A film about a young woman held and hurt by her stepfather for many years. Not as nasty as I had expected, but more interesting and realistic, which works in its favor.
In Daddy’s Girl, Zoe has been held virtually captive by her stepfather since her mother died about twelve years earlier. He abuses, torments, and controls Zoe, but he does much worse to other young women while grooming Zoe to become an accomplice. Daddy’s Girl is directed by Julian Richards (The Last Horror Movie), and it is a somber way to pass eighty minutes, with well-drawn main characters and an almost believable story.
Zoe (Jemma Dallender, I Spit on Your Grave 2, Hollyoaks) is a fascinating character. She lives with John Stone (Costas Mandylor, Saw V, Saw VI) like a much younger girlfriend, helping in his business and occasionally going as far as a shop or bar by herself. But she is clearly very scared of him, telling the other women he brings home to his torture chamber “at least you have a choice,” referring to a suicide solution (which was the original working title of the film). This Daddy’s Girl has become so attached to him over the years that she watches what he inflicts on these others through the door, and it is unclear whether it is admiration for him or concern for them. Indeed there are times when John’s sadistic nature appears to be rubbing off on her, as he (most likely) intends.
I think John involves her with the women he lures home as a way to obtain some unspoken endorsement; and when they are alone he simply seems to use her to build up an appetite for the violence he applies to them. There is no clear explanation for his behavior; one possible influence could be the experiences he carried back with him from his time in Iraq, but a suggestion also arises that he was unbalanced when he was there too. John’s need for Zoe – her presence, her attention, her body – is claustrophobic, and Mandylor had me almost forgetting his Detective Hoffman character from the Saw series within his first couple of scenes.
John and Zoe’s troubled but established lifestyle is threatened first when they encounter Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Walker (Jesse Moss, Ghost Wars, Final Destination 3) and then Jennifer (Britt McKillip, Trick ‘r Treat, My Little Pony). These are fairly simple characters in comparison to the main pair in Daddy’s Girl; but with their input, the film (written by Timothy Hill) becomes a police mystery and an escape drama, broadening it from what could have been an overdone captivity horror. The plot is well thought out and interesting, as well as tense in parts, and I’m sure the few minor neat coincidences could have been avoided if the film hadn’t been made so short.
Daddy’s Girl is not a gripping film, but the characters are intriguing enough and the drama almost plausible enough to keep my attention from wandering. For the most part, the sets and people seemed so grubbily down to Earth that they became realistic, and this sense was aided by the way the story was not too fast-paced; a positive flip-side to its less than exciting tone. It kept restrained tension throughout, though, aided by the score from Holly Amber Church (Open 24 Hours), especially during the parts when Zoe’s responses became unpredictable.
It’s easy to expect Daddy’s Girl to be a brutal “torture ****” film, and I’ve read that the story did start out that way in its earliest form some years ago. The ultimate release though is not bloody (beyond one act done to a corpse), most of the violence is implied instead of explicit. This doesn’t lessen the impact, and it was only when I got to the end and looked back did I realize how little violence I actually saw. There is also no gratuitous nudity, or even any moments of the camera spending too long on a female figure. Thus – and it’s very unusual to say this – Daddy’s Girl is about a young woman under the control of a sadistic man who hates women, but it does not glamorize or sexualize this dynamic. Along with the interesting characters and not-too-outrageous plot, this makes it, in my opinion, a worthy addition to the catalog of films about captive women.
Alix has been writing for Ready Steady Cut since November 2017. They cover a wide variety, including genre festivals, and especially appreciates wit and representation on screen.