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Daddy's Girl
(1996)
 

Director:Martin Kitrosser                      
Cast:
William Katt, Michele Greene, Gabrielle Boni


Among the numerous premises used for exploitation movies, the premise of killer kid(s) hasn't been used that often. At first, one may be confused by this lack of attention to what seems like a great idea for exploitation on the surface. And isn't The Bad Seed considered a cult movie? Though when one thinks about the idea for a few minutes, it's likely they'll start to see some problems. For one thing, there aren't that many children out there that are superior actors; most are poor to acceptable, and for a difficult role like this, a very talented child actor is needed. Otherwise, the movie immediately collapses into high camp or plain stupidity. Second of all, the actions that might be acceptable for an adult can look silly when a child attempts them - so very careful writing is needed, and low-budget productions usually don't have superior scripts.

Besides The Bad Seed,  I've only seen two other "killer kid(s)" movies that have been acceptable entertainment. The illogical Bloody Birthday still had enough violence and nudity to complement its unsubtle nasty edge. The Paperboy had an uneven quality and was a little drawn out, but it was reasonably absorbing, and, surprisingly, managed to build up some sympathy for the title figure by (among other things) exploring why he became the way he was. Coincidentally, Daddy's Girl shares the same producer (Pierre David), as well as actor William Katt. But aside from those two participants, and the basic premise of a killer kid, Daddy's Girl has nothing in common with The Paperboy - especially when it comes to aspects of merit.

For starters, the movie seems to be starting at what would normally be the second chapter. At the start of the movie, during the last day of school, little girl Jody (Boni), is told by her school principal, Ms. Hemp (no jokes, please), that she wants to discuss with Jody's parents about Jody going to a special school next year. Apparently, Jody is some kind of troubled student. How? Sorry, we're not told here, or in the rest of the movie.(*) What kind of "special school"? Sorry, we're never told that either. At least the movie tells us why Jody is so terrified about this - she is apparently very attached to Don (Katt), her adoptive father, and can't stand the thought of being separated from him. (I'm not sure exactly how this was shown, for I can't recall that many scenes of Jody and her dad together in the entire film.) What will Jody do? Well, Jody saw Ms. Hemp standing on a rickety chair in front of a tall bookcase in her office just before the two of them talked....and Jody later hears Ms. Hemp telling a teacher, "Nobody will be here tomorrow! Last year at this time, it was like a ghost town here!" So what does Jody do before her daddy has a chance to get the straight dope from Ms. Hemp? Oh, come on - you know already.

"Oh, come on" was what I kept saying throughout Daddy's Girl. It seems that the makers of this movie thought we were idiots or something, because the movie keeps giving us clues as to what will happen next. Not long afterwards, we see someone pouring drain cleaner down a sink, and the camera is so close, we can clearly read DRAIN CLEANER on the bottle - obviously this bottle will be reintroduced later, to be used in some other fashion. And we are soon introduced to Jody's bitchy grandmother, who walks around with a cane, and happens to have a long flight of stairs in her home. It'll be no surprise to anyone about what happens to grandma later.

After Jody deals with her bud Ms. Hemp, the rest of the movie deals with her plans to permanently stop anyone - even family members - who could possibly destroy her relationship with her father. Though since there aren't that many characters who pose such a serious threat in the movie, we have to wait an agonizing amount of time for Jody to do her thing for each victim. Between the scenes where she does her thing, there is mostly nothing going on, unless you get entertainment out of characters screaming, bitching, or muttering over stupid and trivial topics. Director Kitrosser can't do a thing to disguise this nothingness. He attempts to generate some false chills with the tired "it's-only-a-dream" cliché not just once, but twice - and these dreams are directed in a way that makes them so obviously dreams, why on earth should we be scared? Mostly, he keeps teasing us with his direction, making almost every scene start off like something might happen, but then he pulls back, showing that the scene really served no purpose, except to pad the running time. He also blows the movie in the casting department, by having used two adult female characters who look so much alike, that when one of the two actually does do something with the plot, we are confused, because we aren't sure which character is doing it.

And speaking of actresses, let's get to Gabrielle Boni, who plays the title figure. To put it kindly, she's not appropriate for the role. To put it more realistically, I found her quite repulsive. Her red hair looks dyed, her freckles and other features make her look quite homely, and she is dressed in ugly clothing throughout the movie. Her acting is downright piss-poor. Without the hand of a competent director to guide her acting, she gives a stupendously bad performance. Take, for example, this scene she has with her adult cousin Karen, just before smoking her bike over to Ms. Hemp:

Jody: (Brightly) I'm going down to the park!
Karen: Have a good time.
Jody: (In a low growl, while crossing eyes that now have a glower in them, and looking extremely sinister) I WILL!....
(Jody bikes off, and Karen leaves, as if not hearing anything.)

Now, I laughed out loud at that scene, but unfortunately there wasn't much more bad acting - or anything else - that gave me a laugh. Not only does Boni give a terrible performance, she is also saddled with some extremely stupid dialogue. The screenplay has her at several key moments uttering Freddy Krueger-like wisecracks. After she puts Ms. Hemp out of joint, she smilingly says, "I guess I won't be seeing you next fall, Ms. Hemp." After dealing with her grandmother, she smilingly says, "You know - most accidents do happen in the home!" Would a kid really say something like this? Little of what Jody says or acts on is believable for a little girl, even one as twisted as her - her actions are either not appropriate for a little girl, or not believable for anyone. For example, at one point she sets her sights on another victim, filling a glass 1/4 full of prune juice, and the other 3/4 with that DRAIN CLEANER (that would really clean someone's pipes!) - it never occurs to her that her victim would sooner spit out that concoction than actually drink it all. It turns out her father tries to drink it, and she bats it out of his hands, shattering the glass. What does he do? Nothing! The scene ends there, and there's no further mention of this incident. (An almost identical "reaction" happens when Jody smashes a mirror in the house later in the movie.)

As stupid and pointless as this movie is, I admit one part of me was interested while watching this mess - I was interested in how it was going to be resolved. If the central character was an adult, it's likely he or she would be killed - but as you probably know, there is a reluctance among filmmakers to kill any kind of child in a movie. So I wondered what would happen to Jody. But just when it seems the movie should start to proceed with some resolution to Jody's fate, the movie ends. Yes, ends - we don't find out what happens. Though The Paperboy had an ending that seemed a little unfinished, it at least gave us a good idea of what was going to happen to the child. Not here. This ending was, for me, the final straw for this asinine, so-called "thriller". If there's no resolution to a movie, then what use is it sitting through an hour and half through a kind of tease?


* The screenplay shows its ineptness further on this point in a later scene, where a little girl who went to school with Jody tells one of the main characters (in a tattle-tale voice), "I can tell you a lot about Jody!" When the little girl is asked what she knows, she gasps, changes her mind and blurts out, "Jody will kill me!" and runs away. The little girl and her story are subsequently forgotten about.

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See also: Clownhouse, The Other, Troll 2

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