Directed by: #MarkHensley
Written by: #PeggyLewis
In his directorial debut, Mark Hensley provides us with an intriguing spin on the category of ‘social message’ films which seek to highlight a singular issue that affects society.
What makes The Daycare interesting is that, for much of its duration, it holds its cards so close to its chest. In doing this, it cleverly causes you to question any preconceived notions of whether all types of abuse are equally repugnant and worthy of retribution, particularly given the assumption created by the use of the female name ‘Fiona’ used in the torture scene.
Furthermore, there are several moments of cinematic excellence nestled within The Daycare’s brief running time. The opening shot is immediately compelling, capturing your attention with its stylishness and intriguing lack of exposition. The use of music is also considered and effectual, and perfectly complements the camerawork throughout. Peggy Lewis’ script is clever, too, masking its true intentions while interspersing enough moments of subtle foreshadowing to warrant repeat viewings.
However, while these individual elements of The Daycare are worthy of credit, they fail to amount to an entirely brilliant whole. In many ways, The Daycare does, by its end, feel more like an advert than a short film, particularly in the way that it encourages you to visit its website to further educate yourself on the film’s main issue once the credits begin to roll. This ultimately stops it from becoming a great piece of cinema and relegates it instead into being forgettable.
Additionally, there are issues around The Daycare’s originality. Much of this film echoes the iconic torture scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, in which Mr. Blonde disfigures the policeman in the warehouse. In The Daycare, the juxtaposition of violence with cheery, diegetic music, the victim bound to the chair with his mouth covered with duct tape, and the costume which Joe wears all take influence from what is arguably the most well-known moment in Tarantino’s filmography. The problem with this imitation, however, is that it is pale. While it could be read as homage, it ultimately feels too much like something we have seen before. This might have been something that could be glossed over if it were not for the fact that Tom Conlan, playing the torturer here, lacks the cold, smooth menace of Michael Madsen. Similarly, the lack of visible wounds on the victim makes the violence in The Daycare unconvincing and thus not at all scary. More problematic is the fact that, while Mr. Blonde was undeniably a psychopath, the two men involved in torture in this film aren’t so clearly characterised as such. It's hard to interpret whether the film intended to use violence to highlight it's central issue and make abusers consider their actions, or whether the actions of Tom and his father are condoned. Thus, while The Daycare clearly has good intentions, this uncertainty leaves a lingering sense of disquiet.