Kevin Costner exudes trace elements of that same rumpled, weary Costner-ian charm that’s made him a very rich man in The New Daughter, a moody, middling and partially supernatural drama that suffers from a subject-mismatched title and terrible DVD cover art.
In similar fashion to movies like The Uninvited and Brittany Murphy‘s Deadline, The New Daughter is one of those flicks where a wounded protagonist/family (preferably including a writer) repairs to remote rural home, in an attempt to shake off recent malaise or trauma. Here, Costner is John James, a newly divorced father of two (and, yes, writer), who moves into a two-story South Carolina manse with his 14-year-old daughter Louisa (Ivana Baquero, of Pan’s Labyrinth) and seven-year-old son Sam (Gattlin Griffith). When Louisa starts to behave in a bizarre and increasingly violent manner, John must determine whether her acting out is linked to a giant, mysterious burial mound on the edge of his property. (Hint: it is.) A teacher at his kids’ school (Samantha Mathis) tries to offer some aid and comfort to the newly single John, and a local professor (Noah Taylor) eventually shows up to drop some verbiage regarding burial mound mythology and all that. In the end, though, it’s all about John, a shotgun, and fire, which seems a bit yawningly conventional for all the rather laborious set-up here.
There’s a pinch of The Others-style spookery here, but The New Daughter, based on a short story by John Connolly, ismostly a drama of domestic unsettledness. The directorial debut of [Rec] and Quarantine screenwriter Luis Berdejo, the movie benefits from Costner’s mooring presence; he instinctively knows that less is frequently more, and his slow-peddling — along with Berdejo and cinematographer Checco Varese’s decision to rely mostly on wide lenses — help give the proceedings an aura of naturalness and respectability. This isn’t merely an exercise in boo-scares, in other words. Still, for all its slow-building drama, the screenplay never really builds upon its surface-level dread in deeply interesting ways; the threat is pretty much what one figures it to be early on, and nudging adornments in parallelism (Sam gets an ant farm in his classroom) don’t exactly thrill.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, The New Daughter comes to DVD presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound audio track and optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles. Supplemental extras include a robust slate of deleted and extended scenes (mostly the former, and more than a dozen, running 22 minutes), an 11-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that includes interviews with Costner, source material author Connolly, the film’s producers and others, and the movie’s theatrical trailer. Its weightiest bonus feature, however, is a feature-length audio commentary track with Berdejo. Although his heavily accented English is at times an impediment to understanding, he comes across as a humble and interesting guy, and also shares good anecdotes and practical filmmaking tips (shooting down directly into a flame will result in smoke damage to a camera, so use a mirror, kids!). He also gives props to many crew members for their ideas, and talks up Jorge Rojas’ art, which is used in the movie. To purchase The New Daughter on DVD via Amazon, click here. C (Movie) B- (Disc)