Starring Samantha Morton, Steven Mackintosh and Mhairi Anderson

Directed by Aisling Walsh

Written by Lauren McKenzie

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Daisy (Mhairi Anderson)

Imagine if last year’s evil child thriller Orphan had been written and directed by British director Ken Loach and you’ve got an idea of both the plot and tone of The Daisy Chain, an Irish film made two years ago but just finding its way to DVD now.

Top-notch British actors Samantha Morton (Minority Report) and Steven Mackintosh (Underworld: Evolution) star as Martha and Tomas Conroy, a young Irish couple who move back to his village in preparation for the birth of their son – even though they’re not yet recovered from the death just two years earlier of their infant daughter.

Among their neighbours is Daisy (Mhairi Anderson), a troubled child, possibly autistic, who spends her days pestering cranky Mr. Cryan (David Bradley), an old man who thinks she is actually a fairy changeling, a creature in folk myth said to have been left in the place of a human child. The Conroys take in Daisy when her parents die in a mysterious fire – that after her baby brother drowned with no explanation. Other strange incidents and accidents happen around Daisy, but Martha, increasingly obsessed with the child, defends her against the superstitious rumblings, even as Tomas feels his wife slipping away from him and the town turning against Daisy.

Samantha Morton as Martha

We mention Loach because director Aisling Walsh’s shooting style, with its drab colour palette and attention to the small details of domestic life, and Lauren McKenzie’s smart script, which never definitively reveals whether or not Daisy is quote-unquote evil or mentally ill, hearken back to the social realist style of Loach’s Bread and Roses (2000) and Riff-Raff (1990). It’s an odd film with a palpable sense of creeping dread, but there is little pandering to the conventions of horror, beyond a couple of effective jump scares and the ominous score of composer David Julyan (The Descent).

Instead, The Daisy Chain depicts, with heartbreaking honesty, the disintegration of a marriage due to the sorrow incurred by a child’s death. That’s the film’s true horror, and it’s all the more dreadful for its basis in reality.

Rating: 3/5

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