DADDY’S GIRL (2018)
aka SUICIDE SOLUTION
Directed by Julian Richards
Written by Timothy Hill, Sean Hogan
Starring Jemma Dallender, Costas Mandylor, Britt McKillip, Jesse Moss, Mark Arnold, Diana Care, Micavrie Amaia, Annie Quigley, Cherise Silvestri, Heather Rome, John Moraitis, Natia Tsitsilashvili, Sophio Babilodze, Meeghan Holaway
John Stone (Costas Mandylor) is not a good guy. He’s a monster of a man– a war vet dismissed for torturing captives in Iraq. After his wife killed herself, John began having a sexual relationship with his stepdaughter Zoe (Jemma Dallender). On top of that, John and Zoe often go into town and lure women in for sex, only to lock them up in a dungeon and torture them to death. Confused and manipulated, Zoe contemplates suicide often. When a new gal named Jennifer (Britt McKillip) moseys into town and takes up as a bartender in John and Zoe’s hunting grounds. It’s only a matter of time before she gets into John’s sites as his next victim. Meanwhile, the Spidey sense of a small town police deputy Scott Walker (Jesse Moss) gets all tingly whenever John and Zoe crosses his path and gets closer and closer to finding out the twisted truth.
While the plot is sleazy as all get out, I was genuinely surprised at how good this little slasher film really is. Yes, there are uncomfortable scenes of torture. There are some raunchy scenes of sex between John and Zoe. This is not a film that pulls its punches when it comes to the sick shit that John does. But the film doesn’t really linger on the torture and the sex. They are a huge part of why Zoe is so messed up, but the film focuses on that instead of what causes that mental anguish. Zoe struggles with the horrors she helps John with every day. She’s brainwashed and hopeless that there is nothing else in life but to serve John. This is a really nuanced film about how brainwashing happens and the pain it causes the victim who knows wrong from right, but just can’t muster the will to act on that distinction.
A lot of that nuance and depth of character comes from the acting in DADDY’S GIRL. Dallender is a hell of a fine actress. She is put through the emotional wringer. We see glimmers of hope though, when she meets Jennifer and moments of utter depression as she ponders suicide. While there are definitely terror filled moments in John’s dungeon, this film proved to be much more than that. It’s a well done character piece, examining Zoe’s complex character and that’s not really what I expected going into this one.
Adding to the effectiveness is Costas Mandylor who delivers one of his best ever performances as the sadistic John. John has a set of rules and a methodology he follows. In his own sick way, he loves Zoe—at least, as much as a person like John can. Mandylor not only gives a menacing physical presence (he’s just a monster of a man, even more so now, later in his years), but the cold, callousness of his character really resonates as one of the more chilling bad guy roles I’ve seen in a while.
One problem I had with DADDY’S GIRL is that there are about three actresses in lead roles; Zoe (Dallender), Jennifer (McKillip), and one of the office workers at the police station Danny (Diana Care) who all have extremely similar looks. While all of them serve different roles, there was that momentary reaction that I couldn’t tell who from who. It would have served this film better had they gone with actresses that looked different than one another.
DADDY’S GIRL is not for the squeamish. If you balk at torture, rape, and other heinous acts (and who doesn’t), this film has all of that in spades. But it’s not the focus as with other exploitative horror films. There are moments of torture, but most of it is only hinted at and we only see the aftermath of the horror. Still, it’s there, so some will want to give this one a pass. But I think if you do give DADDY’S GIRL a chance, you’ll realize it is elevated sleaze and a potent and disturbing story with some surprisingly great performances throughout.