Dark Touch

Dark Touch

**

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

There is a powerfully disturbing key scene towards the end of Marina de Van's attempt to explore the issue of child abuse through genre trappings, which probes the idea of that abuse being passed down from generation to generation. This kernel of a good idea is the film's strongest moment - and would have been a great hook for a 15-minute short - but it is insufficient to sustain a feature which otherwise comes across as a substandard riff on Carrie and Firestarter.

Beginning in overwrought fashion - the only thing missing from this dark and stormy night with a girl running through the woods and a dog barking, is a shot ringing out - de Van appears to think that throwing every horror cliche in the book at something will make for atmosphere. This, coupled with some spectacularly bad acting from a couple of bit part players in the early scenes, hamstrings the film in such a way that it never really recovers. And that's before de Van starts to lay on a second layer of horror cliches with a (bloodied) trowel.

The plot concerns 11-year-old Niamh (Marie Missy Keating), the girl we see running at the start of the film. She lives in a big, dark, house, naturally, more or less in the middle of Irish nowhere. Her neighbours, on the other side of those woods, are somewhat concerned when she arrives in hysterics on their doorstep in the middle of the night but after a stilted conversation the next day with her parents - whose every move screams 'wrong' - they have their fears for Niamh and her baby brother allayed. Things are most certainly going bump in the night at Niamh's house and the reasons for that are not entirely supernatural.

After another spectacularly overcooked scene in which the house contents spring to murderous life, Niamh finds herself orphaned and living with those neighbours who - wouldn't you know it? - used to have a little girl of their own. What follows is a series of adults, specifically therapist Tanya (Charlotte Flyvholm) trying to help Niamh, little realising that in addition to being a child on the edge she also possesses the sort of telekinetic powers you don't want to tangle with. Tanya, in fact, comes to signify much of what is wrong with the whole film. Firstly, in trademark over-egging, she is pregnant and secondly, in a move symptomatic of de Van's slapdash attitude towards its characters and logic, she simply vanishes from the narrative towards the end.

De Van refuses to keep things simple. Instead of focusing in on Niamh's trauma and giving us an insight into her mental state, she has her turn into first an avenging angel and then - in a complete departure from logic - into a would-be mass killer. Add to this a stilted script, which sounds as though it was converted from de Van's native French by Google translate, and a third act decision to forgo any sort of psychological probing in order to merely luxuriate in violence and that kernel of an interesting idea feels badly squandered.

Reviewed on: 21 May 2013
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A child is haunted by abuse.


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