Right off the bat I’d like to say I have no idea why this was sent direct to DVD and Blu-ray. This movie is better than most of the horror that goes into theaters. Plus, it’s PG-13. It has a recognizable and Academy Award winning actor in it. It was unfair to put it straight to video. That said, it’s not perfect, but it is surprisingly much better than one might expect and beautifully shot.
John (Costner), a recently divorced father of two, moves with his children to a new house in rural South Carolina. Things are tough for the family as the divorce weighs heavily on them all, most notably teenaged Louisa. She takes refuge in exploring the woods near the house, finding a mysterious mound that she can’t quite stay away from. Soon she’s behaving strangely and John needs the help of a shotgun to sort this one out.
There is some leeway here, as some things are left a touch open ended. I can safely say that at least three people died, possibly two or so more.
Not too aggressive on the gore front though. We see a dead cat (good effects, it’s gross), a sliced throat, some puking, and some blood. There’s also a dead body and severed arm to round it out.
Nothing worth pitching a tent over.
Being a family pet in a PG-13 horror movie is always a bad shake for the animal.
The New Daughter doesn’t tread much new ground for the first 80 or so minutes of its 104 minute run time, but the ground it does cover is covered well. The film is beautifully shot and looks like it had some money behind it. For straight to DVD, it’s astounding to look at. Something must have changed along the way, because the film looks really fantastic, which shines through on the Blu-ray.
I’m a Kevin Costner fan (blow me) and he does excellent work here, like usual. He plays the same understated, casual kind of character he’s known for, though when it’s time to turn it up a notch or two, he seamlessly shifts gears. There’s a reason the guy won an Academy Award, and even here in some PG-13 thriller, you can see why.
I had three issues with the film, two of which are minor things, the other is what lowers its grade a bit. First, the gun. When the gun first shows up, the youngest child finds it and there is a tense freak-out moment. It’s an effective scene, but why any family would have such a stressed out response to finding a gun is beyond me. To continue the over-reaction, John then disassembles the shotgun and buries it in the yard. Though, we must assume he’s familiar with the gun for he did disassemble it and then later he rebuilds it and uses it rather effectively.
My second issue was some creepy black and white imagery towards the end. It’s like half-memory and half-dream stuff, and while its shot very well and is effectively creepy, it didn’t rock my world. I’m not sure if it was necessary, it just came off as one of those “this is what scary movies do” moments.
Finally was the finale. I was surprised at the direction the film took in the final twenty minutes and was totally on-board. My complaint comes with the very final scenes. If you’ve read my reviews before, you might know what I’m getting at, but I won’t spoil it. The ending didn’t seal the deal for me. I would have much rather had a more upbeat ending. Even in horror movies, a little hope never hurts.
But speaking of the end, I will reveal this part, because it’s awesome. Most of the time you’re watching this, you’re just thinking its some standard “my daughter has gone bad or is possessed” stuff, but then with twenty or so minutes to go – dirt dwelling monsters. HELL YEAH. And you know what Kevin Costner does if dirt dwelling monsters get up in his house? He loads up his 12 gauge and gives ‘em a barrel.
I was stoked to see this turn as I’m a huge monster movie fan.
In the end, this is a cut above your average straight to home video stuff. It features a great performance by Costner, beautiful cinematography, and a few scary moments. Couple that with some practical monsters and a shotgun and this is an effective flick that is a good border film for horror and non-horror fans alike. I say give it a watch.