“DARK TOUCH” (Tribeca Movie Review)
In DARK TOUCH, European director and provocateur Marina de Van transfers her now recurring theme of identity crisis and unsure footing from grown women to a young girl still in pre-pubescence. It’s this pre-pubescence that’s taken terrifying advantage of; the repercussions of which manifest themselves in a fury of psychic power and telekinesis. Of course, CARRIE will be and is a touchstone for many in the case of this Ireland-set horror story, but whereas that tale explores the fear of oncoming womanhood, DARK TOUCH is an unnerving look at it forced on someone far, far too young.
Neve (Missy Keating) has nowhere. It’s evident from de Van’s opening moments as the 11 year-old girl attempts to escape her home for the torrential world outside. As the film comes to reveal, anywhere may be better, but not by much. The chaotic opening sequence reaches fever pitch as Neve’s family is brutally murdered. Of course, much of the ensuing characters and support system for the child try to solve this mystery, but we know. We know because we’ve seen Neve’s power take shape, possessing the furniture and décor, and violently rejecting any and all notion this is a home.
What follows is Neve’s time with family friends who take her in and make a go at a well-adjusted life. Neve, however is caught somewhere between misunderstanding and being misunderstood. It’s through this lens that the IN MY SKIN filmmaker empathetically shoots DARK TOUCH. With Neve unable to distinguish between affection and something more unsettling, de Van does an incredible job in making real and palpable for the audience the frustrating and ever narrowing space this girl occupies. Her fears and loneliness is slightly assuaged by a guidance counselor, but not enough. It’s even more so by a pair of siblings in similar straits, but who also intensify the bubbling aggression and bleak worldview.
DARK TOUCH is aesthetically dark and aggressively down, yet is an entirely fists-in-the-air alive film. de Van is clearly angry—and rightfully so—at the horrors that daily befall children, as well as attuned to some of the more alarming behavior that infests so-called normal lives. The aforementioned opening and subsequent psychically clashing set pieces are rough, breathless. Weaving in drops of pitch-black comedy, a child’s birthday party becomes a frenzied, taut sequence highlighting the icky manner in which the children are learning to treat and discuss their dolls. Soon, the director is employing her predilection to push, the gallows humor and graphic, confrontational manner of her debut IN MY SKIN, and the stylish, thriller maturation of DON’T LOOK BACK. It creates a swirling, ever simmering atmosphere that bubbles to a final act so visceral and entirely warped, it’s really unmissable.