2924. The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane (1976)

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7.5 An unsettling experience
  • Acting 7.7
  • Directing 7.7
  • Story 7.2
  • User Ratings (0 Votes) 0

Starring: Jodie Foster, Martin Sheen, Alexis Smith

Director: Nicolas Gessner

Running Time: 91 mins


The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane is an American film about a 13 year-old girl in an isolated house with a dark secret, which she will do anything to hide.

A striking little thriller that delivers strong intrigue and moments of real excitement, I really liked The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane. Combining elements of dark social and personal drama with streaks of horror, it’s a powerfully unsettling watch, but one with brilliant narrative depth throughout.

Above all, though, what really makes The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane such a great film is Jodie Foster. One of her earliest performances at the age of just 13, Foster is absolutely incredible throughout.

Not only does she give a brilliant portrayal of a precocious young girl who clearly has something to hide, but going one step further, and bringing her character’s clearly troubled past to light with an air of riveting mystery.

The way she holds her own against her older co-stars is both hugely impressive and enormously entertaining, forming the bedrock of some of the film’s most charismatic and engaging dialogue sequences.

Opposite Foster, Martin Sheen stands out with a horribly slimy turn as a major antagonist, really deepening the film’s unsettling and often deeply uncomfortable atmosphere.

Because, alongside its excellent performances, director Nicolas Gessner gives The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane a really unique tone. On the surface, it’s an eerie New England horror-thriller, with cagey tension and unpredictability throughout.

But dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover that The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane touches on some very dark and very real issues, from paedophilia to personal independence and more. With that, Gessner’s direction and the core themes really make the film a whole lot more than just an eerie thriller.

Saying that, however, there are times when the film really misses the mark with its central thriller plot. There’s a lot more going on beneath the surface, so the film never stalls entirely, but the way that the plot unfolds in the latter half of the film is a pale imitation of the exhilarating opening half.

The movie gets off to a mesmerising start, with a deeply unsettling encounter between Foster and Sheen in the opening few minutes. From there, it builds and builds with tension and unpredictability, surrounding a dark secret that this young girl is so clearly hiding in her house.

The problem, however, is that the movie really jumps the gun in revealing the secret, not retaining that striking air of mystery and equally unpredictability all the way to the finish. As a result, the final act is a little underwhelming in comparison.

The exception to that is the film’s very last scene, which is a genius climax that features all the drama, tension, rollercoaster unpredictability and darkly unnerving atmosphere that the film could have done with all the way through.

So, there are times when The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane doesn’t quite deliver the intensity and powerful unpredictability that its story could perhaps provide at best.

Still, with a strikingly unsettling atmosphere, strong thematic depth, powerful direction and fantastic performances, The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane is an engrossing and at times exhilarating watch, so that’s why I’m giving it a 7.6 overall.

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About Author

The Mad Movie Man, AKA Anthony Cullen, writes articles and reviews about movies and the world of cinema. Since January 1st, 2013, he has watched and reviewed a movie every day. This is the blog dedicated to the project: www.madmovieman.com