Now, I’m no expert, but I imagine that there comes a time in every father’s life when his daughter becomes a stranger to him. That’s just a part of growing up. Some fathers accept this with grace and good humor while some resist it with everything they have—furthering the alienation between them and their daughters. Of course, when it’s some ancient, demonic force causing this rift (and, no, I don’t mean puberty) then it’s time to get the shotgun and go all Death Wish on some demonic ass.
That’s exactly what Kevin Costner does in his new direct-to-DVD movie, The New Daughter. Costner plays John, a recently divorced father of two looking to start a new life in a small South Carolina town. This is the first time John’s had to be a full-time dad and the pressures of that, the divorce, and the move strain his relationships with his kids, Louisa and Sam—especially Louisa. Angry at her mother for leaving them, Louisa lashes out at her most convenient target: her father. Things don’t get bad, though, until she returns home one night from visiting an ancient mound that lies on their property. The rift between her and her father becomes a canyon and she seems to lose herself in a new, different personality. And while this happens inside, outside the house something scurries in the dark, growling, prowling, waiting.
Costner phones this one in as John. His expression practically never changes and his voice rarely modulates from a bland, Midwestern drawl. The pain he feels over his divorce and the concern he feels for his children are indicated by him staring pensively out the window or at the computer screen.
The real star is Ivana Baquero as Louisa. She manages to be a believable teen girl without seeming overly bitchy or whiny, and it’s not surprising considering she played Ofelia in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labrynth (a much better movie than this one, I might add). She’s really what holds this movie together.
In and of itself, The New Daughter isn’t a bad movie—it’s just bland. The story idea is interesting, the plotting is solid, and the acting fine even with my complaints about Costner, but there’s nothing to elevate it beyond your standard tepid supernatural thriller. It feels almost, well, hollow; like it’s missing some imaginative spark or sense of passion about the story. It’s the difference between looking at a painting by numbers recreation of a Renoir and the real thing. The paint by numbers painting may be technically serviceable, but it lacks the wonderful creative energy that the true artist imparts to his creation. The New Daughter is a paint by numbers movie: it has all the right elements in the right places, but there’s no passion behind it, no sense that anyone involved cared anything about this movie other than getting a paycheck. It was enjoyable enough, but imminently forgettable.
Except for the ending, that is. I have a bone to pick with how the movie ended, so if you don’t want it spoiled, skip past this part to the technical specs. So, consider yourself warned. Spoilers on in T-minus:
At the end of the movie we find out that Louisa is being possessed by this ancient, pre-human race called the Walkers. The Walkers are like ants in that 99% of the population is male. In order to procreate, they perform some kind of mystical juju on an unsuspecting girl that slowly turns her into a Walker. When the process nears completion, the Walkers take that girl into their mound and you can see where this is going. Anyway, at the end of the movie, Kevin Costner rescues his daughter from the mound. He pours gasoline down into it so he can destroy them, but as he gets ready to light it, a Walker comes out of the woods and gets between Costner and his daughter. Costner figures its better for them all to die than his daughter become one of them, so he lights the gas, killing them all. While this is happening, his son, Sam, is waiting for them back at the house. He sees the fireball and then, from offscreen, we hear a Walker growling. The film fades to black, leaving us with the impression that Sam is seconds away from becoming a Walker kidwich.
Now, I have two major problems with this ending. First of all, I really hate it when children (Sam’s maybe ten at most) are killed in movies. There are times when this works, but most of the time it’s just too horrible a thought for me to contemplate. On a larger note, though, I despise when horror movies end with everybody dying at the end. This trend started with the wave of postmodern horror flicks that came out in the late seventies, early eighties; it didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now. I can’t tell if endings like this happen because the writer couldn’t figure out a way to properly end the movie or if he thought he was being edgy and cool. Whatever the reason, it’s a cop-out and it makes me feel like I just wasted an hour and a half of my life. It’s bad storytelling and I’m sick of it.
Okay, let’s go back to the review
The movie is presented in widescreen 2.34:1 aspect ratio with the audio in English Surround 5.1 and PCM 5.1. English and Spanish subtitles are provided for the hearing impaired and non-English speakers. The video quality is fine, but the sound was rotten. I had to turn my volume almost to the max in order to hear it and even then I put on the subtitles to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. I have no idea why the sound quality is so poor, but that’s inexcusable on a Blu-ray disc as far as I’m concerned.
You’ve got your standard grab-bag of extras: deleted scenes that should have stayed deleted, boring audio commentary, and a behind-the-scenes look that tells you everything you just saw. I’d skip these.
Audio Commentary with Director Luis Berdejo
The New Daughter: Behind the Scenes
Other than the ending, this isn’t a terrible movie. It has all the right pieces for a good movie, but they come together in a rather bland way. I could rattle off dozens of better supernatural thrillers than this that may by technically inferior, but possess a strength of vision and passion for the story that makes them far better than this film. Not recommended.
Anchor Bay Entertainment presents The New Daughter. Directed by: Luis Berdejo. Starring: Kevin Costner, Ivana Baquero, Samantha Mathis, and Noah Taylor. Written by: John Travis. Running time: 108. Rating: PG-13. Released on DVD: May 18, 2010. Available at Amazon.com.