The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)
As refreshing as thirty year old films come, made at a time when artistic freedom was not only valued in Hollywood, but all but the norm. The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane is a film deriving from genre conventions, but made free from these rules. It is a film about moral issues, but completely free of moralizing. And it's a film about exploitation, but without being exploitative - almost. (Because the talk of the town was 13-year-old Jodie Foster's butt, which was really her 20-year-old sister's butt. This is a discussion about film production, however, not the artwork itself, and thus largely irrelevant - especially 35 years later).
The real relevance here lies in the film's two atypical approximations of standards; one formal, one thematic. The former concerns how the film uses the typical build-up and expectations of the horror genre to create a tension which is never released as expected in this genre. This gives the film a level and type of suspense which sets it apart and gives it its own, vibrant identity; an eerie mystery with integrity. The latter concerns how the film treats the title character (who is brilliantly and maturely portrayed by Jodie Foster): like an adult in every respect; precisely in order to contrast and thereby slightly criticize (or at least question) the society's perception of her. How can a 13-year-old girl live alone? The society treats this as a deviation; the film itself makes no fuss about it, handles it with face value. And this conflict gives The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane a relevance which is not an ounce reduced today. The sensible direction by Nicolas Gessner adds to the effect, and so does the whole-hearted performances by young Scott Jacoby as the boyfriend, and Martin Sheen as the creepy guy next door.