Directed by Larry Wade Carrell, who previously directed the horror-thriller Jacob, ‘Girl Next‘ is a 2021 horror thriller starring Marcus Jean Pirae, Paula Marcenaro Solinger and Carrell himself. Lacey Cofran plays Lorian, a suburban girl who finds herself kidnapped while on her way to a supermarket and brainwashed to become part of a fringe cult. As the psychological and sexual games of the cultists reach a precipice, Lorian races to preserve her mind and break free of her chains. An odyssey of blood and death ensues as Lorian goes up against the cultists, a local sheriff and a fellow brainwashed inmate in order to win her freedom.
Running at a brisk of 100 or so minutes, ‘Girl Next’ has the right amount of violence and psychological games to give its disturbing narrative justice. Carrell has populated the story with nuanced characters who are challenged in a variety of ways. Marcus Jean Pirae and Paula Marcenaro Solinger play the husband and wife cultists with manipulative energy that proves to be almost insurmountable for the protagonist Lorian. Carrell himself plays Sheriff Maddox with a nastiness that immediately fills the screen with dread. However, the star of the show is undoubtedly Lacey Cofran, who does her ‘innocent victim turned into an unstoppable vengeful force’ arc justice.
Visually, the film could have done with better lighting in dimly lit scenes. However, this is nothing to complain about considering the indie nature of the production. The background score is more than serviceable as well, keeping the audiences on their toes with tracks that evoke mystery and evil. Carrell’s direction is a lot better here compared to his two previous outings. Carrell feels much more in control of the pacing, and as a result, the tense sequences hit harder. The core story thread at the center of the film is the emancipation of Lorian from the mental and physical shackles placed upon her. Carrell develops this particular aspect of the film with care, allowing us to invest into the protagonist and care for her well-being.