Talk to Me
by George Wolf
Talk to Me doesn’t waste much time before escalating the conversation.
And while the shocking prologue isn’t the only reminder you’ll get of similarly structured films such as The Ring or It Follows, Australian brothers Danny and Michael Philippou carve out a timely teen horror update that is often chilling and consistently engaging.
BFFs Mia (Sophie Wilde from The Portable Door) and Jade (Alexandra Jensen) are eager to hang out with the edgy kids at the local parties. And lately, that means getting in the room with Joss (Chris Alosio) and Hayley (Zoe Terakes), because they let you talk to the hand.
Where did Joss get it? Was it the hand of a satanist, or maybe a long dead medium? Details are sketchy. But if you’re game, you grip it, say “talk to me” and take the ride. And everyone else, of course, films the experience.
The Philippou brothers (both direct, Danny also co-writes) worked in TV, YouTube videos and on the camera department for The Babadook before this first feature, and it’s a debut that shines with a confident vision. We’ve seen some of these threads before, but this fresh take is able to capture the current zeitgeist without any desperation for hipness.
Viral fame isn’t the lure here, it’s the high of glimpsing the other side and the enlightened feeling it gives you. But for Mia, it’s also the gateway to a very personal journey that could answer questions from her past while saving the life of Jade’s little brother Riley (Joe Bird).
The script smartly stays a step or two ahead of contrivance, and is able to find some impressive psychological depth as it touches on grief, trauma, and the anxieties of leaving childhood behind.
Plus, come on, the creepy “embalmed hand” gimmick is effective from the start. It gives the Philippou brothers a great anchor for building an aesthetic of ethereal dread while they score time and again with wonderful practical effects.
This is R-rated horror, refreshingly light on the jump scares and false alarms, leaning instead on a parade of visual images that can truly terrify. And even when we don’t see what the game players are seeing, the fact that we’ve already had a hellish glimpse feeds a devilishly fun game within our own imaginations.
Talk to Me somehow feels familiar, but uncomfortably so. It’s a horror show always eager to deface the rulebook, and leave you with a wonderfully organic sign that this game is not over.