Monday, 20 October 2014

The New Daughter (2009)

I'm in a very good mood. I must be, otherwise I'd simply spend this review ripping this movie apart, detailing how safe and predictable it is, and how disappointed I was by the whole thing. But I'm not going to do that. Despite its flaws, of which it has MANY, I found The New Daughter to be relatively enjoyable while it was on. It tried to do something a bit different. It just tried to do it, sadly, while reusing moments and tricks that we've all seen countless times before.

Kevin Costner stars as a single father who moves into a new home with his young daughter (Ivana Baquero) and younger son (Gattlin Griffith). He's single because his wife ran off with another man, which causes quite a bit of frustration and resentment among the kids, especially the daughter. While adjusting to their new life, Costner starts to notice that his daughter is starting to act strange. She's changing, but he's not sure if it's the stress of their situation or something else altogether. Maybe something to do with the mysterious mound of earth located on their property.

Based on a short story by John Connolly, the script by John Travis suffers from having too many scenes that feel like flab. Watching a loved one turn into someone very different from who they used to be is not a new idea in the horror genre, and it's hard to stretch this material out when the transformation seems to occur so quickly, and so obviously connected to the newest oddity in the lives of everyone involved.

Director Luiso Berdejo treats the whole thing with more care than it deserves, arguably, which makes up for the intermittent weakness of the material. There are fake scares, of course, and one or two jumps, but a lot of the thrills are well-handled, with even the few "twists" still managing to provide enjoyable closure to certain scenes/sequences, despite their predictability.

Costner is someone I will watch in anything, and he's fine here. It's not his finest hour, and the role could have been filled by almost any actor in his age range, but he does well enough. Baquero is okay, but okay isn't quite good enough for her part in the proceedings. While she doesn't ever become bad enough to unbalance the whole thing, she's the weakest of the three leads. Griffith, on the other hand, does very well with the lesser role. Samantha Mathis isn't bad either, as a teacher looking to help the family adjust to their new situation, and Noah Taylor is horribly underused, playing an expert in the sort of earth mound that sits on Costner's property.

I wouldn't recommend this to anyone as a first choice. It's not scary or gory or decent enough for horror fans, and it's a bit too sedate for non-horror fans who fancy watching a horror movie. But I still think it's worth a watch, if you have nothing else available. But I do mean NOTHING else.


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