‘The New Daughter’ Review
It’s a very watchable horror movie but low-key horror that keeps you entertained.
While most horror movies are leaning towards clichés and the same old ghost stories in order to keep things safe, you’ve got to give some props to Kevin Costner starring ‘The New Daughter’ which tries to bring something new to the table that hasn’t been done before. And even though it’s ultimately flawed because of being too low-key and deliberately paced for the most part, it’s a very watchable horror movie that keeps you entertained throughout the runtime.
A single father (Kevin Costner) moves with his two kids to a secluded house in rural South California after a messy separation. But the transition isn’t easy as his daughter finds it extremely hard to adjust to a new school and environment, slowly becoming outcast and aloof. But as time moves on, the father begins to notice strange behavior in her as she comes home in a strange condition after playing outside. As the situation worsens, he begins to connect her bizarre behavior to a strange ancient burial mound outside the house.
One of the most common and overused concepts in horror movies is about a family moving into a new house and strange events begin to occur. It has given us a lot of classic movies, but has also given us very lazy ones that end up not bringing anything new to the table. This is also true about movies with fathers as protagonists and the kids being affected, so the odds were stacked against ‘The New Daughter’ from the get-go. Fortunately for the movie, it’s well aware of these clichés that from the surface look evident. But it has a few unique tricks up its sleeve that jaded audiences will appreciate as the movie goes on, liking the fact that for once it’s not the same old ghost story about a person wrongfully murdered and now avenging themselves. It’s certainly based on something that as far as I know hasn’t been explored on film yet.
The movie moves with a pretty slow pace and has a lot of set-up before it really gets going. The first half basically deals with the family settling in and trying to adjust back to normal life as the father tries to keep everything running as it should. The movie doesn’t drag per se and the scenes are well-done in terms of characterization, but unfortunately the main problem with the movie is that so much setup leaves no room for an actual pay-off. Don’t get me wrong – there is a finale here where things are explained and a resolution happens. But there are just so many scenes of the mystery building that the third act should’ve clearly been more impactful and longer than what we got. Because of that, you can’t really call this one a pure horror movie but more of a slow-burn thriller that only enters horror territory in the short third act.
But there are a few things it deserves credit for, one of which is a great visual look and setting that adds a lot of the effect it’s trying to achieve. The way the mystery slowly builds and how the information is doled out to the audience in pieces is well-done except again in the third act where one character comes and lazily explains the entire plot to the characters. Even the explanation itself is pretty new as I previously mentioned and even though a lot of mystery is deflated when the ‘reveal’ actually happens, the tension is held all the way through. Also props to the extremely bold ending that these kinds of studio horror movies almost never take the risk of. I wouldn’t say it was completely necessary to end it that way, but I’m glad they didn’t shy away from what they had in mind.
Kevin Costner is far from the star that he was years back anymore, and now that gives him the opportunity to act is smaller horror movies and other independent fare that he’s been recently doing. He gives a suitably strong performance here although there was a distinct lack of passion for the role than I would have thought. It looked like he was just sleepwalking through the role, although he pulled himself together all the way to the finale. The rest of the cast does a great job with the material, but the focus is squarely on Costner for the most part.
‘The New Daughter’ is a good little horror movie to watch on a Friday night but it’s nothing you’ll remember after a few days. But sometimes, even that much is too much to ask from today’s horror movies.