Friday, October 11, 2013
We find 11-year-old Neve (Missy Keating) bloodied and bruised after some horrific slaughter at her house. She is the lone survivor but her explanation — about the house attacking her family — is understandably ignored by the police. Neve is taken in by friends of her parents. She tries to settle into a normal life but the violence of the past haunts her and returns to claim more lives.
The film is something of a mash-up between “Carrie” and “Firestarter.” We discover that Neve has telekinetic powers and that it manifests itself when Neve senses or suspects violence in others. Neve doesn’t understand the power she possesses nor is she really able to process the trauma of witnessing violence. In the end, you might think of that famous Scottish play, “Macbeth,” and the lines “blood will have blood” or “we but teach bloody instructions, which, being taught, return to plague the inventor.” There’s a lot of blood in this film but as it progresses there’s a poignant and tragic sense that it’s a cycle of violence, and there needs to be a way to interrupt it and stop it.
Director Marina de Van (who did effectively disturbing “In My Skin”) stated in the press materials: “There must be more to a horror film than mere nuts and bolts if it is to work. It requires a slightly transgressive theme, be it sexuality (as is often the case in more conventional horror films) or, in this case, child abuse. I leave the nature of this abuse unclear, but the subject is not calculated for cinematographic effect: it is one that moves me.”
The child abuse is central to the film but not made forefront in the storytelling. Neve’s past abuse colors her perception of the world. It makes her suspicious of anyone’s touch and it makes her envious of those she perceives as happier. In a similar way to Carrie, Neve is both victim and the perpetrator of violence.
De Van endows the film with an effective visual style and young Keating gives the film a strong anchor with her performance.
“Dark Touch” (unrated) employs the sensational trappings of a horror film to explore the real world horrors of child abuse.
NOTE: "Dark Touch" is part of the Film Geeks at the Digital Gym Cinema, and I am one of the geeks volunteering my time to program late night genre films at the Digital Gym. I also make desserts for the reception before the film. That's how much I love horror.
Companion viewing: “Carrie,” “Firestarter,” “The Omen”