The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane.

14 Apr

The 70’s was an interesting time for horror movies. Film lovers of the decade were bombarded with an array of sadistic story-lines, twisted under and overtones and gruesome special effects. Films made it into national distribution that would rival even today’s ‘Human Centipede’ horror standards, including the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Salem’s Lot, The Exorcist and A Clockwork Orange which was famously taken out of distribution for its explicit content.

the little girlWhile the different certification boards were up to their elbows in guts, gore and serial killers it seems that a few films slipped through the cracks when it came to being rated appropriately in relation to their subject matter. ‘The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane‘ (1976, Dir. Nicolas Gessner) is one of these films, which despite its psycho-sexual underpinnings and incredibly eerie feel received a PG rating on release. By today’s standards that would put it in the same ratings bracket as the not-to-be-mistaken-for-a-pantomime ‘OZ The Great and Powerful’. Gessner’s film is in one hell of a different bracket.

The film follows 13 year-old Rynn (played by Jodie Foster) who’s way of life comes into question when her landlady Mrs Hallett begins to question the whereabouts of her poet father. While trying to uphold her growing number of secrets, Rynn’s safety is repeatedly challenged when she comes up against predatory advances from Mrs Halletts son Frank (Martin Sheen).

the-little-girl-who-lives-down-the-laneNow it is difficult to write about this film without giving the plots development away, so I will have to speak in broad terms. From start to finish this film grabs your attention with Rynn’s situation intensifying scene-by-scene as her fathers whereabouts become increasingly suspect and the audience is left on a knife-edge at almost every juncture. Most notably what makes this film so great is Foster. Taking on roles at the youngest of ages that actors today wouldn’t touch with a ten foot barge pole, Foster cemented herself as one of the brightest stars of Hollywood throughout the 70’s and 80’s, and this films performance is no exception. Whats interesting is that the character and Jodie herself appear to have so much in common; charm, intelligence and a maturity beyond their years, which presumably would have been what attracted her to this role and so many others. She shines as Rynn and even though the storyline, taken from both the screenplay and novel written by Laird Koenig, is enough to keep you captivated she is the driving force of the film.

The-Little-Girl-Who-Lives-Down-The-Lane-1976-the-little-girl-who-lives-down-the-lane-29530979-714-350Sheen is also a huge presence as Frank Hallett. His performance as ‘the village paedophile’ is exceptional, well and truly getting under your skin with every twitchy movement and sexually authoritative advance made upon Rynn, all the while managing to gain a certain amount of sympathy from the audience for playing him as someone who is deeply damaged.

Aside from the films set and costume design being distinctly 1970’s (platform shoes and boldly patterned wallpapers) ‘The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane’ is timeless. Having been reluctantly under the radar for many years, presumably down to both its unattractive PG rating upon release and the influx of gore-driven horror movies bringing in the audiences, this well polished treat is finally being well received. With performances to die for and a tempo that doesn’t let up it is a prime example of my adapted philosophy to ‘not judge a film by its cover’.

Selling Point – Foster.

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