Directed by: David Greene
Written By: Mel Frohman and Ross Firestone,
Starring: Tracey Gold, Sharon Gless, Tom Irwin
Originally produced for CBS in 1998, The Girl Next Door is a decent time waster about the perils of a weak spirit coerced into committing murder in the name of love – or so she believes.
Tracey Gold has played victim, predator, hero... you name it. Her baby faced, slightly frumpy appearance allows her to take on all kinds of various Lifetime-esque roles, and how can someone not appreciate that? Although I prefer when she’s the psycho, I do like her as various other characters too...
But in The Girl Next Door she’s about as weak a wet paper bag, barely finding any real strength at the end. She plays Annie Nolan, a sweet but naïve girl in a bad relationship. One day a neighbor calls the police when Annie is getting the verbal beat down from her mancub and Officer Craig Mitchell (Tom Irwin) shows up to right the wrongs. He’s older, he’s nice and he’s pretty cute, so after she leaves her boyfriend and Craig "magically" reappears, they start a sweet romance. Annie soon finds out that Craig is married, but she buys every line like she’s at a sale at Anthropologie. He promises it’s a loveless marriage, but also that he can’t leave because she’ll take his kids. Somehow Craig talks Annie into killing his wife and as luck would have it, Annie is pretty good at it (finally, she’s good at something!). After the murder she soon moves into Craig’s life in a more public way, but the guilt eats away at her and after some time Annie starts to suspect that she’ll be Dead Wife #2.
The Girl Next Door is told mostly through flashbacks as Annie recounts her tale to Dr. Gayle Bennett (Sharon Gless). The cops are brought in, but since Craig is one of the boys in blue himself, Annie is reluctant to involve him too much in her confession. At this point, Annie is supposed to become She-Woman, and I guess in some minor respect she does, but it’s all kind of a letdown.
This would end up being director David Greene’s last film. Usually Greene had a flair for this kind of material, having directed many incredible thrillers such as A Vacation in Hell and Rehearsal for Murder among others. He also made some wonderful dramas as well (Friendly Fire, Roots, etc.) so perhaps that‘s why we end up with such an uneven film. It can’t decide whether it wants to be a thriller or a drama and ends up stuck in that gray area in between. I think it would have worked better as an out and out thriller because the premise is solid, but needs more guts to completely engage its audience. Of course it does feature Tracey in a ski mask packing heat, so not all is lost.