COMING TO THEATERS/VOD! Writer/director Corey Deshon’s Daughter starts on a lonely road in the wilderness as a woman (Megan Le) runs away from a man and a boy in a truck dressed in full hazmat suits. The vehicle stops, and they pursue her on foot. We see a title message that says, “the following is based on more fact than fiction.” Finally, the man catches her and bludgeons the woman to death, all while telling the boy that family is the most important thing in life and that this could’ve been prevented.
Family is indeed everything in this movie about a cult headed by a man known only as Father (Casper Van Dien), who has assembled his own makeshift family. Mother (Elyse Dihn) and Son/Brother (Ian Alexander) have been in this “family” for years, but Daughter/Sister (Vivien Ngô) is in the house. We later learn that there have been many “Daughters” because they have trouble sticking around.
This latest Daughter is rightfully frightened but attempting to adapt to her new surroundings while passive-aggressively challenging Father and looking for a way out. Mother gives her words of advice in Vietnamese such as “it’s easier to give him what he wants,” which angers Father to no end. Then again, it doesn’t take much to set him off. Father wants everyone to be as obedient as Son is, eating up his warped religion and warnings that the air outside is dangerous, hence the gas masks and suits.
Some people in real life are freaking nuts, especially under the guise of religion, so it’s not too difficult to imagine Daughter being a true story. Deshon says that this is Dogtooth meets 10 Cloverfield Lane and is “inspired by feminist existentialist philosopher Simone De Beauvoir’s The Ethics of Ambiguity.” The filmmaker further explains that the film “is a meditation on the morality and ethics of freedom and creative expression within an oppressed system.”
“…Daughter is rightfully frightened but…passive-aggressively [challenges] Father…”
The music by David Strother provides a creepy vibe to the proceedings. Deshon’s direction makes the viewer feel as if they are trapped in the house, just like Daughter. While slow-moving, the film is captivating as the tension becomes evermore heightened.
Daughter also boasts great performances all around from the small cast. You can feel the quiet fear yet building boldness in Vivien Ngô, despite her character’s desperate predicament. Ian Alexander is giddy as a young person who has completely drunk the Kool-Aid but is still open to learning from Sister. Elyse Dihn is obedient out of fear, yet biding her time to help Daughter and herself if she can.
Casper Van Dien ties it all together with a career-defining performance. He uses a stern hand out of demented love for his family but displays his soft twisted side by giving warnings that he doesn’t want to go to extremes if not necessary. We all know Van Dien as an action star, but he portrays dramatic range here. You can feel his conviction as he spouts Father’s whacked-out beliefs and the strong protective love he displays for Son above all others. Family really is paramount to him, and he’ll go to any lengths to keep it intact.
Daughter is not scary, but I don’t think it was intended to be. I wanted to see what was going to happen next while enjoying the slow-paced ride all the way to the finish line.
Daughter is coming to theaters and video-on-demand Friday, February 10, 2023.
"…Van Dien ties it all together with a career-defining performance."