Day 13: Female-Helmed Horror Movies For October

Dark Touch

Written and Directed by Marina de Van


1 hour, 31 minutes

I watched it on iTunes.


Set in a small town in the Irish countryside, “Dark Touch” follows the mystery of Naïmh (Missy Keating), a little girl who may or may not have profound psychic abilities that she uses to channel her anger.  It has a real attention-grabbing opening. A mysterious little girl (Naïmh) bursts through a forest to a neighbor’s house and those neighbors discover that she (or someone else?) has bitten the little girl’s tongue off. But then these well-intentioned neighbors call Naïmh’s parents and she’s sent back home. What the actual fuck, you are left to wonder. Who the hell thinks a bitten off tongue is a just send them back home kind of situation? But I’m guessing Writer/Director Marina de Van is using such an extreme example to display how easily abuse is explained away. So Naïmh comes home, a little time passes and then cue the houseattacking Naïmh and her family. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a house just ruthlessly torture and do people in like that, in a movie. Obviously, I’ve never seen a house attack someone in real life. I’m just clumsy. Pretty sure anyway. My house is just fine. (But I digress in my sleepiness. I co-hosted a fundraiser for Emily’s List today so my brain is now mashed potatoes.)


So after the great big ole house attack, the authorities still don’t quite take the hint that maybe they should put this kid somewhere pretty damn secure and investigate from there. So they let those same damn neighbors who sent her home after the tongue thing take her in. The well-meaning couple, Nat (Marcella Plunkett) and Lucas (Pådraic Delaney), try their best but are dealing with such a bigger problem than they expected when they were just trying to be good neighbors. Although maybe they shouldn’t have worried so much about being good neighbors in the first place, ya know, when the kid showed up in the middle of the night without a TONGUE.


The movie has a lot of pretty damn extreme images, even apart from the tongue and the house. But Marina de Van did also make “In My Skin,” a New French Extremity movie (which means about what you think and you can narrow it down from here but basically super intense modern French horror movies), a flick I’ve been meaning to check out but I hear is pretty damn crazy pants awesome.

This movie is so full of the powerlessness of childhood, the confusion that comes with abuse. There is a sequence involving sleepwalking children that is among the most haunting I have ever seen. Naïmh is so full of fear and rage, it’s radiating off her but the movie is never quite clear on the source of that rage. Was she actually abused? (I think so but I don’t think it was ever quite clear.) Does she have uber mean, aggressive powers? Or did her family simply pick the super wrong house to live in and now it continues to haunt her and those around her? Does she take other troubled children under her wing or does she just imagine it? At one point, the social worker encapsulates the whole movie when she says, “Well, there are a lot of unanswered questions here.” This isn’t a movie that’s going to give you the answers. This is a movie full of emotion and evocative, destructive images.


Marina de Van has a real eye; almost every frame is gorgeous. This was an even more artistic and effective version of what “Silent House” seemed to be going for: what it might be like to fight your way out of powerlessness and become quite powerful indeed. Both films talk about abuse. “Silent House” is more explicit about it but “Dark Touch” ends up feeling like much more of a gut punch, because by the end, Naïmh’s whole world has been changed by these powerful emotions. It reminded me of those Dario Argento nightmarescapes. You’re never gonna know what the truth is, but you’ll be inside someone’s heart and fears.