DVD Review: THE NEW DAUGHTER

Anchor Bay
Release date: May 18th, 2010
SRP: $29.96

Director: Luis Berdejo
Writers: John Travis (screenplay), John Connolly (short story)
Stars: Kevin Costner, Ivana Baquero, Samantha Mathis, Gattlin Griffith

John James (Kevin Costner) is an author that is recently divorced and suffering from writer’s block. As the film begins, he has taken custody of his children, Louisa (Ivana Baquero) a teenager and Sam (Gattlin Griffith) and younger boy, and has moved to Mercy, South Carolina. Louisa is not pleased with this and John starts to learn just how nasty an annoyed teenager can be. John is not close to his children and now he must bond with them after dragging them into the middle nowhere…smart move, buddy.

But shortly after arriving, Louisa behavior moves beyond your standard petulant teen to downright weird. Among other things, she becomes rather obsessed with a strange mound nearby. John starts to think that her increasingly freakish behavior is linked to the mound. He may be able to handle an angry teenager, but realizes that a demonicly possessed one is not something to kid about!

Upon doing some research, John learns a little more about the mound and realizes that he must explore the mound if he has any hope of reclaiming his daughter.
TND is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it is wonderfully shot and looks good. But the pacing is so-so and the screenplay is less than impressive. Costner does an ok job (and should we really ask for more from him?) and Baquero is good in her English language debut, but they are still handcuffed by weak dialogue. One particularly goofy bit has John being upset with Louisa for saying sucks. Yes, sucks is an awful swear word, but the son asks what does suck mean? So not only is he struggling with a surly teenager, but an apparently stupid son.

The film is not all bad and with a better screenplay, I think this could have been quite good. As it is, it is a moderately enjoyable film that goes against the current trend of horror films merely being one gore-filled scene after another. At times, it does a fine job of building tension and creating some eerie situations.

Extras:
There is a commentary track with director Luis Berdejo. This is not an easy thing to listen to. I enjoyed the info he had to offer about the choice of shots and his goals with the story, but his heavy accent makes this tough to sit through. I found myself backing up more than once in hopes of figuring out what was said. In all honesty, I gave up about two-thirds of the way into the film.

We also get a featurette that is your standard promotional segment, some deleted scenes that actually help the film as we get some key backstory info as well as a theatrical trailer.

While I may sound overly critical, The New Daughter is better than much of the horror films out there. I just wish the screenplay was stronger. Fans of the genre will likely have a good time.