The New Daughter
by Jef Burnham
Coming to DVD and Blu-ray on May 18, 2010 from Anchor Bay Entertainment.
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Anchor Bay Films presents the directorial debut of Luis Berdejo (screenwriter of REC and Quarantine) in the form of The New Daughter, a classy new horror-thriller starring Kevin Costner and Ivana Baquero (Pan’s Labyrinth). Costner stars as John James, a recent divorcee who moves with his children to a small town to start a new life together. But the move has unforeseen effects on his daughter Louisa (Baquero), whose increasingly bizarre behavior goes beyond typical teenage angst and may in fact be connected to a mysterious, ancient mound located on their property.
The New Daughter is not for those in need of a scare a minute. There is instead a wonderfully slow, suspenseful build to the film’s climactic moments, which are entirely contingent on our first connecting with the characters. For this reason, the earlier acts of the film are all about the family dynamic as John attempts to find his footing as a single parent and his children struggle to come to terms with their new home and their mother’s abandonment. This shows not only a respect on screenwriter John Travis’s part for the humanity which fuels real horror stories, but a respect for the audience’s intelligence in presenting us with something so far removed from what we’ve come to expect from the modern horror film. And those able to invest in these characters are rewarded with a smartly written and intensely effective thriller.
The film is certainly not without its problems though. The cinematography, for instance, though for the most part solid and richly framed, occasionally strays into awkwardly symmetrical framings of the characters for which I could scarcely find the justification. But these things are easily forgivable when an honestly good horror film comes along— a rare thing to be sure in these days of endless sequels, remakes and reimaginings.
The special features on both the DVD and Blu-ray include audio commentary with Luis Berdejo, 20 deleted/extended scenes, a theatrical trailer and an 11-minute behind-the-scenes featurette. One note on the behind-the-scenes featurette: if you watch this on the Blu-ray release, you will see a severe drop in the video quality from the HD picture of the feature itself to a blurry, almost VHS quality, standard definition. Even the cut-scenes from the feature used in the featurette are ruined, ending up stretched height-wise from the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio to accommodate the featurette’s 1.85:1 ratio. As a result, the featurette is very hard to watch.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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