Directed by Marina de Van
Opening in the dead of night with a young girl running screaming through pouring rain, Marina de Van’s Dark Touch sees the girl, Niamh (Keating), arrive screaming and wounded at the home of a neighbouring family. Before whisking her away shortly afterward, her parents explain that Niamh has a few major personal issues, including a propensity for hysteria and acting out. The truth, however, is much more disturbing as glimpsed bruises on her baby brother pave the way for the full-on revelation of the child abuse taking place under the roof of Niamh’s family home.
The abusive parents, however, quickly receive their bloody comeuppance when an invisible force turns their home against them in spectacular style. Hiding in a cupboard with her baby brother while a fire ravages the property, Niamh emerges the only survivor — the baby having tragically asphyxiated. In the aftermath, Niamh is taken in by the kindly neighbours seen at the beginning, while also receiving support from her local school therapist, the pregnant Tanya (Flyvholm). As the adults attempt to ease Niamh into her new life, the withdrawn and standoffish child soon reveals a more dangerous side to her character — psychic powers that emerge Carrie-style when she is placed in situations of fright or duress.
Then the film falls apart as if the script had been torn asunder by Niamh’s thoughts themselves.
With Dark Touch, director de Van is obviously attempting to pour a swathe of personal anger onto the screen — disdain and hatred towards the nature of child abuse and the socially devastating cycle that it so often kicks off. This same hatred appears to have almost entirely clouded her judgement, however, as the proceedings are so hopelessly hyperbolic and unbelievable that is becomes impossible to follow in any earnest sense. This, of course, isn’t helped by some truly laughable dialogue and an incessantly slack-jawed, lethargic performance from Keating (when, of course, she isn’t just screaming the place down).
While Niamh initially sets out as an apparent avenger of wronged children — which, in this film’s take on things would appear to be every child out there — her climactic efforts take a shockingly opposite turn, leaving the motivations behind her character as consistently unclear and confusing a mess as the rest of the film. As mentioned, it seems that the particular little slice of Ireland in which Dark Touch is set is populated almost entirely with families wrought with physical and sexual abuse. One scene involving Niamh losing her shit during a birthday party populated by a group of young girls all, without exception, viciously abusing and punishing their dollies is so incredibly overblown that it only succeeds in clouding de Van’s point with head-shaking hilarity.
On the same level of incomprehensibility are the actions of the adults that surround Niamh — incessantly attempting to touch and hug her when it’s obvious that it’s the last thing she wants or needs, refusing to join the dots and realise the parents were abusive even when the child clearly has cigarette burns on her legs, and completely failing to acknowledge that anything could be wrong when an entire room full of storage attacks them. Nothing makes a lick of sense, or has any hint of being fully thought out — where, for example, is the inclusion of any kind of active, official, Social Services or Child Protection department? Instead, Niamh is simply handed to the nearest (unrelated, it must be added), family immediately after her own has been wiped out in mysterious circumstances, and sporting signs of abuse. This lack of any kind of consideration for even a semi-realistic approach to the material reveals a film made as little more than a knee-jerk rage project convinced that the telekinesis metaphor is enough to carry it. Fact is, it isn’t, and the comedic ineptness of Dark Touch works only to entirely undermine its genuine intentions.
1 out of 5