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Movie Review: ‘Dark Touch’

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Dark Touch

Missy Keating as Niamh (pictured in the center). A film by Marina De Van. Photo by Karina Finegan. An IFC Midnight Release.

Marina de Van has body issues. The French director wrote, directed and starred in the harrowing 2002 film In my Skin, a horrifying drama of self-mutilation that was as mesmerizing as it was disturbing. In my Skin was also thoroughly original, which cannot be said for de Van’s new horror film, Dark Touch.

De Van’s success with psychological horror makes her a promising director to tackle a genre picture, but it does not work out that way. Dark Touch is beautifully, stylishly photographed, generous with atmospheric details that, for the first half of the movie, almost make up for the weak script. But the script, written by de Van, devolves from merely derivative to nonsensical.

Bad things happen around young Niamh (Missy Keating). She is the only survivor of a bloodbath that kills her parents and infant brother. Police do not believe her claims that the house killed her family. The social worker and family friends who take care of her find out too late the truth about Niamh.

Most of the plot points are familiar from movies like Carrie, Firestarter, and Village of the Damned — and that’s just for starters. That the film has any traction at all is thanks to cinematography by John Conroy and a decent cast. Though it is disarming that Missy Keating reminds me of what The Room‘s Tommy Wiseau would look like if he were a pretty little Irish girl. That may be the most horrific thing about the movie.

Dark Touch establishes a creepy, bloody mood in its first scene, and as Niamh begins to champion other children who are victims of abuse, the film’s first acts move along with a melancholy tension. But as Niamh’s powers grow, her motivations grow less sympathetic, her Grand Guignol designs more ridiculous, and the movie falls apart. Marina de Van the director gives Dark Touch a good dark look. It’s too bad de Van the writer could not make it work.

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About Pat Padua

Pat Padua is a writer, photographer, native Washingtonian, and Oxford comma defender. The Washington Post called him "a talented, if quirky, photographer." Pat has also contributed to the All Music Guide, Cinescene, and DCist, where he is currently senior film critic.