Tribeca Breakdown: "Dark Touch"
on 2013-04-21 14:19
There’s something going on with nine-year old Neve (Marie Keating) and her parents, as evidenced by the bruises on both her and her baby brother. She, inadvertently, handles it but also gets her brother killed as well. When she goes to live with family friends Nat (Marcella Plunkett) and Lucas (Padraic Delany), they try to get her to open up and allow her to trust them, but to no avail. Meanwhile at school Neve is labeled the freak by kids who couldn’t possibly understand and notices that that another brother and sister are being abused.
It’s not hard to show the horrors of child abuse but unlike many other horror films (“Mama” comes to mind) which thoughtlessly throw kids into danger and then disregard that fact when it doesn’t serve the plot anymore, writer-director Marina De Van, who has done several other films like “Don’t Look Back” and “In My Skin”, both of which I have not seen, uses it to advantage.
She’s going for super-natural thrills here but the damaged psychology of the main character always remains firmly in place. It’s not long before we realize De Van is playing off telekinesis, a “Carrie”-rendition for the child-abused set. The bloody and gruesome come-uppance comes early on though, detailing chests that bash a characters legs in and shards of glass that impale.
As things progress we wonder whether or not Nat and Lucas knew about the abuse, and if so, why didn’t they do anything about it. The adults in this movie are never really given much explanation, they exist to either be monstrous villains or the kind of unassuming do-gooders who think a traumatized child will be just fine if she just gets some friends. The strongest character is Neve, and luckily Keating holds the film brilliantly. Neve is a brutal reminder of the long-lasting effects of trauma and its triggers. Scenes where a character takes off his belt (not for abuse) or even giving Neve a hug are filled with nervous uncertainty, and Keating plays her as a young girl confused by the effects of her abuse as well as her power. Shocked into few words, blank stares, horrified outbursts, and a constantly guarded demeanor, this creates a disturbing portrait in more ways than one.
Yes, things “suddenly” get knocked over or smashed to pieces for little jolt scares but it’s not nearly as effective as the rest of the film. De Van hasn’t made a perfect movie, and has possibly made one that hits too close to reality for most horror fans, but then again, that’s usually where the true horror lies.