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Daughter (Film Review)

3 min read
Casper Van Dien, Elyse Dinh, and Ian Alexander in Daughter

On the surface, may seem like yet another addition to the long line of abduction where a helpless woman is held prisoner by a deranged man.

However, this , the directorial debut of award-winning producer , runs far deeper and will burrow right under your skin, planting seeds of terror that will blossom for days.

In this dark offering, one man, known only as Father, abducts a young woman to join his obscure family as his surrogate daughter alongside her new mother and brother.

Daughter dives straight into the terror from the very first scene and doesn't let up for its entire 95-minute run-time. From start to finish there is a bubbling undercurrent of dread and unease that culminates in the final devastating act which is the perfect release of fear after your nerves have been frayed during each tense and uncomfortable interaction between the family.

While there are some smatterings of gore within Daughter, much of the horror within this film comes from the volatile and delusional manner of Father and the unpredictability of his actions which contrast starkly with the perfect family image he is trying to create to make his son happy.

Casper Van Dien, Elyse Dinh, Ian Alexander, and Vivien Ngô in Daughter

The film's muted colour palette and dimly lit sets juxtapose against the meticulous manner props are positioned onscreen and the characters are dressed, perfectly personifying the adage that while families may look perfect on the outside, things can be very different on the inside.

Things are never what they seem in Daughter, as the narrative unfolds and reveals more deep and disturbing layers that make it such a haunting watch. The choice to shoot on 16mm film added a grainy, almost blurry effect to the picture which heightens the contrast between reality and surreality within the film.

The use of discordant music and frequent sermons from Father – read from his makeshift bible mixing Orthodox Christian views and his own twists to control his son's education – complete the eerie horror-scape of Daughter and positions the viewer right in the throws of the torment the family within the film are subjected to.

There are several powerful performances within this film, most notably from Casper Van Dien as the imposing Father, and Vivien Ngô as Sister. The struggle between the two characters is evident even from the most simple of glances, and their portrayals of these characters explore familial roles and gender expectations in a raw, riveting fashion.

Casper Van Dien and Vivien Ngô in Daughter

Elyse Dinh is similarly flawless in the complex role of Mother, constantly battling between playing her dutiful role and helping the many sisters that are dragged into their lives. As the naive and innocent Brother, Ian Alexander delivers a promising performance that is at-times endearing, and at others unnerving as it is hard to tell at times if his saccharine sweetness is authentic or hiding something much darker within his personality.

I expected yet another run-of-the-mill abduction horror, and what I got with Daughter was a complex narrative tackling deep philosophical questions through a captivating narrative that slowly unfolds in a horrific and hair-raising way.

Daughter will be available to own or rent in the UK & Ireland from February 20 via AppleTV, Amazon, Sky Store, Virgin Media, and Google Play.