DVD Review: The New Daughter (2009)

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Is it wicked PMS or is Louisa possessed? While [REC] and Quarantine screenwriter Luis Berdejo’s directorial debut reveals the answer in the film’s title of The New Daughter, thriller and horror audiences used to the way the genre uses allegory will no doubt catch the underlying moral of the tale as Kevin Costner’s worried single father John James tries his best to understand the changes occurring in the behavior of his fourteen year old daughter Louisa (Pan’s Labyrinth star Ivana Baquero).

Having been largely absent in the life of Louisa and her seven year old brother Sam (Gattlin Griffith) until they were placed into his care by an unseen flaky, recent ex-wife, the bestselling author John is determined to not only make up for lost time but also put his kids before the first words of Chapter One of his new book.

To this end, he vows to protect them by any means necessary whether it’s in talking them out of danger when Sam stumbles on a rifle left by the previous owners or trying to forbid Louisa from incessantly wandering to a strangely erected mound in the woods surrounding their large farmland home.

And although normally playing outside wouldn’t be a cause for alarm, when Louisa begins sleepwalking and clutching strange voodoo like straw dolls, John fears that his previously loving daughter’s transformation might be tied somehow to the horrible rumors about the previous owners who occupied the same walls… as well as that bizarre mound.

Based on Irish author John Connolly’s short story and adapted by John Travis, The New Daughter is a half successful creep-fest that begins to lose audiences right after its second act since we know precisely where it’s headed, courtesy of not just the bad spoiler title but also from the earliest frames that hint at how a showdown with evil may occur. Likewise, since all of the plot surprises are exhausted early into the movie and we know exactly who will be left standing and why, eventually Daughter relies largely from creature feature effects as it rolls into a pretty terrifying finale that you won’t want to watch before bed.

Given the shock-a-minute slam-bang horror finale that feels mighty inconsistent to the lazily paced opening hour, I couldn’t help thinking that Daughter may have been far more successful as a movie if it’d been a short film, or if perhaps we’d received a secondary plot or additional characters that would’ve demanded more of an intellectual level involvement from viewers.

While fans of Pan’s Labrynth will love seeing the star in her first English language role and all in all it’s much more successful than a majority of incessantly trendy PG-13 horror remakes and sequels of American ‘80s movies and/or Asian thrillers, mostly you wish that actor Kevin Costner would’ve been able to use some of his own background as a filmmaker to get in touch with additional screenwriters etc. to make this straight-to-disc film earn a wider audience from word-of-mouth campaigns for its impending release.

Bolstered by the beautiful cinematography of Checco Varese who can do wonders with light and shadow, the DVD which features audio commentary with Berdejo, deleted footage and a behind-the-scenes featurette is quite impressive in its widescreen presentation and 5.1 surround sound, even if the film as a whole just doesn’t make us care enough about Louisa to worry about her character’s fate, which is a pretty significant flaw indeed.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.