The idea of New Daughter is that Kevin Costner plays a recently divorced dad with custody of his teenage daughter and young son. He does not understand his daughter, confused by her changes in mood, weird sleepwalking, and other erratic behavior.
We’ll let those slide. It’s a dad being a guy and having no clue what is going on in the female body. However, after she throws up and he discovers giant warts growing on her neck? You do something about it. You find a doctor, you tell someone, you ask around if other kids in school have an infection… something. It is not that hard. Costner never mentions it.
What does he do? Blows stuff up. Okay, admittedly, that is sort of guy thing, but also ridiculously stupid. At Costner’s new home is this ancient burial mound, some Indian ritualistic thing his daughter is drawn towards. He hires someone to not only bulldoze it, but blow it up with diesel gas. Huh? Is a bulldozer not enough to take care of a dirt pile?
It takes a long time to get that far, and even then audiences are cheated out of the explosion. Credit is due to director Luis Berdejo for working around budgetary constraints and creating an artsy finale for the explosion, but after sitting through this challenging (in a bad way) tripe, we at least deserve a full screen big boom.
Up to that point, we have watched Costner adjust to his new life. We learn he is a writer, apparently of fiction novels, and a single dad. That is the extent of John James, a character name as boring as the character itself.
There are loads of false scares in New Daughter. The sound designers must have loved playing with this. Unfortunately, they never add up to much, as tension is lost or broken, or not even capitalized on. This is a horror movie with demons, creepy teenage kids, Indian burial grounds, explosions, shotguns, and blood, yet somehow becomes an exercise in patience. That requires some serious missteps.
Anchor Bay releases New Daughter with a VC-1 encode, and like the movie, it is a total bust. The movie is crammed onto a BD-25, and it shows. The opening shots over the credits are actually stunning. The contrast runs a little hot, but the definition in these wildlife views is superb. These are the final truly positive moments of this transfer.
One of three things has happened. Either this encode, with a bitrate that drops into the single digits, causes a severely processed look, or the film has been DNR’ed. There is also the possibility of combining the above for the end result. Right after the credits, three-minutes in, a close-up of Cosnter’s face reveals a significant waxy result. This carries through the entire film, a muddy, digital, compressed mess. It does not carry the usual traits of DNR. Flesh tones are tinted warmly, as is much of the frame. Edge enhancement does not seem to be a problem, and smearing is not noted. Hence, the best guess is the encode itself and the artifacts it brings with it.
Few scenes in New Daughter ever appear film-like. In fact, grain is rarely noted, usually replaced by distracting video noise. At 47:20 during a conversation at a restaurant, the blue seat exhibits heavy artifacting (the rest of this scene does exhibit a basic grain structure, one of the few). At 10:06, the right side of the screen takes on a blue hue that shows noise, likely a result of the visual effects used in this shot. The same thing occurs just before the final credits roll. Environments, including lush forests, typically falter due to compression.
Colors are bright, like most of the film. A scene in a small grocery store exhibits excellent detail and saturation. It is a shame the facial detail is so glaringly lacking. Black levels are typically firm, save for the nearly pitch black finale (loaded with noise). Image depth is fair, and the contrast, while slightly hot by design, is inoffensive. A dream sequence is harsh, with blown out whites and digital look that is obviously intentional. Oddly, the bitrate increases here significantly, and dips back down immediately following.
Further compressing matters is a PCM audio mix (and compressed Dolby Digital), eating away at the available space. Thankfully though, it is worth it. This track is a workout, providing countless jump scares, tons of unseen creatures moving about, pounding on random walls, and exquisite placement in all channels.
The film is no doubt active in its presentation. Early on, Louisa hears pounding in her room, an effect that travels around the sound field as she searches for the source. Out in the forest, snapping twigs, creature growls, and dogs barking love to scare the audience.
Heavy, clean bass has numerous chances to bottom out, from the shotgun blasts late in the film to a creature assault on one of the bit players. There is no shortage of LFE activity as the supernatural events pick up. Of course, there is a fantastic clarity to it all, and the directionality is superb. This is a head-turner for sure, even if you have to strain to hear some of the dialogue in spots.
Director Luis Berdejo provides a solo commentary track, followed by a generic making-of that runs for 11-minutes. Twenty deleted scenes run for 22-minutes, rounding off this brief section of bonus features.