Though it does not transcend its genre limitations, THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER uses the genre's conventions intelligently, and the result is highly watchable.
Southern California, 1970: a band of hippies living in a desert commune is slaughtered by a Manson-esque drifter who swears allegiance to Satan and a mysterious figure in a limousine, who speaks ominously of others whose time will come. Cut to Frankfurt, Germany, 1991: a mild looking, middle-aged
man leaves his family, saying he's going to buy some milk. Instead he follows a young girl home and murders her, cutting out her heart and fleeing into the subway. When he's caught, he commits suicide. A sick old man (Herbert Lom), carrying a parcel wrapped in brown paper, embarks on a long bus
trip; a shy schoolteacher, Miriam (Kelly Curtis, sister of horror-movie veteran Jamie Lee Curtis) nearly runs him over on the road in the quiet suburb where she lives. She brings him to her home, where he dies mysteriously, and she's plunged into a nightmare of bizarre dreams and acts of horror.
The old man is part of a mysterious sect, dedicated to Satan, and Miriam has been chosen to bear his son. The warning signs of supernatural nastiness are all around her: strange blue glop pours from the taps; her pet rabbit behaves weirdly; there's a message from the dead man on her answering
machine and the cloth that covered his face takes on an eerie life; her best friend is brutally murdered; a student draws a strange, extinct insect--the very one the old man carried with him and placed in Miriam's nose, causing her to have strange dreams--and the camera tracks restlessly,
nervously, intensely through the halls and cellar of Miriam's house, as though propelled by, well yes--the devil himself. But she doesn't know what to make of it all until it's too late, and she has been forced to bear her unnatural child.
It's standard enough stuff until the end, when THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER throws the viewer a surprising curve: given the option of raising her child or turning him over to the cult, Miriam opts to hurl herself and the baby into the flames of a blazing automobile wreck. But when the emergency crews
arrive, she alone is pulled from the ashes, miraculously unscathed and astonished that her unearthly child loved her enough to protect her from the fire.
What distinguishes THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER from a slew of other evil-cult movies is the breathtaking beauty of its images, nowhere better demonstrated than in a hallucinatory dream, initiated when the strange insect (it's referred to as a scarab, though it hardly looks like one) crawls up Miriam's
nose and into her brain. Following her pet rabbit through a field bright with flowers, she finds herself beneath a tree glittering with metal charms that tinkle in the breeze; the dream becomes a nightmare with the appearance of a great black bird that envelopes her in its wings and tears at her
flesh. The scene in which, beneath a moonlit sky, cultists delicately insert a set of silver hooks into a woman's face, then lovingly peel it away from her skull, runs a close second. Photographed by Raffaele Mertes, THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER rejects the crude darkness of most horror films, and
replaces it with a rich palette of densely colored shadows and strangely eerie daylight.
THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER breaks no new ground on the narrative front: its story owes much to ROSEMARY'S BABY, doctored with touches of everything from THE WICKER MAN to ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Actor-turned-director Michele Soavi's third film, following BLOODY BIRD and THE CHURCH, THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER
(which was released in his native Italy as LA SETTA, "The Sect"), shows clearly the influence of his mentor, Dario Argento, whose glorious and horrific visual sense has found him a wide cult following among fans of European horror films. But it is supremely beautiful, and surprisingly haunting.
Almost two hours long, the film twists and turns in ways that are wildly improbable, but compelling nonetheless, despite the hollow dubbing that mars Italian films with English-language soundtracks. (Violence, nudity, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: R
- Review: Though it does not transcend its genre limitations, THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER uses the genre's conventions intelligently, and the result is highly watchable. Southern California, 1970: a band of hippies living in a desert commune is slaughtered by a Manson-esq… (more)