Slow Start ... But Buckle Up For A Grueling Second Half!
Apr 9, 2014
DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL is one of those films that’s hard to talk about without spoiling certain significant elements of it. Suffice it to say, I’m going to give it an honest try, though I suspect I might inadvertently reveal one or two juicy bits folks either don’t want to know or feel they don’t need to know. Up front, I’m willing to concede that the motion picture isn’t any ‘masterpiece’ as I’ve heard it christened elsewhere; it’s definitely interesting, but methinks it’s held back by – shall we say – devices of its own creation. In the final estimation, it probably won’t say as much as evil as audiences expect, though I predict it’s the kind of thing some viewers are going to want to talk about once the credits roll.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Derek (played by Michael Thomson) is a loving, single father who fights with his ex-wife for every opportunity he can to see his wonderful little jewel, Georgia (Billi Baker). One night – while in the mother’s custody – the child is abducted … only to be found raped and murdered on the shores of the nearby beach. Consumed with rage and depression, Derek begins to obsess over what he would do to the killer if he caught the man responsible. When he does finally come face-to-face with the murderer, the distraught father is committed to making a nightmare come to life.
Others might find it easier to make much ado about DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL, but I don’t. At best, it’s a passable cautionary drama that explores the ideas of loss, grief, and revenge. A decade or so back, filmmakers in South Korea began exploring these themes to largely critical delight, though I’ll admit that I found much of it largely exhausting with not enough meat of ‘them bones,’ as they say. But writer/director Chris Sun pulls no punches (pun intended) once he’s set the table for this modern-day fable, one that Fangoria warns “not suitable for the faint of heart.” (I’d agree.)
The narrative provides nearly 30 minutes to set all of the characters and plot points in motion, so much so I actually started wondering whether or not I’d been provided the plot summary for the wrong film. Once Georgia is abducted, the film finally kicks into gear, though I have to say that the story is placed in the hands of acting talent who just don’t have the skills to carry the plot beyond its obvious shock value. The ex-wife is characteristically shrill; Thomson – as our leading man – appears to have only one mode of delivering lines; and everyone else is little more than background noise, all too generic or homogenous to breathe life into their respective banal sequences. In fact, it would appear that the police detectives are completely bereft of how to conduct a legitimate investigation into this or possibly any crime, and that doesn’t help matters here.
Once the torture begins, the picture does find itself. It doesn’t take long for any viewer to realize that this isn’t about a process of healing or a catharsis toward denying one’s grief. This is only about revenge, bloody revenge. Indeed, writer/director Chris Sun has gone to great lengths to capture a level of physical torture rarely captured on film. GIRL makes some of the sequences from SAW look like training films as Derek goes to unimaginable lengths to not necessarily extract a confession from his own victim; rather, he’s forgotten all about ‘judge’ and ‘jury’ while wholeheartedly focusing his skills as ‘executioner’ to last as long as is humanly possible.
DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL (2012) is produced by Slaughter FX. DVD distribution is being handled by Breaking Glass Pictures. As for the technical specifications? Blech. Major blech. As I was provided a pre-release screener by Breaking Glass, I’ve come to learn that occasionally they skimp on the quality of these discs, and I can only say I hope that was the case: otherwise, I have to report that GIRL was a terrible transfer, one horribly grainy as well as shot in whatever aspect ratio my Blu-ray player couldn’t correct no matter how many settings I tried. The audio is mostly good, though there were a few sequences when dialogue was muddled. And – if you’re interested in special features – I honestly don’t know as these screeners typically have none attached. (Don’t shoot the messenger!)
(MILDLY) RECOMMENDED. This won’t be for everyone. What DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL does fairly effectively is it morphs every parent’s worst nightmare into every perpetrator’s worst sentence, and that’s about it. The performances are good but they lack any real depth to elevate this beyond some of its more grisly exploitative themes (i.e. torture porn); and it’s also very slow to get to that point. It’s almost as if you could feel the filmmakers treading lightly into the subject matter; once you get there, however, you’re there for the duration … every stab, cut, and painful wince. The last hour is particularly grueling. You’ve been warned.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Breaking Glass Pictures and Vicious Circle Films provided me with an advance DVD screener copy of DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their doing so in no way, shape, or form influenced this opinion.