The New Daughter: Synopsis and Review
The New Daughter (2009) is a thriller based on a short story written by John Connolly. The movie begins with a man, writer John James (Kevin Costner), and his two children, Louisa (Ivana Baquero) and Sam (Gattlin Griffith), moving into their new home. Louisa however is pissed off at her dad for making her leave all her friends. Furthermore, their mother left them and she’s having problems coping with this. To pass the time, Louisa takes Sam out into the woods behind their new home. There they find a mound which has a strange attraction to Louisa. She goes out at night to visit the mound, even though John forbids her, and comes back covered in mud and dirt. John notices muddy footsteps leading to the bathroom, but Louisa tells him, through the door, that she’s fine. After this first night she goes out to the mound more often, and she becomes more and more rebellious.
In the meantime John becomes more than friendly with Sam’s teacher Cassandra Parker (Samantha Mathis), which Louisa doesn’t seem happy about. John notices the changes Louisa is going through, but blames it on his bad parenting. Whilst searching the internet for his parenting skills he remembers a rumor he heard in town about the former owners of his house, and searches the web for their names. He comes across an article about the disappearance of the mother and death of her daughter in a house fire, and decides to contact the one relative left; the mother’s father Roger Wayne (James Gammon). He visits Rogers house, and looks around in the room where the girl died. On the walls are drawings of the mound and there is a strange nest on the floor. After this discovery, John meets Roger who tells him he killed his granddaughter because she was changing. Roger says John will do the same thing, which John of course denies.
During Johns leave the kids’ babysitter mysteriously disappears, but not without a lot of shouting and banging on the front door. She wasn’t able to escape whatever grabbed her by getting in the house because Louisa locked the door. However, just as with the other strange things she has done, she doesn’t remember doing this afterwards.
When John gets home, he learns that the babysitter has disappeared. He also finds a weird nest in Louisa’s closet, just like the nest he found in the room of the girl. He decides to take action and destroy the mound. Just before he does this however, a professor he contacted about the mound arrives to persuade him to keep it as it is so they can study it. The professor tells him about mounds like these. He speaks about ancient civilizations who worshipped these hills and the gods that supposedly lived in them. The gods were getting extinct, and needed a chosen girl, a human girl, to procreate. This girl would be their ‘queen bee’. The details the professor speaks about concur with the things that have happened, and John is convinced he should take the hill down. However, when they start digging they stumble upon the corpse of the missing babysitter, and they have to leave the mound for what it is so the police can investigate the matter. Autopsy reveals the woman was eaten alive.
John is taken to the police station for interrogation, and Cassandra looks after the children for him. When John gets a ride back home with a police officer, they hit something. The policeman opens his window to adjust the seemingly broken searchlight on his car, when he gets dragged out of the car and taken into the woods. John flees back to his house, and finds Cassandra in the kitchen with a slit throat. She points at Louisa, and dies. Meanwhile the house is being ‘attacked’ by the weird creatures living underneath the mound. John takes a gun and shoots the creatures, trying to protect Sam and Louisa. Louisa however doesn’t seem to be interested in protection. Instead, she stays in the house, waiting. After the initial attack is over, Louisa has disappeared and a scream can be heard coming from the woods. John makes sure Sam is safe and runs into the woods. When he reaches the mound, he places a canister of gasoline and some explosives near the entrance, so he can blow the mound up as soon as he has saved Louisa. After this preparation, he crawls into a tunnel leading into the mound.
Inside, or actually underneath, the mound he doesn’t come across any monsters, until he reaches Louisa. She’s covered in mud and unconscious, but he gets her to wake up and carries her to the tunnel. The creatures follow them, supposedly to get their ‘queen bee’ back. John and Louisa get out of the tunnel before the creatures can get to them, and John blocks the entrance with the gasoline canister. He looks at his daughter, and sees another creature standing beside her. Louisa begs her father not to leave her, and then starts changing, looking more like one of the creatures. John apparently realizes he can’t protect her from this, and instead drops a flare into the gasoline.
In the meantime, Sam has come out of the house clutching a family portrait. In the reflection of this portrait the explosion is visible. A few seconds later a figure is seen in the reflection as well, moving towards Sam. It’s not clear who this is however. Furthermore, behind Sam there are a creatures crawling from the house, with one coming into the screen right behind Sam. Right before the screen goes black, we here a last roar from the creature, although Sam doesn’t seem to notice.
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So, the downsides to watching this movie. First: the ending. It’s weird. There are no other words for it. I guess they were going for a vague ending to leave the viewer in doubt, but it just seems very odd and sudden. Furthermore, seeing the creatures come up behind Sam at the ending of the movie is quite confusing. I suspect the creatures eat people, seeing as how they nibbled on the babysitter, but this was just one occurrence. If they fed on people you’d at least expect some strangely missing persons, but there is no mentioning of this. This makes me think that even if they feed on humans, they don’t need to eat that often. So why go after Sam when they obviously had a nice little feast on the babysitter a little while ago?
Another downside is the story. It’s almost like they didn’t really care about the background of the mound. Somewhere at the end of the movie they have a professor come in to tell John, and therefore the viewer, about the myths around mounds like this one. You get a lot of information in a small amount of time, and that’s it. Almost as if they were writing the script and near the ending they thought: ‘Oh wait, we need an explanation for this mound!’ and then came up with a myth based upon indian burial hills and monsters. Not very original.
Still, the movie has some upsides as well. For starters, there aren’t a lot of vaguely scary moments surrounding the creatures. No weird suggestions of creepy monsters hiding in a dark room, no close up view of the creatures slashing up the babysitter. This makes the movie more of a psychological thriller, apart from the ending. Furthermore, the parallel made between Sam’s ant farm and the creatures is simply brilliant. Also, the acting is great, and Gattlin Griffith is absolutely amazing in his role of Sam.
Concluding, the movie is quite nice, but has an unsatisfying ending. If you don’t mind an ending like that, this is actually a great movie to watch. However, as far as I’m concerned; this isn’t a movie you watch for the story, this is a movie you watch if you want to see some nice acting.
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