Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Growing Pains

The New Daughter (2009, directed by Luiso Berdejo) is one of those orphaned movies that distributors like to stuff in a sack and throw off a bridge. It barely crept into theaters before being unceremoniously dumped on home video. It stars Kevin Costner, who doesn't really do horror movies, and with good reason. It's surprising to find him in this movie, actually. I guess his career has seen its best days. Still, it's not the debacle you would expect.

The story here finds Costner and his two children moving into an old plantation house in South Carolina. There's a mysterious earth mound on the property--a burial mound, perhaps--to which Costner's teenage daughter, Luisa (Ivana Baquero), is mysteriously drawn. Her behavior is increasingly odd, which Costner initially chalks up to puberty, but there's something darker at work. Something from the mound...

Costner isn't really suited to the horror movie, and he seems completely uncomfortable in this one. The movie becomes an exercise in patriarchal authority with Costner in the lead, with the subtext being the stifling of teenage daughters beneath the thumb of that authority. This is very much a horror movie for middle-aged white dudes. Ivana Baquero is better, but she has experience in monster movies, having starred in Pan's Labyrinth for Guillerom Del Toro, Fragile for Jaume Balaguero, and A Christmas Tale for Paco Plaza. She holds the screen against all comers in this movie. She's going to be a star, I think. Samantha Mathis, on the other hand, is pretty much wasted in a thankless roll as a schoolteacher/love interest, though she and Costner never generate any sparks.

This has the slow-burn mood of Spanish horror, which isn't surprising given that it was directed by one of the guys who wrote [•REC]. In truth, the slow burn is a bit too slow during the first half of the movie. It's a slog to get to the actual story. I suspect that this languorous pace is why it's distributor murdered it. The second half picks up a bit, as the movie slowly reveals its monsters. It has a classical structure when it comes to its creatures. It teases the audience with half-glimpses and it stages one monster attack behind a closed door a la The Leopard Man. The way the movie sets all this up leads the viewer to expect monsters that are insectile, but it bails on that idea in favor of boring men in a suit monsters that aren't a lot different than the monsters in The Burrowers. Again, there's a lack of imagination at the basic level of conception. The insect connection also suggests The Fly, and when Luisa starts to develop strange lesions, one expects her to undergo a transformation into, I dunno, an ant-queen/human hybrid, I guess, but the movie settles for a sullen-eyed teen-ager. It's kind of a disappointment.

Current tally: 11 films

First time viewings: 11

Around the web:

Mr. Gable soldiers on with Skinner and Rot.

Dr. AC posts another diary detailing his October ordeal, though any week that includes a revisit to Carpenter's Halloween is a good week.

The Vicar of VHS revisits Night of the Creeps and considers himself thrilled.

Bob Turnbull over at The Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind posts another batch of reviews, including his take on one of your humble bloginatrix's favorite movies, The Phantom of the Paradise.

J. Luis at W-Cinema moves on to Bleed, which sees Charles Band's Full Moon Entertainment turning into Shadow Entertainment.


J Luis Rivera said...

Wow! Sounds like something I'd actually like.

...though indeed the idea of Costner in a horror film is difficult to stomach at first.

I trully think Ivana Baquero will be a star someday. I'd go as far as to say that she'll become an Almodovar girl soon.

P.S. Thanks for the link!

insanislupus said...

You know, I didn't find this disappointing when I watched it, but I guess we're looking at it through a different lens.


I really need to re-re-name my blog to something that points out my incoherence.