all manic, deranged, and downright creepy. They are the kind of villains one loves to hate, and as the narrative amps up the crazy, so to do they turn up the insanity. But the actor who runs away with every scene is Rachel Alig as the helpful (?), crazy (?), entirely odd Charlotte. Every moment she’s on screen is a sheer delight as the actor brilliantly finds the right mix of over-the-top and relatability.
Girl Next is not for everyone, as it’s a bit esoteric, and the subject matter may turn off potential viewers as it is a tough watch on occasion. But Carrell helms the production with finesse and style to burn, ensuring a lovely looking, if grotesque, take on monsters who unfortunately exist in the real world. The screenplay plays around with big ideas in a brilliant and engaging matter, and it is all brought to life by a pitch-perfect cast who innately understands the material.
"…has shockingly high rewatchability..."