Derek Riley is the proud papa of an adorable six-year-old little girl named Georgia. Georgia is sweet and kind and is clearly Derek’s whole world. So it’s little surprise that her tragic kidnapping and subsequent death at the hands of an unknown assailant sends him into a tailspin.
Six months after Georgia’s death, Derek is making progress with his grief, but is still struggling with the lack of any news regarding his daughter’s case. But fortune seems to smile upon him when he inadvertently stumbles upon the identity of the killer. But unfortunately for Derek, the truth of what happened to his daughter and who committed the crime reveals a grievous betrayal, one that upends his once peaceful worldview even further. Realizing that the treachery is far too personal, Derek decides that letting the police deal with the killer won’t be good enough to satisfy his rage, and chooses instead to take the law into his own hands.
All the sites I’ve gone to describes Daddy’s Little Girl, an award winning 2012 Australian Indie film, as a horror/thriller. And while that may be perfectly accurate, I think the film is probably better categorized as a thriller/revenge porn flick. Because while the first half of the film deals with the kidnap, search, murder and the inevitable emotional fallout related to the death of a child, the second half is focused solely on Derek and his quest for, and implantation of, his grisly revenge.
As far as the revenge sequences go, there is some pretty nasty stuff here, but it’s also not nearly as bad as some other, similarly themed films I’ve watched. Unlike other such films, the camera doesn’t tend to linger for very long on the gore itself, often cutting away to Derek or the killer’s face and cutting back and forth very quickly. Meanwhile, other moments, like when the killer’s arm is cut off, are almost entirely implied. So you can still clearly tell what’s going on, but this means that, at least visually, you don’t end up being too overwhelmed by the brutality because most of it is so brief. It also helps that all the torture segments are filmed in a poorly lit basement, so you can’t see too much even when the camera does linger. But those methods were likely used for more practical budgetary reasons, rather than for anything related to the viewer’s benefit. For a film made somewhere around the realm of $500k, the effects and make up look pretty damn good, but I suspect that if they’d turned more lights on the flaws would have been much more apparent. Trying to realistically fake cut off a human arm is SUPER hard after all, even with a budget, so sometimes ya gotta work around your limitations. So while it’s still a very torture-porn-y kind of film, its constraints actually make it one of the lighter torture-porn-y torture-porns.
But beyond the decent gore and copious amounts of blood, Daddy’s Little Girl feels like a standard celebrated ‘indie’ film, filled with all the standard indie film flaws. For the most part, the acting is fairly adequate, but there seems to be a level of inconsistency, even in regards to the same character. For instance, there will be some scenes where a character will say and emote their lines perfectly, but then in another scene it feels like they’re just reading their lines off a cue card. Then there’s also issues with questionable casting, like the actor playing Derek’s father looking to be about the same age as his son, and a complete lack of character histories. The film has a tendency to just throw in quick lines of dialogue to explain things or show you montage photos and expect you to just figure out what’s going on, which really sucks most of the emotion out of a lot of the ultimate outcomes. And some things it doesn’t bother to explain at all and just throws the information at you. Like, I get that the movie only has so much runtime to expound on certain ideas, but if it can’t be bothered to care enough to build up an emotional interest, then it’s hard to expect the audience to care about what’s going on.
But I think the film’s biggest issues lie with the technical aspects and parts of the plot. Visually the film looks just fine. There are a few rough edits and poorly framed shots, but it’s nothing too egregious. No, it’s biggest problem is the sound. I don’t know who was in charge of the microphones on this thing, but they did not do a good job. The ambient noises throughout the film are WAY too loud, and there are points where the score will just completely drown out the dialogue. I was forced to jack the volume of my TV up to the point my speakers were vibrating just so I could hear what the characters were saying, and even then I was struggling because the damn background noise is not actually in the background. It’s not something that happens all the time, but it is prevalent enough to be annoying.
Though not nearly as annoying as this dude
Then there’s the parts of the plot that, while made to be dramatic, don’t make a lick of sense. The turning point of the film comes when Derek discovers the killer’s diary detailing all of his nasty crimes. Where was this diary you ask? Hidden under a squeaky floorboard? A safe? Between the insulation in the attic perhaps? Nope. Derek found it in a desk drawer of a communal computer that the killer willingly let him use with zero supervision, in a home the killer openly shared with someone else. I guess the psycho killer who successfully killed three people without detection was the trusting sort who didn’t think anyone would bother to read their diary? Really? How did someone like that get away with this killing spree for so long? Dude might as well have just handed Derek the book and said “Yup, it was me! Do with me what you will!” It’s just such a dumb reveal. And then the film further questions your ability for logical reasoning by asking you to believe that Derek learned and perfected all his torturing methods by having friendly conversations with his dentist and doctor friends and a few dozen internet searches. No kidding. He performs a rough, but perfectly effective tracheotomy on the killer, first try, without killing him, thanks to the internet, and then manages to keep them alive after five further days of bloodletting and dismemberment. Amazing. Apparently after only a couple weeks of searching WikiHow, you too can become an expert in human anatomy and expertly torture someone for six days without killing them. I guess you really can learn everything you need to know from the internet.
What a testament to human knowledge.
In the end, I think Daddy’s Little Girl is a perfectly serviceable revenge flick, with both some major and minor flaws. The plot is easy enough to follow and fairly cathartic, but standard, and is littered with holes of various degrees. The acting is okay, but there are some scenes that feel like they would have benefitted by a couple more takes. And the film looks okay, but is littered with some very annoying and noticeable sound issues. So overall it’s a fine film if you can turn your brain off long enough to enjoy it and you have a decent sound system that can mitigate some of the audio issues. If you’re the type of person who likes the revenge/torture porn genre, then might get some enjoyment out of this. But if you’re looking for something a little more technically streamlined with more emotional depth, then you’re going to run into some issues.
Daddy’s Little Girl is available on several streaming services, including free on Tubi TV.
It is also available on Bluray.