Daddy's Little Girl (2012)
After watching literally thousands of movies it is only natural that I have developed a few preconceived notions of what I expect in a movie and how it should be critically appraised. In the last decade or so one that has been firmly entrenched in my sensibilities is I’m against the senseless torture as a major plot point. This was specifically prompted by movie franchises including ‘Saw’ and ‘Hostel’ and popular television series like ‘24’. Usually I allow the proverbial exception that proves the rule but in this case I have typically found it exceptionally difficult to justify the infliction of inhuman pain for any reason. Then I received an opportunity to review ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’ the sophomore opus for independent filmmaker, Chris Sun. this film is fundamentally about a man suffering the loss of his six year old daughter. As a father of a daughter mine might be preparing for her wedding but in my mind’s eye she will forever be no more than eight years of age. Throughout the course of their lives she will always remain daddy’s little girl. This film offers the worse, nightmarish scenario any father of a daughter could possibly endure.
Derek (Michael Thomson) is divorced from his ex-wife Stacey (Allira Jaques) in relationship as far removed from amicable as feasible. Caught in the middle of this untenable animosity is Georgia (Billi Baker), their six year old daughter. Their do make an attempt to remain as civil as possible when they are both with Georgia but even a young child can sense when her parents actual can’t stand to be near each other. These fights extend to faults Derek has found with Stacey’s house in particular the broken window in Georgia’s bedroom. Stacey never seemed to get around to having fixed prompting Derek to offer to do it himself. Stacey could not bring herself to owe such a favor to her ex-husband. This is rapidly escalated from yet another minor point of contention to a major source of guilt and blame when the little girl is abducted from her bedroom obviously through that broken window.
Upon discovering this Stacey phones Derek in a panic to inform him of the disappearance. A frantic search ensues but the result is tragic; Georgia’s corpse is found on a beach; raped, tortured and brutally murdered. The authorities undertake an investigation but after six months the police haven’t made an iota of progress. Understandably Derek’s frustration rapidly mounts. The police openly admit the chances of bringing the perpetrator to justice are pretty much none existent. Then Derek happens upon crucial information relating to Georgia’s murderer. Derek goes through the morally and legally proper channels bringing the information to the police. Their reaction is to ignore the lead. Distraught, devastated by grief and blinded by frustration Derek can see no recourse but to take the matter into his own hands. The evidence Derek came across was a journal of his brother Tommy (Christian Radford). Contained with were details of numerous brutal rapes of young girls including details pertaining to the molestation of his nice, Georgia. After an intense research into inflicting the maximum amount of non-lethal suffering Derek invites Tommy over for a drink, a heavily drugged drink. What caps off the story is Derek torturing Tommy with details that are excessive by the standards set with any torture laden horror flick.
With a running time of 1:43 it might appear excessive to devote almost a full half hour to the culminating scene of torture. Many people have expressed stringent opinions about the use of torture and how it not just dominates the piece; it overwhelms it. Superficially, the tenants of this film almost every established notion I’ve maintained regarding torture in a movie. The main objection is when the protagonist is the one doing the torture. Whether the torturer is an insane madman like ‘Jigsaw’ or a dedicated government operative like Jack Bauer torture is a heinous practice repeatedly proven to be entirely ineffectual in obtaining information. Thanks to the war on terrorism torture has taken center stage with a notable portion of the population citing our government’s use of these tactics as eroding the moral high ground traditionally associated with the United States of America.
In this film Mr. Sun has collapsed the broader issue into a microcosm of one man’s unbearable emotional pain and psychological torment. Having heard some of the usual Indy buzz concerning the film to realize the movie was difficult to watch but priding myself for being open to different forms of movies I steeled myself and sat down to watch. The movie will be distributed through streaming video venues and as such I downloaded my preview copy. It took me longer than usual to process just what I witnessed and even longer to mull over the content and presentation. I did find it necessary to watch the film again. It was during that second viewing that my understanding began to take form.
I usually appended the term ‘senseless’ to my description of how torture has all but supplanted story and character development in this branch of the horror genre. While that adjective applies here there are circumstances and nuances in play that demand consideration. One of my favorite themes is placing a reasonable man into the most unreasonable circumstances conceivable. Traditionally the 1993 film, ‘Falling Down’ is frequently cited as an example of this category of storytelling. It is an understatement to state this film exceeds how that point is expressed. Derek had been systematically stripped of facility of reason. The initial event, the shock of finding his daughter, broken and ravaged followed by the failure of the proper authorities to adequately resolves this issue through legally sanctioned channels. Further eroding his faith in a rational resolution was the discovery that his own brother was the culprit taking his daughter’s innocence before snuffing out her brief life.
I have seen complaints that the lead in to the gruesome conclusion was cursory. In this I have to vehemently disagree. All we needed to know is Georgia came from a family that like millions of others consisted of an emotionally tense environment. This does afford the audience a means to identify strongly with Derek. This is crucial in order to proceed to the forgone conclusion properly. It must be remembered that cinematic offerings like this are valid, even necessary forms of artistic expression. All forms of art are based on the principle that its primary purpose is to evoke an emotional response from its audience. Humanity is extremely complicated on the emotional and psychological level, far too much so to be restricted to a single set or inclination. Under normal conditions art examines beauty; love, justice and duty. The fact remains that these might represent the positive end of the spectrum but does not begin to plunge the depths of what makes us human; for that artist like Mr. Sun are necessary. This movie is brutal beyond belief with a level of detail unknown in the usual horror genre. When the common place torture yanks out teeth you might see blood but here the root is slowly pulled out from the jaw. This is but one example of the gruesome commitment to reality employed here.
There are no excuses made. It is clear that Derek is committing an inhuman act but the difference clearly depicted is all remnants of humanity had been systematically ablated as the morals and dependence on established means to retain law and order woefully failed him. Derrek was broken down, rebuilt as a hollow shell of a man so full of pain that unless he was able to externalize it, to project it out on a target, it would consume the last vestige of his life. Occasionally art must explore the darkest side of humanity. Chris Sun set out to accomplish this and he did so with a stark efficiency. It will profoundly affect you and compel you to heated discussion just as and sharply crafted work of art should. You might have to search streaming video venue to find this movie but if you are serious about appreciating the range of artistic expression cinema is capable of this is a movie that will deeply impact you.