I have to admit that, when gearing up to watch The New Daughter, I wasn’t expecting too much from the film. I mean, here was a movie boasting a bona fide superstar lead in Kevin Costner, as well as Pan’s Labyrinth’s Ivana Baquero, and it didn’t so much as get a cup of coffee in cinemas. As a matter of fact, I’d not heard a single thing about the flick until I received a press release for it just a few months ago, announcing its then-impending DVD/Blu-ray release, and, even then, I had a hard time finding much of anything about it online, let alone other people who’d seen it. Seeing as how Costner wouldn’t be the first A-list actor to lure me into a Z-grade movie, I put this one in figuring it would make for nice background noise while I gave my dog a haircut. A few minutes into the film, I’d forgotten about the dog completely (well, I did manage to trim off a bit above one eye), and found myself thoroughly engrossed in what turned out to be a creepy, crafty, and surprisingly good horror yarn.
Costner stars as John James, a writer who relocates to South Carolina along with his two children – 14 year old Louisa (Baquero), and 7 year old Sam (Gattlin Griffith) – after a messy divorce. The children are particularly affected by the split, as their mother wants nothing to do with them, and Louisa has taken it especially hard. She also resents John for moving her away from her friends, and, as the family settle into their new home, she becomes increasingly angry and detached until the discovery of a mysterious mound on their property sparks her interest. Louisa begins to spend a lot of time at the mound, oftentimes coming home long after dark, covered in leaves and mud. She grows even more defiant, getting into trouble at school, and verbally lashing out at John at home. At first, John chalks it up to typical teen rebellion, especially given all that Louisa’s been through these past few months, but, as Louisa’s behavior grows more erratic, and the sordid history of their new home comes to light, John realizes that he’s dealing much more than mere puberty, and the answer lay buried beneath the mound.
Now that I’ve seen the film, I can say that I’m not surprised that The New Daughter didn’t get a theatrical release. That isn’t to say that I don’t think that the film is worthy of one; I just think that a thoughtful, intimate little horror flick like this is much better suited to home viewing. Despite this being an English language production, director Luis Berdejo (co-writer of [REC]) gives The New Daughter a decidedly Spanish look and feel, lending it the same gothic sensibilities and classic-horror vibe as other recent Spanish exports like The Orphanage and Shiver. Berdejo does a fine job maintaining a constant level of tension and unease that really sets up the film’s nifty final act, and our investment in its outcome is heightened by a trio of really strong performances by Costner, Baquero, and Griffith. While some would suggest that Costner’s “slumming” by appearing in a genre film such as this, I actually think this is one of his better performances in quite some time, and it’s a shame that hardly anyone got a chance to see it. Here’s to hoping that changes now that The New Daughter’s available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Anchor Bay brings The New Daughter to Blu-ray in a beautiful 2.35:1 1080p transfer that boasts exceptional detail that is immediately evident during the opening credits sequence. Here we see a montage of pastoral landscape and architecture, with everything from tall grass and swaying cypress trees to chicken wire fences and southern gothic houses, all displayed in stunning clarity and detail. Colors are rich and vibrant, and blacks, for the most part, are lush and well-contrasted, although, on occasion, I did notice an occasional bit of wash-out and an overabundance of grain. Otherwise, this is a fantastic transfer and an unexpected surprise.
The audio is only slightly less impressive. The 5.1 PCM soundtrack is fairly subdued, and I found myself straining to hear the dialogue, at times, even at high volume. I also found the bass lacked punch, taking a bit away from some of the more action-oriented sequences. I did quite enjoy the surround mix, however, and found the directional effects and myriad ambient sounds quite immersive and effective.
Extras include a feature-length commentary track with director, Berdejo, as well as a short behind-the-scenes featurette, a collection of deleted scenes, and trailers for this and other Anchor Bay releases.
The New Daughter won’t wow gorehounds or folks looking for boo-scares and high body counts, but for those who appreciate subtle chills and creepy atmosphere, this film will be sure to satisfy. Anchor Bay’s Blu-ray presentation offers fantastic image quality, immersive sound, and a light-but-satisfying collection of supplements that make this disc an easy recommendation.