FEARNET Movie Review: 'Dark Touch'


If you wanted to describe the excellent new horror film from Ireland called Dark Touch as "Carrie Junior," you wouldn't be all that much off the mark, at least not on a surface level. But there's a lot more to the film than just one angry young girl and a bunch of flying furniture. Despite a handful of familiar components and a whole lot of telekinetic mayhem, Dark Touch is not so much a Carrie acolyte as it is one seriously frank and powerful horror film about the disastrous and irrevocable effects of child abuse.

Written and directed by Marina de Van (In My Skin, Don't Look Back), Dark Touch opens in an oddly disconcerting fashion -- a strange little girl wanders into a neighbor's house with all sorts of bizarre injuries -- slowly settles into a fairly conventional tale of well-meaning foster parents and their insidious new charge. But just when the film starts to feel just a bit too predictable, the Ms. de Van makes a dark and sharp left turn that could only work in the realm of horror cinema.
While Dark Touch certainly works well enough as a simple story about a dangerous little girl, the film is infinitely more interesting on a metaphorical level. The filmmakers clearly want to make a bleak but poignant statement about the ways in which child abuse can lead to an endless cycle of misery, and unfortunately nobody is safe from the after-effects. The film starts to feel like a battle for young Neve's soul (little Missy Keating is powerfully good in a difficult role), and the result is a main character who is a victim, a potential hero, and a reluctant villain all at the same time.
Beautifully shot, quietly chilling, and bolstered by great performances across the board (Marcella Plunkett is a particular standout as the sweet-natured foster mom), Dark Touch may be the best of the recent rash of Irish horror films, and in a crowd that includes Outcast, Citadel, Grabbers, and Wake Wood, that's some pretty high praise indeed. Dark Touch may be on the year's best horror imports, truth be told, for the crafty ways in which it combines conventional but satisfying horror trappings with some themes and ideas that are legitimately terrifying.