DECEMBER 22, 2009
Like Bruce Willis and Chevy Chase, one actor that gets my undying support is Kevin Costner. While I let a few of them pass me by (such as Rumor Has It), I do my best to see all of his films in theaters, which is why I am one of the maybe 17 people in the world who went to see 3000 Miles To Graceland. So when I heard about The New Daughter, I was pretty excited - Costner in a straight up horror movie? Mr. Brooks was a straight up thriller until its final 10 minutes, but this sounded like a full blown killer kid movie. Hell yes!
So it’s a shame that the film was completely dumped onto a handful of screens (sans advertisements or even an official announcement of its release) and that I had to drive down to the not-very-great Regency Fairfax in LA to see it (it pained me to drive by the New Bev without stopping in!). Granted, it was better than having to drive to Norwalk (as I did for Blood Creek), but still - Costner deserves better. Hell, Swing Vote aside, his last few movies have actually done pretty good compared to the wasteland of his late 90s/early 00s output, so maybe the public was finally ready to accept him again. We will never know.
Sadder still, it’s actually a pretty good movie. It’s sort of like a cross between Signs and The Descent, and the killer kid type moments are actually misleading - this is actually a monster movie (this is actually sort of a spoiler as the monsters don’t show up until the final 20 minutes, but whatever - who is going to see this damn thing until DVD, where the monsters will probably be on the cover anyway?). Costner and his two kids move into this new house (he’s - sigh - a writer hoping the quiet will help him pen his next novel. Luckily this plot point is mentioned once and never again) and they find this odd mound in the backyard. The son is afraid of it, and the daughter is seemingly drawn to it. Soon she’s acting weird, and the son is becoming more and more spooked out, and Costner... well, Costner just does his thing. He’s in everyman mode here (always a better fit for him than his more showy characters - i.e. Robin Hood), so that’s good, but even though he is in pretty much every frame of the movie, his character isn’t really given much to do beyond constantly fiddle with his glasses. It’s more a showcase for Ivana Baquero (Pan’s Labyrinth), who has the unenviable job of playing an unlikable character who the audience needs to think is the villain (without her doing anything blatantly evil).
But it’s a monster movie with Kevin Costner! He fucking shotguns one in the face! It’s like when Stallone made that slasher movie (Eye See You, aka D-Tox) - he’s just not the type of guy you expect to see in one of these things. And that it’s a monster movie in disguise made me happy; I was actually weary of seeing another killer kid movie (in fact, the vagueness of it made me momentarily suspect we were in for a Hide and Seek retread, and that she was being weird because she knew her dad was a murderer). You go in expecting a little kid knocking her grandmother down the stairs or maybe slashing her father’s Achilles tendon, and instead you get a scene where an Oscar winning former Sexiest Man Alive is chased by a cave monster. Not a bad deal at all.
It’s also got its fair share of decent suspense and off kilter moments. Early on, the kid finds a shotgun hidden in the house, and (innocently) begins pointing it at people as Costner tries to convince him to put it down. And even though it’s not supposed to be funny, a scene where Costner uses the internet to try to figure out what’s going in with his daughter is wonderfully goofy, thanks to both the ridiculous fake search engine (“Root Around”) as well as some of his inane search terms (“Daughter, hormones” “Bad father”). Costner also seems to have a phone in every room in the house, and thus never uses the same one twice.
Also, without spoiling anything, this movie has the ballsiest ending I’ve seen in quite a while. Even Orphan wasn’t this grim. Maybe that is why the film got the fate that it did, but director Luis Berdejo (who co-wrote [Rec]) and writer John Travis (working from a short story by John Connolly) get my full respect for ending the film as they do, despite what I’m sure was pressure by one of the numerous studios slated to release this film to change it (that list, for the record, is New Line, Universal, and Tri-Star; the actual distribution is courtesy of Anchor Bay). Nice work.
Including me, there were a total of 6 people in the theater for this nighttime screening of a movie that has been out for 4 days at the only theater in the city playing it (I'm also aware of the irony that pretty much everyone in the world was buying tickets for a ripoff of Costner's Dances With Wolves). Thus, I’m guessing it won’t be a surprise success (not that we’d be able to tell - Anchor Bay neglected to report its grosses). But that means that the film will hit DVD soon, and Costner’s name should generate some interest (“Hey, I don’t remember saying that I would wait for DVD to see this one, now I’m even more intrigued!”). And as it is a small film that focuses on atmosphere for most of its running time (even the climax is far from an all-out monster/gore fest), it will likely play better at home anyway. Still, it deserves better. Someone give Costner a meaty supporting role in a big Oscar bait-y type movie and help get his career back on track!
What say you?