The New Daughter
Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
US DVD Release Date: May 18, 2010
Theatrical Release Year: 2009
Rated: PG-13 (for thematic material including violence, disturbing images and brief strong language)
Running Time: 108 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 widescreen
Audio: English (PCM 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1)
Subtitles: English (SDH), Spanish
Movie: 2 out of 5
What the heck has happened to Kevin Costner's career? The actor got his first breaks in Kevin Reynolds' little-seen and under-appraciated Fandango and a star-making supporting role in Lawrence Kasdan's western Silverado, followed by a string of major box office hits in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including No Way Out, The Untouchables, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, and his Oscar-winning directorial debut, Dances With Wolves. It seemed as the century was drawing to an end, Costner's choices in screenplays were going from mediocre (Thirteen Days) to dreadful (Rumor Has It, Mr. Brooks).
With his latest film, The New Daughter, perhaps Costner is taking advice from fellow Wyatt Earp co-star Dennis Quaid, and giving the horror genre a chance to revitalize his career. After all, Horsemen and Legion were financially and artistically successful, right? (They weren't).
Costner plays John James, a novelist who is recently divorced and granted full custody of his 7 year old son Sam (Gaitlin Griffith) and 14 year old daughter Luisa (Ivana Baquero). He moves the family to a remote, sprawling estate in South Carolina, not knowing that the property has a reputation with the locals as being haunted by a large mound of dirt. Samantha Mathis has a small supporting role as Sam's teacher, who happens to be a fan of novelist James, and a potential love interest that is never fully developed, nor is the background of what the mound is and why it is supposedly haunted. Many of the scare tactics are old school, most of which are delivered by the sound designer by jolting the audience with sudden bursts of volume. To add insult to injury, the movie shamelessly even uses the Poltergeist font during the opening title sequence. By the time we get to the third act, the movie devolves into Attack of the Mole People as Costner dives head first into the mound to rescue his daughter, leaving us with an ending that that is not only unsatisfying, but sets up a possible sequel.
The movie is beautifully photographed by Checco Varese, with gorgeous greens and yellows, capturing the deep south in all its glory. The score by composer Javier Navarrete is at times haunting. Director Luis Berdejo tries his best to tell a compelling story, and perhaps his next film will be better, but the screenplay by John Travis (based on a short story by John Connolly) is unoriginal and dull.
Video: 4 out of 5
Checco Varese's cinematography comes across handsomely in this 1080p transfer using the VC-1 codec. Black levels are excellent, with very good detail during many of the darker sequences. Colors are well-saturated without bleeding, and compression artifacts are virtually non-existent.
Audio: 3.5 out of 5
There are two audio options on this disc, a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 448 kbps, and an uncompressed PCM 5.1 track. The PCM track has exceptional dynamic range, particularly over the Dolby track. Dialogue is intelligible, and channel separation is also very good. But the mix is just what you would expect from a horror film, relying more on jolting the audience with sudden bursts of sound.
Special Features: 2.5 out of 5
A brief documentary on the making of the film, some deleted scenes, director's commentary, and theatrical trailer make up the adequate but ho-hum package of special features.
The New Daughter: Behind The Scenes (10:53): The cast and crew try to make this a much more important film than it is, praising the script, Costner's performance, and Berdejo's direction. One scene they praise in particular isn't even in the final cut, nor is it included in the deleted scenes. Oddly, although this featurette is presented in standard definition anamorphic widescreen, clips from the feature appear anamorphically squashed.
Audio Commentary by Director Luis Berdejo: Berdejo has a very thick accent, and is often difficult to understand, but he does discuss at great lengths what went into making this film and explains some of the choices he made, including dissing the ending.
Deleted Scenes (22:25): A total of 20 deleted scenes can be viewed either individually or by selecting Play All, none of them add or detract from the film, and they are in such poor condition that are almost unwatchable.
Theatrical Trailer (2:18): Provided in 1080p high definition.
Overall: 2.5 out of 5
The New Daughter is yet another in a string of disappointments from former box office star Kevin Costner. The Blu-ray has excellent video, along with a very good (but uninspired) sound mix, and the usual special features. Rent this one first, if you must.