The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)

littlegirlposterDay 14’s selection for 31 Days of Horror is another flick I’m hesitant to call horror. The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane certainly has some creepy elements you’d find in a horror movie, but I feel it is better labeled a mystery/suspense/thriller. Even those might be a little strong, though; honestly it’s kind of a hard movie to pinpoint. And that, as Martha Stewart would say, is a “good thing.”

Jodie Foster plays Rynn, a precocious thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her famous poet father in a rented house in the country. Strange thing about dad, though: he won’t even come out of his study to celebrate Rynn’s birthday, which happens to fall on Halloween. Instead, she lights the candles on her birthday cake all alone. When the landlord’s son Frank Hallet (Martin Sheen) stops by with a lame excuse involving his kids and trick-or-treating, Rynn is not happy to see him. He keeps asking where her father is, and she insists he can’t be disturbed while he’s working. Frank musn’t be too concerned, because he lamely attempts to grope Rynn right before hightailing it outta there.

Rynn's birthday cake.

Rynn’s birthday cake.

So, right off the bat we are faced with a few troubling issues, namely Frank is a pedophile and Rynn’s father, if he’s around at all, obviously isn’t around enough to protect her. However, it’s pretty clear from the first interaction that Rynn, though she may only be thirteen years old, is quite capable of thinking fast and taking care of herself. Still, things get a little dicier when Mrs. Hallet comes snooping around, presumably looking for jelly jars in the cellar, though it seems pretty clear she’s far more interested in judging Rynn and her father. Mrs. Hallet may be a mean old bitch, but Rynn’s reaction to her asking to get to the cellar for the jelly jars is a resounding and over-the-top “NO.” Mrs. Hallet is beside herself with anger, and vows to report Rynn to the school board for not being at school, among other things. And again, where the hell is Rynn’s dad?

Rynn & Mrs. Hallet standoff.

Rynn & Mrs. Hallet standoff.

There’s a lot going on in Little Girl, and I really don’t want to spoil it; it is definitely a movie that is better the less you know about it going in the first time. I knew pretty much zip going in and I have to say I was really impressed with it. Jodie Foster, it should come as no surprise, is fantastic in this role; who better to cast as a thirteen-year-old that is wise beyond her years than an actress who is herself wise beyond her years? Throughout the movie we know that Rynn is keeping secrets, and even in the moment when she is at her most vulnerable and shares those secrets with a new friend, we still wonder if there isn’t more she’s hiding, or worse still if she’s intentionally lying. Foster does an excellent job at keeping us wondering; especially at the end of the flick. Martin Sheen also plays a fantastic creep! I truly hated his character and desperately wanted him to suffer.

I really dug this movie. I must reiterate that it is not exactly a horror movie, so if you’re looking for gore of any kind, you just aren’t going to find it (except for a bit of animal cruelty, which I’m sure no one will take pleasure in). What you will find is a feeling of suspense unlike most films; rather than focused on the plot, the suspense in Little Girl is more focused on Rynn’s character and whether or not we’ll actually find out her true nature. I felt so engaged with this movie from beginning to end, and remembered what a rare occurrence that actually is. Definitely check this one out.


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