Dumping a movie in limited theaters is one thing, but these top-secret annihilations are becoming all too common. I’m not going to complain when I have the opportunity to plop down $5 to see a brand spanking new horror movie that arrives out of the clear blue sky, but sometimes I have to wonder why they even bothered? I guess it’s just to make the producers smile knowing that their baby went into theaters — even if no one came for the party? Such the case with Gold Circle’s The New Daughter, which Anchor Bay secretly dumped in theaters this past Friday. Directed by REC co-writer Luis Berdejo, it’s no wonder there was no reception, in fact, I don’t understand why it didn’t isn’t go direct-to-disc.
In the film a father (Kevin Costner) and his two kids (one supposedly adopted so they could cast Pan’s Labyrinth‘s Ivana Baquero as the daughter) move into a new home in rural South Carolina that’s anything but normal. Deep in the backyard is a mound that holds some terrifying secrets.
The mound, which has adverse effects on his daughter Louisa (Baquero), isn’t creepy to say the least, but according to the movie is still of historic importance. The idea is that although it looks normal, something is going on with this mound. But what’s hilarious is that it’s super-duper important, apparently, and that it shouldn’t be destroyed. If it’s such an important artifact, why is it there and why has no one discovered it yet? You’d say, “because no one saw it before, duh,” and I’d say, “you’re 100% incorrect young chap.” I hate when movies use the internet as a device to move the plot forward. It’s weak sauce and lazy. In New Daughter, Costner learns of this mound on the internet, and of the family that lived there before. This pushes the plot forward and gives Costner the motivation to (finally) investigate.
In other script problems, I’m pretty sure the son Sam James (Gattlin Griffith) has some serious mental issues. One of my favorite unintentionally funny lines is when Louisa is reprimanded by her father for saying something “sucks” (because apparently that’s a bad word), to which Sam follows up with, “What does ‘suck’ mean?” AMAZING. Not even a few minutes later John is alerted when there are screams in the other room. To his surprise Sam is wielding a shotgun he found in the piano. The kid is freaking out; he’s got a gun in his hand! He doesn’t know what to do with it, so he just keeps swinging it around and pointing it at people while his father is screaming at him to put it down. It’s a remarkable sequence that tells the take of The New Daughter, a well-shot thriller that’s damaged by a lameoid screenplay.
Spoiler Alert! To make matters worse, at the tail-end of the film, John crawls into the mound in hopes of finding his kidnapped daughter. He winds through many underground “ant-like” tunnels until he discovers her and is rushed out by attacking creatures. Now, nothing exciting happens, nothing at all. He doesn’t find the corpse of the previously kidnapped girl, and he doesn’t find creepy baby monsters. End Spoiler.
And the fact that Louisa is transforming and nothing cool happens is insanely aggravating. With such a Cronenberg-esque tone, why wouldn’t she as least lose some nails, teeth or maybe even have some hair fall out? If you’re going to draw a parallel between her “coming-of-age” (she has her first period) and her transforming into a creature, why not have something happen more than a little rash on her neck?
These problems are what make The New Daughter creep along like a real ant. It’s barely engaging, tough to watch at times, and straight-up boring. If anything, Daughter feels like a made-for-TV movie that would eventually hit SyFy or get dumped on DVD (which it should have). It’s a damn shame too because I would have loved to see what Luis Berdejo could do with a solid screenplay. File this one under “watch when there’s nothing else around.” Mediocre at best.