The mind of a child is a wide open field. The formative years of youth can yield many different crops, depending upon how that field is seeded and cared for. In horror flicks, the misuse, neglect, or outright abuse of this fertile ground has often been a subject of sinister and/or sympathetic happenings; Carrie, Children of the Corn, Pin, Firestarter; even classics such as Psycho touch upon how events during the formative years can either yield dark, violent results in a person, or create such fear that the child’s life becomes a nightmare as they grow, their tragic youthful experiences coloring the remainder of their days in blacks and grays.
Dark Touch is a film about a little girl whose life is just such a nightmare. In a small town somewhere in the Irish countryside, young Niamh (which to me, seemed to be pronounced Neeve) is troubled by horrible fears at night; things move about, you see; furniture, doors, fixtures in the house; all moving with a black and evil purpose. Her very home itself is the monster in her darkness. The movie begins with poor Niamh running through the night to a neighbor’s house, where she is unable to explain her terror; her parents arrive to take her home, and she screams at the prospect of returning, but her folks persist. Soon after, we see the home seem to come alive and brutally kill her parents; the police suspect a gang-related robbery, the poor child is obviously traumatized; her story simply can’t be true. The neighbors from earlier take Niamh in, just until Child Services can figure out what to do with her. The couple do their best to be understanding, and treat Niamh with love, but she’s very distant, almost contemptuous. This is understandable at first, but she seems to be growing more and more brooding and dismissive as time goes on; worse still, things seem to begin moving around in the neighbor’s home, now…
It’s going to be tricky to stay spoiler-free and still give my opinion on this little flick, but I’ll do my best.
I thought that the writer/director, Marina de Van, did an excellent technical job. The shots are well composed, and the structure of the story pulls you along with an unsettling sense of wrongness permeating every scene; there’s a grayish, washed-out tone to the film that adds to this overall atmosphere of unease and terror. It’s not the in-your-face kinda terror, it’s more like that nagging urge we’ve all felt from time to time when we know something just isn’t right. The acting is solid throughout, with a special nod to the young actress playing Niamh, Missy Keating. Situations that occur are appropriately raise-yer-hackles spooky without being stupid, and there’s even some very nice blood ‘n’ guts for the gorehounds.
Now…all of that said, I thought the film was really good up until about the 2/3 mark, when it seemed to merrily go flying right off the rails. I went from being immersed in this creepy, intriguing story to snapping wide-eyed at unfolding events, at times even asking the screen “What the hell is that all about??” Things occur that just don’t make a lick of goddamn sense, and there’s never any resolution or even hint of a real explanation given, all the way up until the confusing and unsatisfying ending. I was left kind of puzzled; it seemed that the first part of the movie was married to a different film for the last act, and I was pretty disappointed. It seemed like maybe de Van just lost steam midway through and tacked something together just to get it finished.
One thing I’ll say is that I did think about it a while after it was over, and I came up with a grudging theory: maybe the intent of the film was to show how evil can grow in that aforementioned fertile field if it’s either not tended properly or seeded with darkness. Maybe we’re supposed to take what we are shown and fill in the blanks for ourselves, come up with our own explanations…or maybe I’m just really desperate to find a way for this two-thirds of a really good film to end well. If you’re so inclined, you’ll have to see it for yourself and decide. Feel free to come back and let me know what you think.
Did my re-thinking and postulating make everything OK? Hell no; I still feel a sense of disappointment and missed opportunity in the film, but I accept that maybe that was the desired result; that this film’s depiction of Niamh’s life, like so often in real life, turned out in a way we didn’t particularly like.