At the height of his success, Kevin Costner was pegged as the Gary Cooper of his generation. Alas, as with Cooper, Costner’s stoic dignity can devolve into woodenness in the wrong role. While Costner has played his share of terrible parts (Waterworld leaps to mind), few are as thankless as his lead role in The New Daughter, a horror thriller that was barely released theatrically before receiving a wholly merited DVD burial. The last time Costner was this lifeless in a movie, he was literally playing a corpse in The Big Chill.
Costner sleepwalks through the role of a successful author who moves into a spooky new house in the country with his angst-prone teenage daughter (Pan’s Labyrinth’s Ivana Baquero, in her first English-speaking role) and son after his ex-wife abandons them to start a new life with her new boyfriend. Costner has difficulty adjusting to single parenting, but his inability to connect meaningfully with Baquero is soon dwarfed by a slightly bigger problem: An ancient, evil spirit is slowly possessing her. As Costner goes looking for answers, audiences are treated to scene after scene of the once-popular actor peering thoughtfully at a computer screen as he tries to Google his way out of his unfortunate predicament.
Baquero’s abrupt shift in personality coincides with early adolescence, when radical changes in clothing, demeanor, and attitude are a commonplace occurrence even for young women not inhabited by sinister spirits. But director Luis Berdejo, a Spanish filmmaker best known for writing [Rec], the film that inspired the surprise American hit Quarantine, quickly loses interest in Baquero in favor of the big name above the title. He’s less interested in riffing metaphorically on the turmoil of female adolescence à la Ginger Snaps or Buffy The Vampire Slayer than he is in delivering a standard-issue haunted-house movie at half-speed. In spite of the title, The New Daughter is essentially a one-man show for Costner, who appears in pretty much every scene, yet has never been less charismatic or engaging. Daughter fails even as camp: It’s boring, not bad.
Key features: An audio commentary from Berdejo joins a few deleted scenes and a standard behind-the-scenes featurette.