5.28.2010

"The New Daughter" Film

Warning, there are spoilers ahead.
"The New Daughter"
I'm excited because APPARENTLY this one was made into a film starring Kevin Costner (which, with me, can only mean one thing) that had a limited release by Anchor Bay last month. Now I have to find it....


This story expands on a parent's fear of a child growing up. She leaves her toys behind, she rebels, she dabbles a bit on the edge. And what she goes through is something that parents can only understand on the surface. If they try to dig any deeper, they will hit a stone wall and their understanding will begin to crumble and fade. Connolly uses his gift for folklore to explain this change as related to the stories of faeries exchanging human children for changelings. This kind of abrupt change in a pre-teen girl must   be paranormal, right? Right? I appreciated the father seeing a "red flicker" in his daughter's eyes. On the surface, it appears to be merely visual, and symbolic of her changeling nature. I think it's more than that, though. It seems (in the least disgusting way possible) to refer to menstruation, something that her father would not only have trouble understanding, but of which he would (like most fathers) avoid any kind of contemplation.

It's the same as it's been since the dawn of time: girl tries to grow up. Father tries to stop her. Father blames other people when she grows up anyway. And she does, for all intents and purposes, become his new daughter. And she knows, better than anyone, that no matter how vigilant her father is, her brother will one day grow up as well. It expresses the futility of parenting. You wish to do right by your children and, because you are their parents, everything else in the world seems somewhat malicious.
                            - From my take on reading Nocturnes (pt. 2)

Available for purchase on Amazon.com
Let's just say the film is loosely based on Connolly's story. The main frame of the story is the same - a study on the futility of parenting. One of the first few scenes really captures this - shot so that we see the children in whole, but only see the father from the chest, down. Some of the specifics are a little different - the daughter seems a little older than in the story, the son seems a bit older too (I kind of pictured him as a short little tow-headed kid who still had chubby legs - not so here.

Whereas the story takes place in the British Isles where the faerie hill makes sense, the film takes place in rural South Carolina (but no one sounds like they're from South Carolina), leaving the mythology of the hill to be kind of fudged. They make the argument for some kind of Native American mythology related to the mounds (which they say in the film, link many civilizations across the globe) and apparently some gods (called mound walkers) who lived within the mounds. The entire concept is explained parallel to the lifeforce of an ant colony - many workers, one queen ant, and a replacement queen ant coming to power, etc. While obviously made up, and a little silly, the mythology lends itself to certain themes within the original story that have translated to the film.

For example, the opposing forces of light and dark. Dark seems to prey on the light - attack the light, even. Dark -haired Louisa pushes the blonde bully down the stairs and seems constantly at odds with her blonde father and tow-headed brother, and her brother's blonde teacher. Her doll Molly (later replaced with creepy spider-bearing straw-doll from hell) is also blonde. Blonde hair seems to represent an ideal or a promise of childhood that is targeted and disposed of by puberty.

The red eyes of the story are gone, but it's replaced with a very creepy vision of Louisa with darkened eyelids (as if she's wearing too much eye makeup - this is how dad Kevin Costner knows that his daughter is gone), and when Louisa comes home covered in mud and crouches in the tub, there's a swirl of scarlet within the brown run-off, indicating a wound? or menstruation? or that she was raped by the scary mound people. Unfortunately, the latter seems to make the most sense for the mythology and process of the film. Yuck.

Along with the interesting chest-level shot early in the film, there's a deliberate attempt to highlight the father's metaphorical near-sightedness....with actual near-sightedness. He wears a pair of specs around his neck at all times, and I really appreciated that bit of nonsense. 

Unlike the creepy pale-faced no-eyed faeries of Connolly's story, there's a human-sized threat in the film. I liken the revelation of their presence to a cross between "Lost"'s smoke monster, and the anticlimactic appearance of the green alien in the Brazilian videotape in M. Night Shyamalan's "Signs". The sound effects were boar-ish and wheezing at once. I was almost convinced that the real monster was the smoking man from the X-Files!

But then I heard it eat the nanny and grab Erik Palladino out of the police car, I realized that William B. Davis simply was not nimble enough to pull that off. And then Kevin finds himself in the kitchen with it, and I was pretty sure it was floating. It looked like something out of the Ninja turtles cartoon series. My exact stream of consciousness response was "Is it floating? Is it a giant ant? SHIT. SHIT. WHAT THE FUCK? SHIT. It looks like an ant with Walter Cronkite's head on it! WHAT THE FUCK!" (Yes, that's transcribed from what I wrote while watching the film).

Now, the story ends pretty eerily - the daughter has changed, the father lives in constant fear, he holds onto his son (until he inevitably grows up). But the film takes it a few steps further and past the realm of any kind of examination of parenting society. Kevin tells the son to stay in the house and wait for the police and tell them to call (divorced) Mommy. Kevin (who conveniently has dead cop Erik Palladino's car (and arsenal?) at his disposal runs to the mound and follows the tunnel and carries his daughter's body out, only to be chased by creepy golum-ant-walter-cronkite-kraken-looking things. Then his "daughter" begs him to stop but he sees the too-much-makeup look and knows it's not her, so he seals the hole and blows the mound up.

We see this through the eyes of the son who's left the house and now stands framed by the fence in the yard. He sees the explosion, and we watch as his eyes go from upset to hopeful. He obviously sees a figure in the distance. He says "dad?" and we hear a twig snap, a hint of a smoking man wheeze, and then we see a creepy golum kraken monster a few feet behind him AND THAT'S IT.

WHAT?!?! What happened to the very human study of puberty, the father and daughter always being at odds, a father's need to protect his son? Where did it go? GOLUM KRAKEN ANT WALTER CRONKITE!!

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