Movie Review – Dark Touch (2013)

Dark Touch (2013) is an Irish film that deals with the heavy issue of child abuse and its harmful, often irrevocable effects. Written and directed by Marina de Van, the film follows eleven-year-old Niamh (Missy Keating) who has been systematically sexually abused by her parents, and one day the house appears to turn against them and kill them. Niamh goes to live with neighbors and finds that her emotional instability is linked to the paranormal violence of furniture and fixtures attacking people, made worse by her inability to read people’s often benevolent gestures toward her due to her past experiences. The film does a fine job, helped by Keating’s performance, of placing the viewer in Niamh’s perspective as she misinterprets the actions of those around her to their eventual detriment.

The film is strongest in its quieter, character-driven moments, but loses much of its power when it tries to handle horror. The subject of abuse can at times be heavy handed, such as when Niamh witnesses the abuse of two classmates by their mother and decides to intercede. Even after furniture has attacked the woman she immediately proceeds with beating her kids, and when the house goes haywire she lashes out at them more. At some point even a child abuser would look to alternative explanations or at least take a break from their attacking to figure out why inanimate objects are moving across the room at them.

In the final twenty minutes the film makes an awkward turn, opting for simplistic horror clichés over a more nuanced, psychologically convincing examination of Niamh’s journey. We get shock instead of ideas and the resolution feels forced and rushed as key characters fall by the wayside – one even disappears entirely and inexplicably. We’re left with plotlines which are either unresolved or rendered moot. Niamh’s inability to discern reality from her slanted perspective finally overcomes her at a birthday party, releasing her tenuous grasp on the real world; nevertheless, though a precedent has been set the transition feels sudden, unjustified, and unsatisfactory. If Niamh feels like Carrie White, prepubescent, Dark Touch feels like Carrie (1976), under-cooked.

Grade: D+