After her mom commits suicide, Zoe (Jemma Dallender), the lead of Daddy’s Girl, and her stepfather John (Costas Mandylor) move to a new town. John, a mechanic, forces himself upon Zoe regularly, and while her pain is evident, she has come to accept this. Due to his controlling ways, Zoe does not venture out much with John. When they do face the public, it is at a local bar to pick up women.
After finding a potential mark, John lays on the charm, as Zoe heavily flirts. They then take this lady home, and things don’t go as expected. See, the family members did not lure the lady here for sex, but to torture and kill her. The agony can last a few days, after which they go to the bar for another victim. However, their latest selection proves to be more than bargained for, and Zoe is finally discovering the strength within herself to stand up to her abuser.
Julian Richards directs Daddy’s Girl with a heavy hand, telegraphing every possible angle well before the story threads converge. It is not that the film is poorly paced or badly shot. It is not, but Richards fails to enliven the proceedings with a sense of urgency and atmosphere. The torture and kills are not shocking, as John’s cruel ways are obvious by how he treats Zoe. Richards is smart enough to not film them as titillation, which would undercut the message, but that means they passively happen. Thus, leaving the audience constantly bored.
“…the family members did not lure the lady here for sex, but to torture and kill her.”
The too on-the-nose dialogue is all basic platitudes, threats, or exposition. No human talks to another the way the characters speak to each other here. When the secretary (?) asks the cop getting wise to John’s ways if she “can join him” at his work desk, despite working in front of him, it comes across as hokey and unintentional goofy. The banter at the bar while picking up women is just as corny.
The story progression and character arcs are just as poorly thought out. John racks up double-digit kills before Zoe decides to take a stand. What exactly prompted this change of heart? Daddy’s Girl strains to find an answer, so whatever empowerment survivor’s story it is attempting to tell has no bite to it.
But, the movie does sport a decent cast. Dallender’s slow drawl takes a minute to get used to, but she’s vulnerable enough to garner sympathy. The criminally underrated Mandylor is nasty and vicious as the brute John, ably inhabiting the character who it is fun to hate. Jesse Moss plays Deputy Walker, the cop hot on their trail, and he brings a quiet dignity and patience to the underwritten part.
Look, Daddy’s Girl is not terrible, as individual scenes, such as when the deputy calls Zoe a different name, do work. But, the directing fails to create tension, the themes are heavy-handed, and there’s nothing for audiences to invest in. The cast tries what they can, but are unable to save the film from being tediously dull.
"…Mandylor is nasty and vicious as the brute John..."