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Dead Daughters

Be Good or Die

A film review by Scott Weinberg, Cinematical

Dead Daughters (Myortvye docheri)

Myortvye docheri
Russia, 2007
Director Pavel Ruminov
Starring Yekaterina Shcheglova, Mikhail Dementyev, Nikita Yemshanov, Darya Charusha, Ravshana Kurkova, Ivan Volkov

When Night Watch made it to U.S. multiplexes (with a promise of Day Watch and Dusk Watch firmly made), I didn’t expect the (very weird) movie to kick-start an outpouring of Russian genre flicks. And since I’m one of the horror geeks who didn’t much care for Night Watch, I wasn’t exactly elated at the prospect of more. Well, Day Watch hits theaters later this year, and now comes a J-horror-inspired snoozer called Dead Daughters. which presents perhaps fifteen interesting minutes that have been scattered across an oppressive 119-minute frame.

Truth be told, Dead Daughters has maybe enough plot to cover a half-decent episode of Masters of Horror, but the flick just ambles, rambles and wanders its way through an endless litany of pointless conversations and painfully uneventful digressions, which means that whatever potentially compelling concepts it may contain are lost amidst the tedium. It also doesn’t help that director Pavel Ruminov is absolutely and single-mindedly intent on shooting every single scene — be it conversational, exposition-laden, or scary-style — with his camera slowly panning from left to right, up and down, sometimes with the camera lens focused firmly on … nothing. As characters talk we get quivery panoramas of their locations, the camera forever shivering as if the cinematographer was really drunk, really inexperienced, or really pretentious.

So the boredom and the cinematic seasickness combine to undermine whatever slick offerings Dead Daughters may plan to deliver. The plot is a standard thing indeed: The ghosts of three murdered children (slowly) “attach” themselves to random people, and if those random people do anything “bad” over the next three days, than those people get crushed by something heavy or skewered by something sharp. (I know this because these things happen in the first five minutes of the film — and the final fifteen. Keep in mind that Dead Daughters runs a full two hours.) If you’d like to know what fills the intervening time, I’ll tell you: It’s lots and lots (and lots) of nattering yap, a small portion of which pertains to the actual plot of the movie. The rest of the material is vague and tangential at best, unnecessary and deadly dull at worst.

Ruminov is clearly not without talent. Several of his set-ups are quite effectively grungy, atmospheric and (almost) kind of creepy. His visions of a bleached-out Russian city are stark and compelling — one almost wishes he’d made a documentary instead of a big, gaping yawn of a horror movie. Semi-recent word indicates that Dead Daughters will soon be re-made by American filmmakers, to which I can only say A) why? and B) keep the basic storyline, lose about 40 minutes of aimless chit-chat, and make the thing (at least a little) scary. Do all that and you’re looking at a remake I still won’t want to see, but it’d probably turn out just a little more entertaining the original.

Despite the nasty-yet-exotic location and the presence of actors who speak neither English or Japanese, Dead Daughters delivers a cast, a concept, and (for the most part) a presentation that feel cribbed from a dozen other “ghosts and deadlines” stories. Even the characters are patterned in a standard and formulaic fashion. The result is a movie that might look and sound a little different than what the horror geeks are so hungry for, but I can’t imagine the seasoned genre expert who’d find a whole lot in Dead Daughters to get enthusiastic about. Those with a taste for the international scary fare may want to give the flick a shot for themselves, of course, but I recommend they bring a lamp, a book and some coffee.