New in select theaters, digital download, and On Demand from Dark Star Pictures!
Directed and written by Corey Deshon.
Starring Casper Van Dien, Elyse Dihn, Vivien Ngo, Ian Alexander, Megan Le, Edward Stasik
A teenage girl (Vivien Ngô) is abducted and forced to play the role of Daughter by a manipulative control freak named Father (Casper Van Dien) and Mother (Elyse Dinh) and forced to be a playmate with his Son (Ian Alexander). Having brainwashed his family into believing that the air outside is toxic and full of sick people, Father attempts to keep order within his home, though Daughter proves to be a hard mind to break.
DAUGHTER is a subtle and unnerving nightmare of a film. You don’t see the abduction of Daughter. You don’t know why Father does what he does or what he does when he leaves the home. Though there is a snippet of the outside at the beginning and the end, the bulk of the film takes place within the pristine and orderly home that is actually a prison to most inside. What plays out is a horrifying scenario with little violence or bloodshed, but the psychological terrors persists all the way through. While I feel the process of brainwashing could have been taken a bit further and the expanse of Father’s manipulations been explored a bit more, it does provide a wonderful snapshot of one man’s struggle to keep order in a chaotic world and how all it takes is for one chaotic agent to tear it all down.
While some might scoff at the fact that Casper Van Dien plays the heavy in DAUGHTER, I must admit I scoffed a bit that the STARSHIP TROOPERS bohunk was starring in this one. But he delivers an intense and scary performance as Father. The rigid stance, the clipped voice, the tightly buttoned up appearance. Father reminded me quite a bit like another horror icon, Terry Quinn’s Stepfather from that family-centered horror series of the same name. Like the Stepfather, Father offers up a calm demeanor if his rules are followed, but take one step outside them and you are swatted down. Dien’s stature only adds to his imposing power in this redefining role. On the flip side, Vivien Ngo is wonderful as the Daughter. She is sympathetic, but hard headed. She is beat down, but rises back up. Her story is inspirational and it’s easy to get into this film through her strong performance. The rest of the cast, Elyse Dinh as Mother and Ian Alexander’s Son deliver strong, bizarre performances, following Father’s rules to a tee and often acting more like robots moving to Father’s whims than actual personalities. Alexander is especially good as he attempts to understand his Father’s teachings, yet has questions that any teenager might have and immediately gets them tamped down when these questions challenge Father’s intentions.
In the end, this is about a power attempting to control the uncontrollable. As seen in the opening moments, Daughter is not the first daughter who has been through this ordeal. This makes the entire experience all the more haunting because the rest of the family know this, yet still act as if this new Daughter was been there all along. These little inhuman moments and details make the entire film thoroughly mortifying. There’s a fantastic break from the norm during the climax that is beyond strange and actually fits into the contrast between the controlled environment enforced by Father and the vibrant childish minds trapped within. DAUGHTER delivers a message that isn’t new. It’s about fighting against authority. It’s about preserving one idealized concept totally even though that concept may have always been fiction. But the way it delivers that message makes DAUGHTER one effectively chilling film.