Not willing to let a good thing simply just be, some writers and directors strive for greater relevance. For them it isn’t good enough to craft a film about, say, spousal abuse; rather, they strive to craft “the most didactic piece of art about the horrors of spousal abuse” when just being about spousal abuse might really be enough, might really say everything that could, should, and would be said about the topic. Leave well enough alone. Don’t try to lace the plot with greater metaphors. Don’t try to enamor the feature with probative images. Figure out what works best in the story, and then drive it home. At the end of day, everyone will appreciate the work more for staying true to the cause than they will being abused, amused, and confused with theatrical pomp and circumstance.
That’s a lesson the makers and shakers behind DARK TOUCH probably should have heeded. Instead, they’ve produced a film about keeping secrets that, while impeccably assembled, feels a bit too impersonal for the subject matter. Or maybe that’s just me …
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
11-year-old Neve (played with solid conviction by the young Miss Keating) has suffered the worst night of her short life … or has she? After witnessing the bloody massacre of her parents and infant brother, she’s taken in by her friendly neighbors while the police conduct their investigation. However, when it becomes clear that Neve’s trouble may not have only just begun but also may be following her around, everyone begins to doubt the young girl’s version of events, and that very well may spell the town’s unimagined doom.
Here’s the thing: without spoiling it, audiences are given a very clear idea of just who exactly the culprit is in DARK TOUCH from the very beginning. No, I won’t ruin it; I’ll only encourage you to be watching closely from the first scenes, and, like me, you’ll probably see very much of this one coming. That isn’t to say that the film is predictable; I don’t think it is, but I do think that this idea has been explored before. Is Neve truly a ‘bad seed’? That’s the conceit the filmmakers juggle perhaps too often in bringing this particular story to life.
What works here is the young, affable, doe-eyed Missy Keating. At such an impressionable age, it’s remarkable how this actress manages to hoist the weight of the film – all of its ideas, scenes, trickery, and twists – on her capable shoulders. She effortlessly leads viewers to see one thing while perhaps suspecting another, and, so long as the script allows, she keeps you guessing quite probably up until the last futile images are committed to celluloid. And, sure, the players chosen to surround her all turn in some quality work, but theirs is inconsequential (in more ways that I’ll disclose in this review) when compared against the burden Keating carries consistently.
What doesn’t work is the ever-present tug of war writer/director Marina de Van weaves around the audience. While her film remains at all times stylish in frame and texture, the script tries all-too-often to pull viewers when it should’ve pushed … or, better yet, let them make up their own mind on what’s happened and how this particular world all came to be. Because of the Herculean effort put into keeping the final secret just out of reach, I thought it was very easy to see past the misdirects and, instead, see most of this one coming a mile away. (Make that two miles away!) Perhaps a script penned with greater nuance and not so much deliberate obfuscation would’ve worked better or more satisfyingly.
Think of it this way: Marina de Van figured herself "too smart" to do a conventional horror film ... but all she wrote was a conventional horror film. Instead of going with what she had, she tried to make it into something it probably wasn't meant to be. The end result? Not what she wanted, but maybe just what the audience expected.
DARK TOUCH  is produced by Element Pictures, Eurimages, Ex Nihilo, Film I Vast, Filmgate Films, and the Irish Film Board. DVD distribution is being handled by MPI Media Group through IFC Midnight. As for the technical specifications … wow! As I tried to be clear above, this is an immaculately well-produced film with the highest quality sight and sound lending themselves to the exploration of this nightmare. Indeed, the picture is ripe with some of the most impressive horror cinematography of the last year; I just wish the story could’ve left out some of the layers. Sadly – a huge miss – there are no special features to speak of, except the relatively predictable theatrical trailer. Boo!
RECOMMENDED but more than a bit frustrating. At its core, I’m not entirely convinced I know what happened in DARK TOUCH. I get that it’s try very, very hard to be a horror film “about” something greater than just the pursuit of horror, but I’m amiss at exactly what that is. We all have demons. We all have things that have happened that might cause us some grief, trauma, or pain … but not all of us develop psychic powers as a result of them. Instead of staying true to that central intent (i.e. be relevant), DARK TOUCH has to give in to the path of least resistance in the last act and, essentially, serve up the usual terrorizing trickery; at that point, I figured I must’ve missed it.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at MPI Media Group provided me with a DVD copy of DARK TOUCH by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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About the reviewer
What? You don't know enough about me from the picture? Get a clue! I'm a graduate from the School of Hard Knocks! You can find me around the web as "Trekscribbler" or "Manchops". … more