AND NOW ON A MORE SERIOUS NOTE: HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO TAKE THIS MOVIE? IS THIS A MOVIE ABOUT EVIL, GOOD, OR JUST AMBIVALENCE?
Dark Touch (2013) Ireland
This movie, which I thought I could watch and fill up my horror worksheet (patent pending) fast instead gave me a bit of a dilemma, and I think it was supposed to. What is right and wrong in the eyes of a child? If you happen to be an adult survivor of child abuse (which to me is way too many words for saying growing up sucked) you might praise this movie as the end-all be-all of the power of a child. If not, you might still praise this movie on its inventiveness and inherent evil. Either way, it's something to see.
Niamh (Missy Keating), who is 11, and her family live in a remote part of Ireland. In her house, objects move. No, not the frustrated internal decorator type of poltergeists that like to stack chairs, things fling across the room and break, or fall, or just plain explode.
The family which consists of her dad, mom and baby brother move elsewhere, thinking that's the end of the problem. We (or at least I did) get a hint of what's truly going on when Niamh finds a bruise on her baby brother's stomach and her parents tell her to stay away from him, explaining to their friends that she has been jealous of him since his birth.
It doesn't take a child psychologist to guess what's happening so even though I would recommend a viewing of this movie (to those who think they can stomach this kind of thing) let me break it down for you: Lots of places in Ireland are very isolated. Things that happen in crowded cities happen just as often if not more so when families are miles from anywhere. Niamh and her baby brother are suffering abuse. Her family have moved several times probably because whoever interacts with them for any period of time catch on.
And things keep moving, crashing, exploding. Is Niamh Ireland's answer to Stephen King's Carrie? Kind of. In both cases you have a child being abused (one for religious reasons one we're not told of), in both the one with the power is not aware of it until later. In both the end is not good and we're left to conclude for ourselves whether Carrie or Niamh were evil or were simply victims.
The trouble with Dark Touch was it couldn't seem to make up its mind whether to portray Niamh as evil or good. With Carrie, we saw her torture, we saw her pain. With Dark Touch, you don't see anything, it is only implied. Spoilers follow so beware.
Apparently after Niamh has had enough, the whole house becomes one huge weapon of destruction to her mother and father. She grabs her baby brother and hides in a cabinet as her parents suffer pain and death as the place attacks them (furniture slams into them, glass shatters, the place burns). When fireman are able to get into the ruined house, they discover Niamh and her baby brother - but the brother was suffocated. Not by smoke, by being crushed so tight he couldn't breathe. Was that Niamh's fault too? It is not established. Once again the viewer is left to decide that.
Neighbors reluctantly take her in but it is obvious that things are going to go bad quickly. Niamh cannot stand the touch of others - try to hug her and you are quickly rebuffed. The neighbors have their own children and they see how strange she is - they keep a safe distance from her. But it's not enough. Then Niamh discovers that the couple had had a teenage daughter who died of cancer.
When Niamh sees pictures of her, she is covered in bruises. Now again, having cancer and the subsequent treatments could have caused her to bruise easily - or was it also abuse? When she sees the children disciplined and she herself is spanked that's all it takes to convince her that all adults are abusers and the children all are victims. I think. It's not really clear.
One scene is particularly unsettling and very, very wince-worthy. Niamh passes an apartment where a woman is beating the holy crap out of her kids. She tells Niamh to get the hell out of there - mistake. After she's done with the mother, the children, zombie like, follow her everywhere. Did she save them or doom them to a future that's even worse?
This was the main trouble with this movie - things are left too - open to make a clear decision if we were watching a child get justice for herself and others or were we seeing an evil girl wreak havok on a town? In one wince-worthy scene, she acts like a Pied Piper to all the children in the town, leads them to an abandoned building, then causes that building to collapse, killing most or all of the children inside. Was that to protect them from further abuse or to get revenge? Does she think she's their angel or is she the devil?
I suppose if one watched this movie several times one might get a better idea of just which way the movie makers want you to think but I'm not going to - it was very, very unsettling and hit a little to close to home for me.
Hello to all those faithfully reading and hopefully enjoying this effort to make even the worst horror movie more watcha... aw, screw that - I'm not that good. If a movie makes you cringe because yet another batch of unlikable teens that are pushing 30 are inching toward their deaths, having a party no one does anywhere ever, a paranormal movie is boring you to tears with unending pans of empty rooms, or thanks to CGI technology when people finally bite it, their blood squirts everywhere except on the victim, the ground, the people next to them... you're in good company and this is the right place for you.