By: Joey Keogh
Dir: David McCracken, Joel Townsend, KaidanTreiman
UK release:24 August 2013 (Frightfest)
The found footage subgenre is currently more than slightly overpopulated, and ‘Daylight’ wasn’t the first, or indeed the last, of its ilk to be shown at this year’s Frightfest. Likewise, the idea of demonic possession was popular, so ‘Daylight’, though highly derivative on both counts, boasts at least some of its own ideas and, to its credit, it does try a bit harder than the likes of, say, ‘Dark Touch’, which was pretty much just ‘Carrie’ but Irish.
The premise of ‘Daylight’ surrounds a group of Child Protective Services workers, and a particular case study of theirs involving a young girl who appears to be possessed by some sort of demon. As the film deals with certain religious elements, there are several, heavy-handed hints that the local parish priest may have been abusing her, but this, along with every other narrative strand (and there are A LOT) is quickly dispensed with, in favour of the typical, by-the-numbers, ‘Paranormal Activity’-esque cheap tricks to which we’ve become accustomed.
‘Daylight’ is not a bad film per se. It is light-years away from some of its contemporaries, such as the dreadful ‘The Devil Inside’ – this may not boast the best or most consistent ending in the world, but at least we get an ending – and there are some decent ideas, interspersed within the muddled, confused narrative. The central story, involving the seemingly possessed teenager, is strong, and it elicits the biggest shock of the film, when the child in question is found after having slit her wrists.
This, and several other, key moments benefit from the found footage format, because the fear, surprise and confusion of those operating the cameras can be felt in a much more visceral sense, and, at least for the most part, it’s easy to understand why certain things are being filmed. However, there aren’t nearly enough scares to facilitate such a weak, confused narrative, the dialogue doesn’t feel real at all and the three central performances are noticeably stiff, especially towards the end, when everything goes a bit mental.
The main issue with ‘Daylight’ is that it isn’t quite sure what kind of film it wants to be. On the one hand, it tries to tell a rather interesting story about a troubled young woman who may or may be being influenced by a person in a position of authority. On the other, there’s something to do with time travel and a trauma that one of the social workers dealt with in her childhood. It’s all just a bit too much, and there’s a sense that the filmmakers, in a rush to create something amazing, tried to include too many of their own ideas, without first taking the time to really think about what would work onscreen.
The ending must be seen to be believed, as it is so completely overblown and bizarre – not in a particularly good way – while the journey it takes to get there doesn’t seem to make even close to as much sense as those onscreen would try to have us believe. The strongest plot strand is dismissed without another thought and any potential scare factor is squandered in favour of slamming doors and shifty priests. Nothing of note really happens, and even the biggest scaredy cats will be left scratching their heads wondering what the hell is going on half the time.
‘Daylight’ boasts a decent premise, and a clever setup that will hook the viewer in early, but it ultimately unravels thanks to far too many plot strands vying for attention. A wasted opportunity that is, at least, to its credit, still far more genuine, and brave, than certain other, similarly-themed outings.