Dark Touch is an intense and slow burn after the initial scenes that very smoothly transitions into a terrifying revenge tale, even if that revenge is on whomever happens to be about. Niamh is a sympathetic evil character, which makes the viewer torn in the end as to whether they believe her actions are justified by her experiences or if she’s gone to far. The beauty of this is that it makes one feel guilty for feeling happy she obtained some respite in the end, even if it was only temporary. The ending is quite open ended and will likely leave some people feeling unsatisfied without the type of closure they would prefer, but it actually adds strength to the movie as a tied off ending would weaken it. Slow paced until it isn’t, and a drive to an even darker place than where we start make for a good movie that will keep the viewer tense, often expecting things to happen that may or may not. Definitely one of the better evil child movies I’ve seen in quite some time. – 3.8/5 (genre)
Dark Touch sets its tone right from the start with no hesitation or even warm up to the chilling and cruel world it’s about to present to you. All through the pre-movie credits the music sets up a stage of tension that flows right over to the opening scene. And speaking of credits prior to the start of the movie I found that to be an interesting touch (no pun intended) as it isn’t seen as much anymore and really hearkened back to 1990’s early 2000’s movies. While it did feel a bit nostalgic it also felt a bit annoying as I wanted the movie to start and not watch random images move about with names on them, but that’s likely my own bias. At the very least it did, as I said, set up the viewer for the right type of tone to expect.
The opening scenes of the movie are a bit of blur, especially as I wasn’t expecting it to go into such rapid motion right out of the gate, with such a lingering intro. The dark scenes and rather rapid succession of events didn’t allow me to catch up until a minute or two in once Niamh (Missy Keating) made it to the neighbors house. But I get ahead of myself.
Dark Touch is about a young girl named Niamh who lives with her two parents and little brother in a small town in Ireland. The beginning does start off a bit confusing as to who is doing what, but one thing is certainly clear and that this movie is directly centered around child abuse, emotional, physical, and sexual. There are two adults, a man and a woman, who enter Niamh’s room and she escapes them, injuring herself in the process and runs by the nearest neighbors home, Nat (Marcella Plunkett) and Lucas (Padraic Delaney), where Lucas finds her and brings her back to the house. She’s injured her tongue (bitten through it) and can’t really speak. Her parents arrive to take her back home.
The beginning of the movie does a bit of skipping as we are next in a scene with Nat and Lucas and Niamh’s parents sitting together discussing what happened. During the discussion Niamh comes down and opens the clothing on her baby brother to reveal a large bruise on his ribs. Her parents run over to stop her, shouting that she had done it at some point without realizing it. That night, Niamh hears her brother crying and takes him, and her parents wake to find her and the entire house comes flying apart literally, killing both her parents and by morning her little brother. To keep her out of foster care for a time Nat and Lucas take her in.
It’s clear that this movie is heading down a dark path, and it makes no pretense about what it plans to show us. However, what it does do is go down that path at a very leisurely pace, taking a considerable bit of time to lead up to the realization by Niamh that she has these powers to move objects and even people, and what she will do with that power. Though there was never any real question what she would do, as she is far too damaged to not react the way she does. The movie takes place almost exclusively in the night time, with very few scenes actually taking place during the day, a fact I only realized after finishing the movie and reflecting back on it. I see only dark when I think about it, making it aptly named in both the literal and figurative meanings.
Make no mistake that this a slow paced movie as I said before, there are long scenes where it feels like virtually nothing is happening, and we are only looking at Niamh look at others without responding to them in any meaningful way. It seems like things may pick up when Niamh goes out one night to the home of two other children in her class that are abused, and uses her newly discovered powers to “rescue” them from their abusive mother. These two become devoted followers of her, though it doesn’t become entirely clear this will happen until a little later. However, the movie slows down again and finds its steady even pacing.
You actually become accustomed to this pacing and the final 20 minutes or so, which pick up and take a rapidly darker turn than even before, feel jolting as the movie steps out of its own comfortable step and begins to run. This actually has a wonderful effect of placing emphasis on the final scenes much more strongly than the scenes themselves would.
The ending is rather, well, open ended. While it is clear it is a revenge ending it is left unclear if the people whom she finds revenge on are deserving of it. At the very least one of them may not be, but regardless the final scene can leave you feeling like you are still standing on the edge of cliff, waiting for the movie to relieve the tension by closing things off, but instead it just goes to credits. Honestly, I’m often quite critical of most movies endings if you’ve read any of my previous reviews you are likely to know, a lot of build up to just flop the ending. And this type of ending could be viewed that way, but somehow Dark Touch manages to pull off this unsatisfied feeling with little resolution in a way that makes the ending stronger than had it concluded with a nice tie off. While it is a difficult thing to do, and very few movies manage it, Dark Touch did so making it one of its strengths.
There isn’t much to be said about the directing and shots, as they’re all pretty standard but the actors are worth a mention. Missy Keating as Niamh is wonderful, and plays her quite well as both an angry and lost girl who has suffered more than she ever should have. She plays the tipping point quite well, so smoothly transitioning from a remorseful confused child to an angry and vengeful one that it’s almost imperceptible until it’s obvious. I’ve never seen Keating in her other films, but if Dark Touch is any indication she is likely to do quite well. Plunkett (Nat) and Delaney (Lucas) are good to a point in the movie where we start to see the split in acting ability, at least from my view. Plunkett maintains the innocent and concerned foster parent even through all that Niamh puts her through essential right up to the end of the movie. Both did well in their roles and now that I look back at the character of Lucas I feel like Delaney played him well. The other actors were basically incidental, and were passable as fodder for the movie to move forward its narrative. The children did as well one would expect for children to do. The other adults were at least believable as adults, unlike some other good movies I’ve seen that were hampered by horrible adult roles when the focus is on the children (The Silenced).
I can’t say as I know the state of child welfare in Ireland, but it was obvious that this movie was driving home the idea that something was wrong and needed to be changed. An advantage of making social commentary in a horror movie is that most don’t expect much from horror movies so you can be as forward or as subtle as you want. There was little subtlety here, and an obvious move by the author to tell a tale perhaps related to their own upbringing. I can make no judgement on that as I don’t have the knowledge but this movie is clear in its message.
Dark Touch is an intense and slow burn after the initial scenes that very smoothly transitions into a terrifying revenge tale, even if that revenge is on whomever happens to be about. Niamh is a sympathetic evil character, which makes the viewer torn in the end as to whether they believe her actions are justified by her experiences or if she’s gone to far. The beauty of this is that it makes one feel guilty for feeling happy she obtained some respite in the end, even if it was only temporary. The ending is quite open ended and will likely leave some people feeling unsatisfied without the type of closure they would prefer, but it actually adds strength to the movie as a tied off ending would weaken it. Slow paced until it isn’t, and a drive to an even darker place than where we start make for a good movie that will keep the viewer tense, often expecting things to happen that may or may not. Definitely one of the better evil child movies I’ve seen in quite some time.
Overall: 3.8/5 – (genre)