the new daughter

The New Daughter (2009)

A single father moves with his two children into a new home in rural South Carolina in the hopes of making a fresh start, but nature has other plans. The oldest, a teenage girl, begins hearing and seeing strange things near and around the house, but her concerns aren’t taken seriously at first. That changes quickly.

Regular readers of this column will already know that I’m unapologetic in my love for Kevin Costner movies, but my affection still knows the difference between the great ones (No Way Out) and the lesser experiences (Draft Day). This underseen creature feature leans closer to the former as it captures the anxiety and stress of trying to make a new house a home even before unnatural beings appear to make things even worse. Costner is at his stoic best, but this is a rare one in his filmography in that integrity and will may not be enough to save the day.

It’s unfortunate that this one hasn’t caught on with more people, especially horror fans, as it’s rare these days to find a genre movie telling an original story. Almost as uncommon are straight-up monster movies as too often filmmakers resort to the more familiar ghosts, zombies, and killers because they require less creativity and imagination. The monsters here are slickly-designed and capable of being both creepy and deadly, and it all builds to a truly terrific ending.

Buy The New Daughter on Blu-ray from Amazon or watch via Amazon Video.

13 cameras

13 Cameras (2015)

A young couple expecting their first child move into a new house in the hope that it will make a perfect home for their new family. Their landlord is a bit off, but the price is right and the location is perfect. Oh, and there are also tiny cameras hidden throughout the house so the landlord can watch them make love, bathe, and argue while he masturbates furiously to their image. So, glass half full?

Think of 13 Cameras (previously known as Slumlord) as a 21st century update on the premise of Bad Ronald above. There’s still a dangerous pervert watching you in your new house, but now he’s able to do it remotely so you can’t hear his sweaty fapping between the walls. (I apologize for that image.) It’s the kind of fear some of us think about when staying in less than stellar motels, but the idea of it happening in your own home ratchets up the terror.

Another film, Hangman, released the same year to more attention, but it’s the lesser of the two for reasons beyond its choice of found footage format. This one unfolds more traditionally allowing viewers time to get to know the couple while teasing out the landlord’s intentions and access. We don’t necessarily come to care about the couple, but we don’t dislike them — something that’s all too common and expected in genre films these days – and instead are increasingly concerned as things move from the slimy and sleazy to threatening and dangerous. Pieces fall into place on their way towards an ending that allows room for at least one surprise, and while the conclusion won’t appeal to everyone it finishes on a wonderfully disturbing note.

Buy 13 Cameras on DVD from Amazon or watch via Amazon Video.

der bunker

Der Bunker (2015)

A college student in search of a temporary home in which to write his thesis answers an ad and finds one in a remote dwelling shared by a loving family. The room isn’t quite as promised – it’s windowless, in the basement, and behind a heavy door – but the solitude suits his needs. It doesn’t last, though, as soon the family is asking for something in exchange. They want him to tutor their son. Their super freaking weird son.

The film begins with a seemingly familiar setup to a terror-filled experience featuring abduction, torture, and peculiarly German abominations, but it’s clear very early on that horror is not the intention here. Instead, while still frequently disturbing, the film is actually an unsettling, quirky, and weirdly humorous look at the pressures put on the young to succeed. The student is here due to his own pressures to make something of himself, but it’s not-so-young Klaus who takes the full brunt of the grown-ups intentions and desires around him. It doesn’t help that Klaus is something of an idiot, but things only get worse and stranger when the student is encouraged to employ corporal punishment in pursuit of education.

The student’s search for a quiet, cozy home to encourage and incubate his growing knowledge and security instead becomes a commentary on parenting. The family is clearly a little bit off, but their love for each other is never in question. There’s a sweetness here alongside the vaguely threatening eccentricities that leaves viewers uncertain at any given moment if they should be enjoying the family’s warm embrace or fearing what the wet wound on mother’s leg is going to make her do next. It’s easily the most creatively disturbing use of an open leg wound since David Cronenberg’s Crash. The four of them are hardly a typical family, but together they make something special as they make a temporary home together. It’s beautiful?

Buy Der Bunker on Blu-ray from Amazon or watch via Amazon Video.

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