Dark Touch: Film Review

Dark Touch Film Still - H 2013

Dark Touch Film Still - H 2013

This atmospheric chiller loses its touch when it succumbs to familiar horror-film tropes.

A troubled adolescent girl indulges her revenge fantasies via telekinesis in Marina de Van's horror film.

Filmmaker Marina de Van, who explored body image to such memorably horrific effect in her In My Skin (in which she also starred), ventures into Stephen King territory with her latest effort, Dark Touch. This horror film about an abused eleven-year-old girl who expresses her repressed rage with ultra-violent telekinesis features familiar plot trappings, but largely succeeds thanks to its vivid atmospherics and a creepily effective performance by child actress Missy Keating.

The story, set in a bucolic Irish hamlet, begins in visceral fashion with young Neve (Keating) emerging from the woods on a dark and stormy night with cuts and bruises on her body and her tongue bloodily cut. A neighboring couple dutifully returns the young girl to her parents, who claim that she’s solely responsible for the violent goings-on in their house, including her infant brother’s mysterious bruises.

It’s not long afterward that the house itself seems to turn violent, wreaking murderous havoc on the family and leaving the parents and the youngest child dead, the latter apparently as a result of Neve’s having accidentally smothered him in her attempts to whisk him to safety.

The newly orphaned Neve is taken in by the solicitous couple, who attempt to work out her emotional issues with the help of a children’s therapist (Charlotte Flyvholm). But it soon becomes apparent that the girl’s turmoil runs even deeper than expected, with such episodes as a child’s birthday party in which the kids graphically abuse their dolls adding to the overall atmosphere of dread.

The film is more effective in its psychological portrait of a troubled young girl than when it ventures into Carrie/Firestarter territory. The filmmaker certainly stages the climactic scenes of carnage with admirable professionalism, but the sequences have a necessarily “been there, done that” quality that cheapens the overall effect. What began as a relatively subtle exploration of adolescent turmoil gets reduced to familiar horror-film tropes.  

Opened: Friday, Sept. 27 (IFC Midnight)

Production: Element Pictures, Ex Nihilo, Filmgate Films

Cast: Missy Keating, Marcella Punkett, Padraic Delaney, Catherine Walker, Richard Dormer, Charlotte Flyvholm

Director-screenwriter: Marina de Van

Producers: Mark Bordure, Ed Guiney, Jean-Luc Ormieres, Patrick Sobelman

Executive producers: Andrew Lowe, Martina Niland

Director of photography: John Conroy

Editor: Mike Fromentin

Production designer: Tamara Conboy

Costume designer: Lara Campbell

Composer: Christophe Chassol

Not rated, 90 min.