During a time when so many women’s experiences of sexual assault are being brought to light in the public domain it seems more important than ever that our media is shifting. Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge, released in the UK this year, took the classic rape/revenge genre and subverted it with the female gaze in a powerful horror exploration of femininity and power. Julian Richards’ Daddy’s Girl also attempts to capitalise on the power women are slowly achieving from confronting their abusers, in a highly disturbing relationship exploration of a young woman and her step-father.
Starring Jemma Dallender (I Spit on Your Grave 2) as Zoe and Costas Mandylor (Saw’s Detective Hoffman) as her step-father John Stone, the film opens with the premise that Zoe’s mother committed suicide and since then, the pair have moved to a new town. They lay low because John sleeps with Zoe and they go on nights out together to rural bars to pick up women for John to rape and torture in his grimy torture room in their home. Sound like a completely unlikely mindfuck? It is.
With such prominent figures of horror cinema in the lead, having both dealt with rape/revenge and torture films respectively it wouldn’t be a far cry to say that this could have been so much more than the misogynistic dumpster fire it turned out to be. We join Zoe on many excursions with ex-military man John as he selects women in bars to take home. Once there, he photographs them and chains them to a metal bed frame that electrocutes them and he then disposes of them when he’s done. Judging by the array of photos on the torture room wall it seems John has been at this for a bloody long time which begs the question; why hasn’t Zoe ran away yet? She essentially lives as a free woman, she can go to the store, drink in bars, and there is no visual evidence on her body that he beats her or keeps her hostage. As John racks up more bodies it’s only at about the 20th victim that Zoe finally figures out that This Isn’t Right, going through a perplexing routine of wanting to help the girls, kill the girls, or kill John and maybe kill herself that ultimately leads absolutely nowhere.
John and Zoe’s relationship is predominantly nonplus, any suggestion of a ‘daddy issues’ narrative is wildly childish and both Dallender and Mandylor’s performances lack the complexities of other captive films such as Berlin Syndrome, meaning its audience can’t back the character study and find little payoff in its disappointing finale.
Daddy’s Girl’s issue is that it doesn’t possess the determination of other films of the genre, where the women bite back with a brutality that outweighs the violence afflicted upon them. It simply doesn’t believe in its women, and this script clearly never passed through the hands of one.
Within its last 10 minutes Daddy’s Girl tries to redeem itself with a duo revenge scenario akin to Even Lambs Have Teeth, but Richards’ film is so full of raging misogyny there is no triumph in retribution for these final few moments, it can barely give us the revenge tale it promised.
by Chloe Leeson
Chloe Leeson is the founder of Screen Queens. She hails from the north of England (the proper north that people think is actually Scotland but isn’t). Her lifesource is Harmony Korine’s 90s Letterman interviews and Ezra Miller’s jawline. She is a costume designer for hire who spends way too much time watching bad horror movies. Her favourite films are Into The Wild, Lords of Dogtown, Stand by Me and Pan’s Labyrinth. She rants about cinema screenings @kawaiigoff and logs them on letterboxd here