Maverick Life

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

Talk to Me review — Fresh hell unleashed in taut horror that elevates genre

Talk to Me review — Fresh hell unleashed in taut horror that elevates genre
Sophie Wilde in a scene from "Talk to Me." (Photo: A24 via AP)

Danny and Michael Philippou’s breakout hit Australian supernatural horror freshens up the formula with a rich, relatable characterisation and filmic craft across the board. Not short on shocks and memorable chills, it’s apex genre fare that will crawl under your skin and stay there.

One of the best low-key ways to celebrate Halloween is to watch a horror movie, but between all the cinema distributors and streaming services, and their flood of scary seasonal offerings, choosing said movie can be more anxiety-inducing than anything you watch on a screen.

One of the strongest contenders is also one of the breakout genre hits of this year: Talk to Me. Distributed by A24, the same company that brought the world the unnerving but also arty likes of The Witch, Hereditary, Saint Maud, X, Beau is Afraid, Midsommar and Men, Talk to Me is the feature film debut of Australian filmmakers and YouTubers Danny and Michael Philippou. 

Talk to Me

Sophie Wilde talks to the hand in a scene from “Talk to Me.” (Photo: A24 via AP)

The Philippous’ small indie production has since gone on to become the second most financially successful A24 film globally (behind the Oscar-winning Everything Everywhere All at Once), with both prequel and sequel content lined up. However, now is the time to watch the original, before inevitable franchise fatigue sets in.

In Talk to Me, a group of Adelaide high schoolers become addicted to an illicit new thrill: using a mysterious embalmed hand to communicate with spirits and letting the dead possess them for short periods. The hand comes with some vague hand-me-down advice in the vein of “Don’t feed the Mogwai after midnight,” and “If you watch the tape, you’ll die seven days later.” In this case, the connection with the randomly invited spirit — initiated by gripping the hand — must be broken after 90 seconds, or it will have lingering control over the living host. Of course, things go wrong, and terrifying supernatural forces are unleashed.

Talk to Me

Hell begins to break lose in “Talk to Me.” (Photo: A24 via AP)

Talk to Me is a tight 95 minutes, but it spends a considerable amount of time, much like the original Poltergeist, fleshing out the characters and making them both relatable and likeable. The main character Mia (Sophie Wilde) is an awkward social outcast, aloof from most people, especially her father, after the apparent suicide of her mother. Mia, however, has a found family in the form of her best friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen), and Jade’s sensitive younger brother Riley (Joe Bird).

There’s a credible dynamic among the trio and their friends’ circle, who aren’t particularly bad kids, but approach prodding at the afterlife with zero sense of their own mortality — a natural side effect of their youth. It’s not subtle about it, but Talk to Me shows the dichotomy of its protagonists being vehemently anti-smoking but happy to act as vessels for tormented souls in limbo, gleefully recording events on their mobile phones for social media lols.

Zoe Terakes

Zoe Terakes in a scene from “Talk to Me.” (Photo: A24 via AP)

Wilde and Bird are the standouts, performance-wise, as their characters are subjected to visually unsettling possessions most at odds with their on-screen personalities. However, familiar face Miranda Otto is another interesting addition to the mix as Sue, Riley and Jade’s strict mother, who nonetheless is capable of analysing her reactions and admitting her mistakes. Sue runs the full emotional gamut, and Talk to Me does the same, with slice-of-life humour counterbalanced by shocking, visceral moments that hit even harder because of the contrast.

Talk to Me

Sophie Wilde in a scene from “Talk to Me.” (Photo: A24 via AP)

The hype is very much real with Talk to Me. While the film may not feature the most original plot — coming across as a 21st Century Flatliners meets The Exorcist — it proves that a combination of unusually strong characterisation, excellent performances, some understated practical effects combined with camerawork flair, and a commitment to remaining ambiguous, can elevate fairly standard genre fare. Even though it wobbles a bit in its final act, Talk to Me is peppered with scenes that will stay with you in the long term. Much like the best A24 horror. DM

This story was first published on Pfangirl.com

Following a film festival debut in Australia in October 2022, Talk to Me enjoyed a wider cinema release overseas from 28 July this year, and debuted at South African cinemas on 15 September. Internationally, the film is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Video on Demand.

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

X

This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.


Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options