In a time when stranger danger is ever present, a single father learns that it’s the ones you trust most who have to be watched the closest.
We’ve all heard it before, a news report detailing the abuse of a child that enraged us no end. And I’m betting that most, if not all, of us thought the same thought afterwards, “If it was my child I’d make that person slowly suffer before I killed them”. I’ve certainly thought that way and I still do whenever I hear of some child being abused. Daddy’s Little Girl isn’t all that different from other rape/revenge films (The Girl Next Door comes immediately to mind) save for two things, but I’ll get to those in a little while. First let’s talk about the plot…
The story concerns a young father, Derek (Michael Thomson), a divorced dad of a six year old girl, Georgia (Billi Baker), whom he adores with all his heart. Billi lives with her mother Stacey (Allira Jaques) but despite the bad blood between them Derek has full access to his daughter and truly enjoys spending time with her. She’s the apple of his eye and he spends nearly every free moment he has with her. Sadly those free moments are few because he runs a struggling surfboard shop with his best friend Colin (Sean Gannon) and they’re struggling to stay in business. In fact business is so bad that Derek’s younger brother Tommy (Christian Radford) is let go due to sluggish sales, much to Derek’s chagrin.
Stacey & Derek are at odds over most everything but a particular sticking point for Derek is the faulty window in Billi’s room (it doesn’t shut right). And although he’s offered to fix it up for his daughter immediately her mother continually rebuffs his attempts to repair it, saying she’ll get to it when she has the money to fix it properly. Cut to a few days later when Derek gets a frantic call from Stacey saying that Billi has gone missing from her room and the ensuing search for her ends in tragedy when her lifeless body is found on the beach, battered, bloodied and sexually abused. We then cut to six months later and find out that the police still don’t have any leads in the investigation but Derek happens upon some information in the most unexpected of places and decides to apprehend and punish his daughter’s murderer all on his own.
First things first, The manner in which Derek stumbles upon the identity of the killer is pretty unbelievable and stretches credulity quite a bit. I won’t reveal how he does it or who the killer turns out to be but the script (by director Chris Sun) makes the discovery to be so incalculably random that I had a real hard time believing it was possible, but I suppose stranger things have happened so I willingly gave it a pass. And the identity of the killer, while quite shocking, felt a bit forced to me. As if Sun couldn’t think of a more plausible culprit and decided to jump the shark in an attempt to make the final third of the script more shocking & give it some emotional heft.
That being said, the final third of Daddy’s Little Girl is indeed hardcore stuff. I can’t remember a film that made me wince and avert my gaze from the screen as much as this one did (& remember I’m only talking about the last 30 minutes or so). This leads me to the first of the two things that make this film different from other films of its ilk, its torture scenes are the most realistic I’ve ever seen and they comprise the entire final third of the film. I’m not talking about short scenes of torture that cutaway to reaction shots from other characters either. Director Sun takes his sweet time in letting the torture scenes play out in all of their grisly ghastliness, the audience experiences everything in loving close up shots featuring some of the most gut wrenchingly realistic special effects I’ve ever seen. Those that know me well know that I’m particularly averse to watching scenes involving teeth, I just don’t dig watching people pulling teeth out of their mouths or having someone pull them out for them, makes my skin crawl personally. Well Daddy’s Little Girl features the most horrific dental torture scene ever put to celluloid. Ever. I’m talking meat people…mouth meat.
And that’s not even the worst of it!
Which leads me to the other thing that separates this film from other films sharing similar subject matter. It takes a LONG TIME to get to the grue and for some of you (the really twisted ones anyway) that might be a turn off. At close to two hours long the film really drags in places and I think perhaps director Sun might’ve thought that the sluggishness of a lot that proceeds it might’ve made the torture scenes that much more horrific. Other similar films don’t really spend as much time showing us people talking to each other as this one does, or at the very least toss in a few scenes of the killer doing something vile every so often to keep us interested. Thankfully we never see any of what happens to poor Georgia but personally I think 15-20 minutes of unnecessary exposition scenes could’ve been cut from the running time with little to no effect but it’s his film, not mine. It still worked for me because of the convincing performances he got from his cast. Especially Michael Thompson, who really shined in his scenes with Billi Baker and lends an air of macabre casualness to the torture scenes. I did have a slight problem understanding bits of dialog every so often because of the accents everyone has (the film is from Australia) but it only happened a few times & a quick rewind later I understood everything being said.
What disturbed me more than anything else about the film was something that took place after I finished watching it. As I thought about what I had just witnessed I began to wonder if I would go as far as Derek does in exacting revenge for what happened to his only child? I talk a good game for sure and god forbid if anything like that should happen to one of my kids but if it did and I had the opportunity to capture and do whatever I wanted to do to the culprit…would I go this far? Could I go this far?
Daddy’s Little Girl – 3.5 out of 5 shrouds