As the Canadian catalogue of Netflix continues to increase, so does its number of hidden gems. Based on a recommendation, I checked out Luiso Berdejo's 2009 film The New Daughter. Berdejo's name may not be familiar, but he has played a significant part in the rise of Spanish horror in recent years, collaborating with Paco Plaza & Jaume Belaguero on their [REC] franshise.
After divorced writer John James (Kevin Costner) moves into a secluded estate, his daughter Louisa (Ivana Baquero) starts exhibiting some bizarre behaviour.
Striking out on his own, Berdejo's debut feature is an impressive outing. Out of all the possession films we have seen over the past few years, this is by far one of the most engaging. It is frustrating that this film received a paltry limited release, while something as painfully insipid as 2011's The Devil Inside was plastered on every street corner, digital ad and movie screen for months. Comparing those two films is a disservice to The New Daughter though. Berdejo's film more closely resembles last year's The Possession, in that it features a father trying to discern if his teenage daughter's erratic behaviour is normal, or whether there is something more sinister afoot.
Costner is terrific as the father struggling to keep the pieces of his uprooted family together, and the two children, always integral to a movie like this, are both solid in this. I have to especially commend Ivana Baquero on her performance. Even though her role as the title character didn't feature a ton of dialogue, there was a physicality to it that required a great talent. It wasn't until after that I realized she was also Ophelia in Pan's Labyrinth. What a difference three years can make!
|Ivana Baquero as Louisa James in The New Daughter.|
Perhaps what I most appreciated about this film was the inherent lack of CG. I have seen so many films of late overuse visual effects out of laziness, rather than necessity. Berdejo understood this, and it gives certain sequences way more resonance because of it. Although, I do have point out one scene toward the beginning of the film, when Louisa was looking out her window. I felt the film gave away much more information than was needed. Leaving it out would have prolonged the mystery of what we were actually dealing with for so much longer.
Speaking of the mystery, the lore of this film was well executed. It felt like an avenue that few films have travelled, making it somewhat unique. I'm not sure I liked how the film wrapped up, but there's no denying that last shot was a wonderful piece of filmmaking.
I highly recommend adding The New Daughter to your Netflix queue, as it features good performances, great sound design and a well told and fresh take on an old story.