Movie Review of The Daisy Chain (2008)

by JoHarrington

A very Celtic kind of horror story, which is perhaps more psychological thriller than pure horror. It's one of the best films I've seen this year.

It's been two days since I watched 'The Daisy Chain'. I've not been able to stop thinking about it.

A friend once opined that the mark of a great movie is that it moves you in some way; and that something about it lingers in your mind long after the closing credits have rolled. By that criteria, then it was a great film, at least as I viewed it.

Yet it turned out that not everyone thought the same. Here is my truthful review against the world.

The Daisy Chain on DVD

This is a highly misleading DVD cover. It bears absolutely no resemblance nor hint to the plot-line at all! And it's only on the US DVD release.

Who on Earth Approved that DVD Cover?

To my mind, it was somebody who had never even watched the movie, nor gone beyond a cursory glance at the movie's summary.

Exhibit A:  A skimpily-clad, adult woman with dragonfly wings.  She has cobwebs in her messy hair, a zombie's grin and the half-open, half-closed eyes of I don't know what.  She's clutching a withered rose in a stormy graveyard.

After watching The Daisy Chain, I haven't a clue who she is, nor what aspect of the movie she is meant to represent. 

The storyline does have one nod towards fairy changelings.  Is she that?  And if so, what bizarre source on the Celtic fey did this monstrous apparition spring from?  She is apropos of nothing. No touchstone in the narrative, no basis in the lore.  In short, I have no clue what she's doing there.

Please don't base any consideration of the movie upon the DVD cover.

Outside the USA, the film's cover appeared much differently.  It is instantly recognizable within the context of the storyline too.  It's the image, featuring brilliant young actress Mhairi Anderson, which graces this introduction.

I just wish that this cover for the DVD had been used in the American release too.  It would have been far less misleading to those picking it up; thus all confusion may have been averted.

Trailer for The Daisy Chain (2008)

What is The Daisy Chain About?

An Irish community is having more than its fair share of tragedies and bad luck. A young girl amongst them just wants somebody to play with her.

Martha (Samantha Morton) is a heavily pregnant English woman moving into a remote Irish village, where her husband Tomas (Stephen MacKintosh) was raised.

The Conroys are grieving.  Their first daughter Chloe died two years ago in a cot death. Anxiety besets this second pregnancy; and Martha has only just recovered from a semi-breakdown following the loss of Chloe. 

Tomas is back amongst family and friends, but Martha, though welcomed with open arms, still receives the occasional reminder that she's a Londoner.  Not least when she struggles to understand the attitude of one old man towards a neighbor's small girl.

Old Sean (David Bradley) is convinced that the elfin looking child is a fairy changeling. Tomas laughs it off and, at his wife's incredulity, points out that no-one else believes in such things. He personally determines that she is merely autistic.

But a chain of terrible events ensue, which all seem to have young Daisy Gahan (Mhairi Anderson) at their center.  If not autistic, could she be psychotic?  A killer child?  Or was Sean right all along? 

Or will people believe anything under peer pressure, in the right circumstances, when ignorance abounds?

Image:  Mhairi Anderson as Daisy Gahan.
Image: Mhairi Anderson as Daisy Gahan.

What is Daisy?

Us Celts do love our trinities. There is a triple offering of what may or may not be troubling Daisy Gahan.

There are those who approach this film expecting it to be in the Killer Child horror genre, up there with The Omen.

The movie can certainly be watched that way. 

There are those who are ready to embrace the whole fairy changeling notion; or even that of the fairy's midwife. 

In Celtic lore, a changeling is a shape-shifting, elderly fairy, who makes itself look like a human couple's baby.  The real infant has been carried away to live with the fey. The changeling is then raised by its surrogate parents, who will wait on it hand and foot; bewitched and enslaved into doing its will.

The movie can certainly be watched this way too.

Or there are those who came with no preconceptions at all.  They are waiting for an actual doctor's diagnosis, while strongly suspecting that Daisy is a low-functioning autistic girl.

There is plenty of scope to watch this version of the movie too, all interwoven with the others.

But, to my mind, it doesn't really matter.  The movie is not about Daisy.  It's about the community around her and she is just the catalyst.

Watch The Daisy Chain on Amazon Instant Video

How do you judge Daisy?

As the scenes played out, you must have perceived something in that elfin face. What was she?

Why So Many Bad Reviews of The Daisy Chain?

From what I can gather, people entered into it expecting a certain genre of movie. They got confused when it didn't deliver.

I finished watching The Daisy Chain truly excited about what I'd just seen.  I didn't have that DVD cover to misdirect me.

If I had, then maybe I too would have been waiting for the gruesome special effects, a graveyard scene with zombies or a swarm of killer fairies.  It's not that movie.  It doesn't exist here.

Instead, it's a tense, psychological thriller about a community talking itself into increasingly bizarre conclusions.  When circumstances, a strong argument and peer pressure collude, then anything is possible.  You only have to read the papers for the latest social media scare for proof of that.

A clever speaker can justify genocide.  A seemingly senseless tragedy must have someone to blame. Ignorance and fear can breed anything; and even the most rational mind can break down under such uncertainty.

That's the movie that I watched.  But moreover, it's a storyline which allows you to join in.  The audience is merely an extension of that Irish community.  I reached the end and the horror was mostly in what my mind had been willing during certain scenes.

Anything else would be spoilers. 

But I can say with some certainty that my viewing of the movie was the correct one.  It is about outsiders and how people may gang up in the face of difference.  I can say this, because the director Aisling Walsh has confirmed it in an interview.

Interview with Aisling Walsh about The Daisy Chain

The Daisy Chain Passes the Bechdel Test Hands Down

The Bechdel Test aims to evaluate the role of female characters in any given movie.  It asks that there are more than one named women or girls; and that they have a conversation about something other than a male character.

According to IMDb, there were sixteen named female characters.  They spent the entire movie talking to each other about a host of subjects.  Even if the Bechdel Test's low bar was to be raised to include substantial conversations of more than a few seconds of screen time, then this movie would still pass.

That's the first time that I've said that!

Nor should The Daisy Chain be viewed as a 'women's movie'.  It's not.  There were also eleven named male characters; and they also had conversations.  Though maybe not as many as the female characters did.

Amongst them was quite an unusual listing.  Samantha Morton was heavily pregnant in real life, when she filmed The Daisy Chain.  Her character wasn't pregnant in the script.  It had to be altered to accommodate her!

One of the recurring themes of the story was Martha and Tomas trying to think of names for their unborn son.  His face appears on a scan part way through.  Naturally he didn't enter into any conversations himself.

It might be a point of some amusement to note that the real life baby turned out to be a girl!  Little Edie was born on January 4th 2008. 

Three questions are asked of each movie. They are so simple that it would be harder to fail than pass. They examine the role of females in that film. Nearly half fail.
Updated: 12/14/2012, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 12/13/2012

I'm still thinking about it, so yes, I'd recommend it.

kate on 12/13/2012

this sounds great.

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