Informing us that the film is based on fact more than fiction, Daughter has a certain familiarity about it when it initially begins, horrifying us with the imagery of a woman being bludgeoned by an unknown assailant. It’s a suitable start for Corey Deshon‘s horror-leaning effort that successfully navigates mostly a singular location, a small ensemble, and an unnerving tone.
The claustrophobia is real in Daughter, where a young woman (Viven Ngô) is kidnapped and awakens bound and gagged in a basement. She’s forced into the role of “daughter” by the controlling Father (Casper Van Dien, frightening), who similarly has a hold over Mother (Elyse Dinh) and Brother (Ian Alexander) in a secluded home where the internal power balance starts to dramatically shift.
Father’s controlling nature leaves the household in fear as to what he will say or do next. It’s evident he has a certain love for his “chosen” family, but Deshon delights in both Daughter and Mother challenging Father’s authoritative nature; the two speaking in Vietnamese to each other, a dialect Father doesn’t understand, allows the two to form a minor bond, though it’s clear Mother needs Daughter to stay more in line. Brother is all too eager to learn more of Father’s wisdom, and when he enthusiastically looks to bonding with his new sister, it assists Daughter in her hopeful plan to escape the prison of the household.
The film’s dark, grainy aesthetic further speaks to Deshon’s comfort in expressing his horror temperament, revelling in a nature that’s more psychological than visually brutal. Gender roles, authority, and autonomy are explored throughout the film’s taut 95 minutes, and its constant push-pull of hope and hopelessness keeps us an audience uncomfortably invested as the overall mystery of the film gradually reveals itself.
To know anything more about Daughter would be doing both you and the film a disservice. It enjoys existing in a quieter place of visceral terror, and though its slow burn mentality might not always please viewers who demand constant movement to stay focused, it’s impossible to deny the film’s unnerving nature and how it evokes horror in the purest meaning of the word.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Daughter is now available On Digital in Australia and New Zealand.