Talk to Me Movie Review
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Using an embalmed hand, a group of young adults play a terrifying game of what they assume to be controlled possession. When one takes the obsession with the dead too far, no one is safe in Talk to Me (2023).
Mia (Sophie Wilde) and her best friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen) treat each other like the sisters they never had. Mia is slowly coming out of her shell since her mother’s suicide a year prior, and Jade spends her evenings juggling between her boyfriend Daniel (Otis Dhanji) and her little brother, Riley (Joe Bird). Online, they see what look to be videos of local kids taking part in terrifying seances, and wrangle an invite from local ne’er do well, Hayley (Zoe Terakes). Hayley is in possession of a tattooed embalmed hand of unknown provenance. Lighting candles and speaking a few words while grabbing the hand creates a link between the living and undead which only the handler can see and experience, but everyone witnesses the aftermath, from blackened eyes to mottled skin to gravelly voices. For those of us that grew up with movies like Witchboard (1986), 976-Evil (1988), and Candyman (1992), the idea of conjuring devices and spirit possession as casual entertainment is so foreign, we’re appalled from the jump – not really. Possession as recreation among pandemic kids is the new flashlight tag.
There are specific rules for this macabre party game, but in order for this to be a horror movie we won’t stop talking about, it’s not long before rules become mere guidelines and, in a panic, ignored completely, resulting in a catastrophic accident no one has an explanation for. Compounding the confusion, Mia believes she’s made contact with her dead mother (Alexandria Steffensen) but is she speaking to her mother’s ghost, or can the dead even be trusted?
Talk to Me is easily one of the most stylish horror films to recently come out of Australia, and shows incredible promise for first time directing brothers, Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou. Not skimping on the Raimi-inspired camera work, Danny and Michael treat what could easily be dismissed as silly teens doing something stupid into a modern “pick me” terror. The opening scenes set the stage for a wild ride you’re not prepared for.
This isn’t Hollywood horror – Talk to Me is inventive and imaginative, sidestepping tired tropes in favor of visuals and action by characters for whom boundaries, fear, and consequences are literal afterthoughts. The dialog is snappy and modern, reflecting the complicated relationships between Gen X parents and Gen Z teens, the jaded sense of life without consequences lived through social media and the isolation of grief and unresolved trauma.
Talk to Me is from A24, but don’t put it into the camp of Lamb (2021) or Men (2022) or just yet. There’s the unpredictability of Hereditary (2018) and the creeping dread of Midsommar (2019), and it’s over in a quick 94 minutes. There’s no time to think, which is the best part.
A strong performance by Sophie Wilde elevates a simple ghost story to a tingly tightrope of trepidation as Mia’s obsession with her mother’s death threatens to destroy the family unit she’s been so careful to build. Joe Bird and Zoe Terakes are no mere supporting characters as they round out a stellar cast that includes Miranda Otto and Marcus Johnson. There is no one part of Talk to Me that feels familiar, making the wild ending worth taking the ride all over again.
I saw Talk to Me at SXSW and it’s already on my Best of 2023. I’m so thrilled it’s getting a wide release and I can’t wait for you to enjoy it as much as I did (twice).
Talk to Me (2023) is rated R for swears, people getting stabbed in the eyeball, possession, the decomposing dead, shredded fingernails, self-mutilation, broken fingers, and car crashes.