Friday, December 5, 2014

Advent of Atrocities-Day 5: Dark Touch (2013)

Dir. Marina de Van

I've spent the last 5 months trying to figure out how to write this review, and I've finally come up with an angle. I ain't telling you shit about this movie. Here's why: It's one of those movies where the less you know going in, the better. There's a first act reveal that just nauseated me (meaning I loved it) and I don't want to rob you of that experience.

Watching the beginning of Dark Touch, you get little hints that arouse your suspicions and your unease continues to build as you think, "Don't let what I think is happening be happening." And then it is. And then you emotionally puke a little. That's not to say that the movie peaks in the first act, just that it needs to unfold exactly as it does to be most effective. So if you know nothing about this movie, don't look it up. Don't read the synopsis, and please don't read anyone's comments on it. Just go straight to Netflix and stream it (Yes, it's available right now! You can't wait to see it on my recommendation, right?).

Oh, and don't be put off by the cover image, as I initially was.

This cover looks, to me, like another knock-off Japanese creepy ghost girl flick, which I am so SO not into.

So if I'm not telling you shit about the film, what can we talk about here? Let's start with Marina de Van. Burn that name into your memory banks right now (MARINA DE VAN, MARINA DE VAN, MARINA DE VAN, MARINA DE VAN, etc,) because she is the next phase of horror filmmaking. I believe Dark Touch is her 3rd feature. Her first was In My Skin (not to be confused with the fifty other films with "skin" and "in" in the titles), a disturbing body horror meditation that she also stars in. I'd have a hard time choosing which film was better.

In Dark Touch, the divine Ms. de Van tackles some serious real world horror using the supernatural as a parable, and does so with maturity and intelligence. The most frequent complaint I've seen from reviewers is that Dark Touch is lacking in the story department. In my humble opinion, these reviewers are severely lacking in the cognitive skills department. The story is all there, spelled out coherently, but subtly. She expects her audience to be paying attention to the emotional beats instead of shoving popcorn into their faces. The story is told, not in broad strokes, but in subtle looks and silences. It also features a woman getting furniture screws through her neck and chin, so it's not all Howard's End; there's some Carrie in there as well.

This cover probably captures the feel of the film best.

The performances are just uniformly perfect. Missy Keating as the girl Niamh (pronounced Neve, bloody Irish and their Gaelic spelling) gives a standout performance and would definitely have been on my best actresses list for 2013 if I'd seen it that year. Then there's Marcella Plunkett as her foster mother, who in addition to being a fantastic actress, has a hugely compelling face. I'm not kidding, you just stare at it and marvel about its complexity. It's a face that tells stories without saying a word.

Lastly, there's Charlotte Flyvholm, who plays Niamh's school psychologist. She's the single most appealing character in the film. She's a good-hearted person doing the best she can to help a severely traumatized child, and she's so warm and charming that you just want to curl up in her lap and let her stroke your head. My only complaint about the film is that her storyline is dropped before the climax, a loose end that is never followed up.

Finally, just let me mention the ending. After a relatively slow-burn of a movie, things go very bad very quickly. While I'm tempted to relate how sick and twisted the finale is, I'm afraid I'd be building it up too much. On the spectrum of sick and twisted, we've all seen worse, but it still manages to jar you. And in the context of the whole film and its themes, it's the perfect way to end things: the continuation of a cycle.

Anyhow, now that I've spent 7 paragraphs not telling you about the movie, go stream it. I'll expect a full report in the morning.

P.S. I've seen from my stats that there are only 5 people reading this regularly. Identify yourselves in the comments and let me lavish you with praise for your impeccable taste in blogs.

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