3. Ruth Chandler - The Girl Next Door
And now, as promised, the second Jack Ketchum adaptation to make the list. The author's 1989 novel is truly among the most disturbing books of the past thirty years, not least because it is based upon real events - and it gives us one of the most reprehensible antagonists you're ever likely to come across.
While it's debatable as to whether director Gregory M Wilson's film quite manages to capture the sheer unspeakable horror of Ketchum's novel, actress Blanche Baker does tremendous work in the pivotal role of Ruth Chandler, another outwardly average person whose homely exterior masks a black well of hatred and cruelty.
Ruth's savage nature is revealed when her nieces are orphaned and sent to live with her. Taking an immediate dislike to elder niece Meg, Ruth's outspoken disdain soon gives way to physical abuse, and when Meg attempts to alert the police she finds herself imprisoned in the cellar, tied up from the rafters. Here, Ruth encourages her sons and other boys from the neighbourhood to torture the young woman.
For understandable reasons the film cannot show the full extent of the hideousness described in the novel, yet for the most part it does a great job conveying the same sense of despair and sorrow, and Baker's chilling turn as Ruth is vital to this.